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Buy the Right Plywood for your Furniture Project

Updated on May 15, 2012

While woodworking projects are fun to do, they can be expensive when finer woods and materials are used. Plywood can be used to keep costs down yet still provide the look of more expensive materials. Plywood works great for a wide variety of woodworking projects from veneer covered furniture to your homes roof; plywood has played a pivotal role in history for thousands of years. Today’s modern plywood uses a grading system for specific materials and their uses. Use this guide to plywood and you can be sure you’re going to get the most out of your next furniture woodworking project.

Grading

Plywood is graded on an alphabetic scale, with A being the best grade available. Plywood that is stamped with a B has the occasional knot and or may not be planed as well as an A grade. A piece of plywood that is graded with a C can be stained or painted or used as an unfinished surface. The lowest grade on the scale is a D and is typically used for structural materials only. Sometimes the grades are combined such as an “A-C grade” where one side of the plywood is used as a finished material and the other side is covered or hidden.

Bonding Methods

Plywood is bonded in different ways using a variety of adhesives and methods to create materials that are used for specialty jobs. Some bonding materials are required to withstand outdoor elements while others are meant to be used indoors, so be sure you choose the appropriate bonding method for your plywood building project. Bonding methods that contain heavy traces of formaldehyde, copper or arsenic should never be used for indoor projects as these can off-gas for years, potentially creating dangerous indoor air quality.

Specialty Plywood’s

Some special materials can be necessary for various grades of plywood. Aircraft rated plywood is light, yet super strong. When fire resistance is required on structural materials, a fire rated plywood should be used. If water is comes into contact with your project, then marine grade plywood is available to prevent the quick delamination, rot and fungus that can easily affect other grades of plywood when exposed to moisture. When projects require that a tight curve, arc or bend be installed, you will need to use flexible grade plywood. Other specialty plywood’s like t-1-11 is used to cover the exterior of a home with a decorative board and bat style design.

Softwood Plywood

This type of plywood uses a combination of softwoods and usually comes in four, five or seven layers. Less expensive softwood materials are varied throughout the sheet to help make the material cheaper while still maintaining its structural strength. Much of the materials that are commonly used for softwood plywood are Douglas fir, cedar, spruce pine and redwood. Thicker softwood plywood’s are commonly used as tongue and groove flooring materials.

Hardwood Plywood

Most hardwood plywood’s use a birch core as this durable hardwood has a strong tensile strength while still being cheap. Hardwood plywood’s are used where strong materials are needed to keep projects rigid and straight. Some hardwood plywood’s may also be made from tropical wood species.

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