As we look for sustainable options for making furniture and accessories, plywood offers an alternative - but which plywood do you buy?
Plywood is a engineered board product that is available in different forms and used for a wide variety of interior and exterior applications. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which plywood product to use for your project. We take a look at the different types of plywood and their uses in the home.
Generally used in the construction industry for making forms for pouring concrete, shutterply is the cheapest of all the plywoods and it's not a board product that you want out on display. Shutterply does not have a quality finish and the veneer is generally sub-grade.
Although shutterply is lowest grade of plywood, it can still be used for a variety of home DIY projects, especially when you're making an item where the board will be out of sight, such as a headboard or piece of furniture that will be upholstered. It's also a good board product to use if you are still new to making your own pieces and simply want to try out different methods.
Shutterply can also be used for exterior projects, such as for making frames for raised beds and for projects where you need to make frames for casting concrete. However, shutterply is not manufactured for long-term outdoor use and you will find that eventually the ply layers start to separate, even when an exterior sealer or preservative is applied.
Keep in mind that when using shutterply the best method of joining is to use wood glue and butt joints. Screwing into the edge of the board isn't recommended due to the inferior quality of this product.
The next plywood board to consider for your projects would be pine plywood. Since most people reading this will purchase this board either at Builders, local timber merchant or hardware store, I'm not going to go into the different grades of pine plywood, since you can only buy what you see at most of these stores.
Pine plywood is plywood that is finished off with a pine veneer (thin layer of pine) on one side. There are different grades for the quality of the pine veneer, so it's always better to ask the view the board before you buy. There have been instances where readers have purchased pine plywood only to find that the quality of the finish varies very little from that of shutterply, and really cannot be used for projects where the finish will be on view.
If you are looking to make furniture at an affordable cost, pine plywood provides you with the opportunity to create a piece that shows off wood grain at a fraction of what it would cost to make out of wood. Visualise the piece you want to make and how you can incorporate plywood into the design. Take the time to carefully sand the pine veneer and fit an edging strip (if necessary) for furniture pieces that won't cost you a fortune.
Engineered veneer plywood - with a wood-species veneer - is generally an imported product of much higher quality than the pine plywood available to us, which is why it costs a lot more. Since you can't purchase this product directly from Builders or hardware stores, you will need to go directly to the supplier. Universal Plywoods is one such supplier, and they offer a selection of veneer plywoods for different applications.
Veneered plywood consists of cross laminated layers of a particular wood species and there are a variety of wood species that you can choose from. Because most of the wood species are of European origin, the price of veneered plywood differs greatly, depending on what you choose.
Veneered plywood gives you the option to make furniture with a genuine wood finish that can be stained, sealer or varnished, and that gives you to look of wood without actually using wood.
As with veneered plywood, marine plywood has an attractive veneer layer that is usually Meranti if you purchase from local timber merchants and specialist hardware stores. The major difference between pine plywood and marine plywood is that marine plywood is manufactured with exterior-grade adhesive and will not delaminate if used outdoors - if regularly treated with sealer or varnish.
While there are veneered plywoods that also use exterior-grade adhesive, making the choice between these and marine plywood will be determined by the cost and availability. It is far easier to purchase marine plywood at timber and board merchants, while veneered plywood is harder to obtain since it must be purchased directly from the supplier.
Marine plywood might be more expensive than pine plywood, but for projects where finish is of the utmost important, you might want to consider spending a bit more to obtain the look that you want.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Routing the edge of plywood does not give an aesthetically pleasing finish. For professional edges, apply a matching veneer or edging to cover up the visible ply layers. Find more tips here for edging plywood.
When cutting plywood, and to avoid rips and chips, use a fine-toothed blade. I have personally found that jigsaw blades for cutting steel and that have ultra-fine teeth reduce ripping along the cut line.
Plywood used for exterior projects should always be treated with an exterior sealer or varnish to protect.