Tips of Chinese plywood

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Blog entry by anotherbrick posted 03-18-2009 12:02 PM 8434 reads 1 time favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m from China and I come to this forum for a long time.The reason I coming here is I’m interesting in woodworking though I don’t have any woodworking technique.There are many beautiful millwork and furniture in here.I just love to view you woodworker’s project and learn some woodworking knowledge.
Sometimes I would have read some posts about chinese plywood.I work in Chinese plywood industry and find there are there’re something not same as what I know.So I think maybe there are some miscomprehend.

The purpose I post this article is not to convince you woodworkers chinese plywood are top quality or other saying like salesman says.I know there are many weakness in Chinese plywood,such as thin face veneer,a little more voids and other.But this is not because we don’t have the ability to produce better product,it’s just because the cost and the expectation on Chinese product. The expectation of Chinese product is: Chinese product should be cheap. So at this time,chinese manufacturers and american importers only can ship cheap products to USA.Expensive products will not be accepted by market,though the quality will be better.

I’m here post this article just want give you woodworkers more information about how to select and distinguish Chinese plywood.If you will do some cost related project someday,I think it will be useful to you.Here’s the tips.

1,When you select plywoods for furniture,cabinet or other indoor purpose, please ask the seller if the formaldehyde emission of the plywood can meet the interior standard. There are totally two kinds of chinese plywood shipped to USA.One is specially manufactured for cabinet and furniture purpose,we named it cabinent plywood,the formaldehyde emission can meet interior standard (E1,E2) or CARB.Another kinds of plywood will emit extra formaldehyde because they didn’t manufactured for cabinet purpose,we name it ‘commercial plywood.’ The usage of this commercial plywood should be packing,pallet ……

2,Cabinet plywood would have better core veneer,thicker face veneer and low moisture content than commercial plywood.And then more expensive.

3,There’s a bad change in the thickness of face veneer.Thickness of both Cabinet plywood and commercial plywood had been reduced.Normally thickness of Cabinet plywood’s face/back veneer should be over 0.3mm. Some factories still make 0.4mm face veneer plywood. Thinckness of commercial plywood’s face/back veneer will be thiner,about 0.2mm to 0.3mm.

4,Most okoume face plywood are commercial plywood.Some kind of commercial plywood will have okoume veneer on the face and E grade birch on the back. Most cabinet grade plywood will have a/b/c/d grade birch/poplar/maple face/back veneer,or other face veneer.Some okoume plywoods are also can meet cabinet plywood standard. You should check it from you seller.

5,There are thousands of plywood factories in China.The quality of plywood from different factories are not the same.Some produce good stuff,some produce crap. Different import supplies different quality chinese plywood to you too. So you must compare your suppliers.

6,Some plywoods will be direct shipped to big furniture factories.Some of these plywood will meet more strict quality standard.I don’t know if you can find this kind of plywood in the market.

Wish these tips will be helpful to you.Any comments will be appreciated.

-- china

36 comments so far

View 's profile

593 posts in 4000 days

#1 posted 03-18-2009 01:26 PM

Now that is a useful post. Thank you anotherbrick.

Unfortunately China produces a lot of bad quality products… but not for lack of technology. It’s just what we, the buyers in other countries, ask for. You can’t request the cheapest stock… with a decent quality. It’s always the same: you get what you pay for. If people wouldn’t buy the cheap crap at Wal-mart they would eventually stop selling it and start importing better quality products. While there would be demand for cheapest stuff regardless of its quality it always will be somebody ready to deliver it.

And no, I’m not at all a fan of chinese plywood, at least not of the worst.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4328 days

#2 posted 03-18-2009 01:38 PM

Thank you,

An interesting read!

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3470 days

#3 posted 03-18-2009 03:20 PM

Good to have a post from someone on the inside. I,ve used many chinese products in the furniture industry and they have all been a problem. Yes there is good stuff available but i,m yet to see it. I have an interest in Chinese culture ( there is a strong Chinese heritage here in the Philippines) and traditional chinese furniture ( I own some) and I think it,s a shame that the drive for the export dollar has driven the reputation of Chinese products so low.
Be nice to hear more about your woodworking experiences in China.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4092 days

#4 posted 03-18-2009 03:25 PM

Thanks AB. This is a frank and informative post. The entire output of Chinese plywood has a bad reputation, but indeed it is likely that some buyers in the US have sweated your factories to produce to a monetary bottom line. As it’s been said here before, there is always some fool that is happy to sell cheaper by lowering quality.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4343 days

#5 posted 03-18-2009 04:12 PM

We know the real blame sits on this side of the pond. Its like doing drugs or eating Twinkies you just need to say no.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3790 days

#6 posted 03-18-2009 04:14 PM

I’m not getting on any bandwagon here. This poster has given us the “fluff” but not any real substance.

Check out this past Fox news report;,2933,330652,00.html

The scrapping of these FEMA trailers represents a loss of hundreds of millions dollars to U.S. taxpayers, along with the millions of dollars spent relocating Katrina victums. The social costs to victims is enormous. The responsibility for this social and fiscal catastrophy is rather clear. Obviously, this is not an isolated problem within the Chinese plywood industry. The author above has not given us any indication that they are taking any corrective steps. I didn’t even detect the slightest bit of remorse.

I for one am sorry that HR1497, The Timber Protection Act, did not pass in 2007. I hope some version does pass in the future.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View anotherbrick's profile


73 posts in 3684 days

#7 posted 03-18-2009 06:20 PM

Thanks for all your comments. 8iowa,you have right to say no. I can understand you.

The reason I post these tips is just to send messages to people who might need these tips, to help them select right product and avoid the harm of using wrong product. If you select the right plywood in your indoor purpose you’ll away from the harm of formaldehyde.

-- china

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3555 days

#8 posted 03-18-2009 07:11 PM

Thank you anotherbrick

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View mnguy's profile


193 posts in 3427 days

#9 posted 03-18-2009 07:36 PM

One thing to remember about products made in China or anywhere overseas is that their main cost advantage is lower labor costs, so something that requires assembly can be made with similar quality at a lower cost than making it in America. But, when things have relatively low labor content, like plywood, equivalent quality has a similar cost wherever it’s made. This supports the idea that the higher quality ply made in China isn’t likely to come over here, as it will be similarily priced. As ocean freight rates have gone down, that might not be true – you might see some pretty good looking hardwood plywood from China. I will say I’d be loathe to try it, as I’ve stopped using the Chinese stuff for even shop cabinets. If you cut it and it smells funny, somethings up!

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3790 days

#10 posted 03-18-2009 10:40 PM

I think we have more afoot here than the mere subject of lower labor costs. I just measured the thickness of a piece of Chinese “3/4” birch plywood at .683”. Another piece of older Baltic Birch in my shop measures .708”. Over the stretch of hundreds of tons of plywood produced, this represents a huge amount of dollars. This certainly brings up the question; Are we paying the same price or more than previously, and getting less product in return?

Woodworking author Nick Engler recently reported that a batch of plywood that he purchased was undersized to the point that it would enable the manufacturer to produce one extra sheet of plywood for every 19.2 sheets produced.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3986 days

#11 posted 03-19-2009 12:30 AM

As usual here is my not so politically correct opinion…
The only tip I have for Chinese plywood is don’t buy it…period. That goes for Chinese Sheetrock too. I just read a huge article on about some contractors that bought Chinese wallboard and now they are finding it has sulfur in it. At the very least when it gets humid out it makes your whole house smell like rotten eggs and at the very worst its damaging anything that has copper in it..wiring, appliances and plumbing. A couple contractors were estimating that over 20,000 houses were built with this bogus wallboard. The plain fact is that there are little to no regulations on anything made over there and the manufacturers just free wheel and do what they want. The way I look at it when you buy something from China you don’t know what the heck is in it, on it or it’s made out of. And we are not just talking about sub standard matériels and shoddy workmanship..we are talking about building matériels that are inherently defective, prone to failure, coated with or containing poisonous or hazardous substances. Lead in the paint on our kids toys..poison in the cat food…my brother lost three cats to that whole deal. I guess some of the blame should fall on the American corporations that set guidelines and then turn there backs on whats really going on to make more money. Personally, I am in favor of the legislation that is being brought forth to make it mandatory to clearly identify the source of origin or manufacture of all goods and products . And I will be steering clear of anything made in China..thats for sure! Damn free trade agreement makes sure we get a steady dose of foreign goods jammed down out throats. We at least should have a right to know and then you can roll the dice if you want to buy a lamp thats painted in Yaks blood, or some sheetrock thats got Mongolian goats hair holding it together..


View EEngineer's profile (online now)


1103 posts in 3642 days

#12 posted 03-19-2009 02:35 AM

Ya know, I find this to be so bogus!

Who are you, anotherbrick? a shill for the Chinese government trying to prop up Chinese imports in the face of obvious defective workmanship? If the Chinese truly cared about the reputation of Chinese products, they would refuse to sell inferior products no matter what the price point is. Outlaw formaldehyde in the production of plywood! In what setting is formaldehyde acceptable? And, really, what does formaldehyde have to do with it? I bought Chinese plywood that didn’t even make it home without the plys separating. Care to tell me just which “commercial” application can use that shit?

I’ve said it before and I”ll say it again – the cheapest, shoddiest American ply that I used 10 years ago was better then the best Chinese ply I find readily available now. anotherbrick and miki both can stick that in their opium pipe and smoke it!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View 's profile

593 posts in 4000 days

#13 posted 03-19-2009 03:04 AM

EEngineer said, verbatim: ”anotherbrick and miki both can stick that in their opium pipe and smoke it!”

Listen pal, I don’t know, neither I care, who anotherbrick is but, what I do know is that he is a respectful member of this community. He defends his interests—and who doesn’t!—but he has never spammed the fora. He has written what amounts about a quarter of your comments in a little bit more time than you’ve been a member. Go through his history and you’d see that he has posted only appreciation comments or asked for feedback and offered his advice. By golly, he hasn’t even posted a website ever!

So, please, if you don’t like Chinese Plywood don’t buy it (I don’t), you are in your perfect right to do so, but let’s keep the tone of respect in this space, OK?

View anotherbrick's profile


73 posts in 3684 days

#14 posted 03-19-2009 04:18 AM

Thanks for all comments.Jojo,thank you for your words.

I find this forum the last year and be a part the community.And then two months later,I’d get married.And then I didn’t have enough time to go here often.When I purchased furnitures for my marriage the last year, I’ve bought a wardrobe which I finally found it emit strong formaldehyde.I’d been very angry at that time and quarrelled with dealer furiously.So I can understand EEngineer if you’d just taken out your dissatisfaction with chinese plywood.

I’m not a trader in Chinese plywood industry.I’m a supervisor of plywoods’ quality.I’m here just because I’m interested in woodworking technique.Being a chinese,I’ll have more interest in something about China.So I search the forum,and then I find some blame to chinese plywood and other product.Then I began to wonder why did Chinese plywood take this so bad reputation.In my memory,some importer form USA I’d met were very strict in quality.I’d worked for 4 days and only sleeped not more than 12 hours in this four days to supervise the production of a emergent order to ensure no quality problem.I’d done many experiment and test to resolve the warp problem,the delamination problem,the color through problem,etc.And then,the feedback said our clients become satisfied with our quality.And I’d used 2 months to train a factory of 500 worker on there quality control system and improved their technique.I’d been proud on what i’d done.And then, in this forum I feel frustrated,feel all my effort were useless. Now I’m wondering where did our products go?Where did plywoods from some other honest manufacturers go?Why almost all you woodworkers get the crap? I’m saying our products are very good,but I can promise more lesser voids in plywood, micro warp,not delamination and formaldehyde emission strictly meet the E1&E2 standard. I think this quality on this price should be acceptable.But I don’t know why can’t you buy this type.Been a engineer and a quality controller, i also want my job can be appriciate.I know there’re craps in the market.So I post this article to help you woodworkers distinguish the good from the bad,and not to let our efforts to be useless.

As for the formaldehyde,all commercial plywoods and all plywoods have formaldehyde problem would be sticked a sheet of ‘formaldehyde declaration’ on the packing to avoid this kind of plywoods to be use in wrong way.I’ll post the content of this formaldehyde declaration here:

“This product contains formaldehyde physical and health hazard is readily available from your employer and from material safety data sheets
For further information on formaldehyde write for a broucher to:
International hardwood products association
P.O.BOX 1308,
Alexanderia,Virginia 22313”

Every plywood have formaldehyde problem must stick this formaldehyde declaration on the packing.You should find this on the original packing from Chinese factory.Our customs is also very strict on this problem.

At last,Chinese government must not hire a shill who can’t even speak fluent English.I stand for myself, a plywood engineer and a supervisor of quality.

-- china

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3903 days

#15 posted 03-19-2009 04:24 AM

First, let me second what Jojo said – let’s behave like civilized adults and disagree with each other without name calling and unfounded accusations. What are we, politicians? I think some people just like to try to stir things up.

Now, let me (respectfully) disagree with just about everyone. When this discussion comes up, price-point always seems to be the accepted reason for the supply of junk ply. I don’t believe the price-point argument:
~ Most people who buy the worthless ply don’t buy it because it’s cheap – they buy it because it’s the only birch ply on the shelf at the big box store. If there was a stack of warped, delaminating birch ply for $20 a sheet right next to a stack of dead-flat, intact birch ply for $35 a sheet, I’d be willing to bet the they would sell plenty of the more expensive ply.
~ I’ve found a Chinese birch ply that I like and use frequently called Dragon Ply. It’s not cheap, but it’s flat, and it doesn’t delaminate. The headaches I avoid with this ply more than justify the extra expense. So there are decent Chinese plys out there. They may be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort.
~ I often spend $70-100 a sheet on some types of ply. I want good ply and I’m willing to pay for it. I know when I bid a job that I’m probably bidding against someone who will use cheaper ply, but I’m still willing to pay for the quality.

-- -- --

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