Plywood or boards

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Forum topic by PanicButtonGuy posted 06-25-2015 02:00 AM 690 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1062 days

06-25-2015 02:00 AM

Hey there,

I’m looking to do a coffee table project and am wondering what is typically more desirable as far as the top goes. I can join boards and have seams or I can go with ply. Just wondering if there is a standard answer. I know that preference is going to play into it so a general answer is fine.

thank you in advance for your expertise!!!

8 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


9444 posts in 1481 days

#1 posted 06-25-2015 02:02 AM

Depends on you really. But typically solid.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View jumbojack's profile


1676 posts in 2619 days

#2 posted 06-25-2015 02:32 AM

I’ve built them both ways. The solid.lumber ones look the best. The ply was OK but to a trained eye you can tell it’s ply.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2471 days

#3 posted 06-25-2015 11:25 AM

Solid lumber for me. Plywood is for sheathing and for cabinets.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View rwe2156's profile


2920 posts in 1475 days

#4 posted 06-25-2015 11:57 AM

With solid wood, you can bookmatch which can create a really nice visual for a top. If you have wood with a lot of figure, the better it “pops”. But—you need sequentially cut boards and in my experience this is often not feasible when dealing with a hardwood supplier. You can also use one long board but that’s not as desirable. I’ve found a lumber mill is usually the best place to get matching wood. You can also go the veneer route, which is perfectly acceptable and a great way to get some really nice bookmatching.

Dont’ worry about seams. Its a mark of quality that proves the wood is solid and not ply.
Last but not least, if you’re building your skill set, you need to become adept at panel glue ups and get them flat anyway, so why not start with something simple like a coffee table?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2364 days

#5 posted 06-25-2015 12:43 PM

I’d go with solid. It’ll just give the feel of (and be) higher quality. With the plywood, you’re going to have to apply an edging anyways, and the edging kind of gives it away. Plus, you can get some good lumber for substantially less per board foot than plywood costs.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View JayT's profile


5623 posts in 2206 days

#6 posted 06-25-2015 12:48 PM

I’ll echo all of the above statements. Solid wood is preferable for fine furniture, plywood is for casework or utility furniture.

Bookmatching gives a nice effect when you can do so. If you can’t get bookmatched pieces, it’s also possible with most wood species to grain match the glue-ups so that seams practically disappear. This is a good skill to learn for furniture. It takes a bit more time and usually requires a bit more waste, but the results are totally worth it. In order to keep grain consistent, you’ll want to use boards cut from the same tree, either by cutting apart one board or finding a small mill that can provide boards that were cut consecutively from the trunk.

Here’s a good video from Marc Spagnuolo that talks about and demonstrates the principle

And here’s one my recent projects where I focused on grain matching. Each piece in the top is only 2-1/2 to 3 inches wide, but by taking the time to play with the grain lines, it was possible to make 6 individual pieces look like one seamless piece.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3737 days

#7 posted 06-25-2015 12:57 PM

Solid wood.

If you were going to veneer…. then Ply or MDF

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View PanicButtonGuy's profile


2 posts in 1062 days

#8 posted 06-25-2015 01:48 PM

Awesome! I’ll go with solid. The main reason I’m debating is because there’s going to be a large polished concrete inlay. I thought with solid that it was going to be more difficult to cut out the shape of the inlay. I think I have it figured out now though. I’ll post a pic when it’s done. Maybe a couple weeks.

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