Painted desk build. Which plywood?

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Forum topic by CudaDude posted 08-19-2015 05:28 PM 1318 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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179 posts in 2278 days

08-19-2015 05:28 PM

What type of plywood should I use for this desk?
Obviously I want something that’s going give a nice painted finish. After visiting a couple local building suppliers and the big box stores, I’ve got nothing. I’m thinking birch plywood, as it’s always talked about like it is quality plywood, but when I looked at the birch that one of the building suppliers had, it was horrible… Veneers peeling and a lot of voids in the edges (it was still $25 for a 2×4 sheet). Are there different grades of birch? They did have some 3/4 maple that looked good, but I wasn’t sure how it would accept a painted finish. Thanks in advance

-- Gary

10 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


4768 posts in 1108 days

#1 posted 08-19-2015 05:45 PM

I’ve painted birch ply from big-box stores with success on cornhole boards. It takes paint very well. I cover the edges with a thin coat of drywall mud and fill any voids in the face with wood filler. Then sand the whole thing with 320. Prime, sand with 400 then a second coat of primer. Hit the second coat of primer with 600 just enough to smooth it all out. If necessary you can keep priming/sanding until your happy with the surface consistency but I’ve never needed more than 2 coats. After that you should be able to get a nice uniform finish with your paint of choice. That being said, I don’t see why this method wouldn’t work with any plywood. I just use birch because I have better luck finding flat pieces than I do with maple or oak ply. For a desktop, I’d finish it off with a couple of coats of poly for protection.

Oh yeah… beware tear-out when your cutting it. If you do have splintered edges, fill & sand them until you can’t feel them or they’ll stick out like a sore thumb when it’s painted.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2015 days

#2 posted 08-20-2015 03:58 AM

I used Columbia Forest Products PureBond birch plywood (from Home Depot) for my last painted wall cabinets project. It took a few steps but took paint very well. Edge banding will work better than drywall mud for the edges. I used a combination of thin veneer (works) as well as hardwood edging (I used poplar and it took a few steps, but works very well).

-- paxorion

View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2613 days

#3 posted 08-20-2015 04:17 AM

You can also look at double sided MDO and band the exposed edges or do as HokieKen suggested cover the edges with a thin coat of drywall mud.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View MT_Stringer's profile


3160 posts in 3201 days

#4 posted 08-20-2015 04:51 AM

Plywood is graded with A1 being the best (good both sides, no patches).

I have used birch from HD before just like paxorion did.

Looks like it is grade C3

The home owner sprayed them.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4956 posts in 2463 days

#5 posted 08-20-2015 12:08 PM

All the above suggestions are good, and the maple you saw will take paint very well. I would probably try to get the Columbia Purebond as my experience with it has been very good…but any of the mentioned products should serve you well.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View firefighterontheside's profile


17978 posts in 1826 days

#6 posted 08-20-2015 12:27 PM

For anything painted I use MDO plywood and poplar face frames. The MDO does not have any raising of grain like any wood faced plywood will have.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View CudaDude's profile


179 posts in 2278 days

#7 posted 08-20-2015 05:30 PM

Thanks for the responses and suggestions. Is MDO heavy like MDF?

-- Gary

View MrRon's profile


4722 posts in 3213 days

#8 posted 08-20-2015 05:35 PM

I second the use of MDO. It is more expensive, but it was intended for painting. Highway signs are made from using MDO. If you use a big box store, get a plywood with a maple or pine surface.

View firefighterontheside's profile


17978 posts in 1826 days

#9 posted 08-20-2015 05:58 PM

MDO is about the same weight as any other 3/4” plywood. It has a veneer layer of fiberboard on each side, but the inner layers are the same as hardwood plywood. I buy MDO at menards for $65 and sometimes on sale for less. You can also get it in 1/2”.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 2050 days

#10 posted 08-21-2015 01:43 AM

I’d just use whatever is cheapest and fill voids with wood filler or drywall mud. You can pay a lot of money for high end plywood. I wouldn’t do it just to paint over it.

-- Billy, Florence SC

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