Baltic Birch Plywood ????

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Forum topic by rbm328 posted 09-21-2016 01:36 AM 2988 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 1051 days

09-21-2016 01:36 AM

I’m a real beginner when it comes to furniture making. I’ve noticed in “wood” magazine and some others, that the plywood of choice 98% of the time is baltic birch. I spoke with a local cabinet maker who will sell me plywood and asked why i wanted BB. He said its not that common and expensive. His plywood of choice is maple.

Why DOES everyone lean towards baltic birch?


17 replies so far

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 2841 days

#1 posted 09-21-2016 01:42 AM

It’s got lots of thin layers of veneer, very few voids, very stable and flat and consistent. It is more expensive, depending on what you want to use it for it may not be necessary, but it’s all I ever use.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View CharlesA's profile


3342 posts in 1968 days

#2 posted 09-21-2016 01:48 AM

Baltic birch plywood is the best constructed plywood, but it’s not a great exterior finish plywood, in my experience. That is, I use it to construct things that are painted, jigs, structural things, etc. But if you’re building something and the exterior of the plywood is going to be finished, then you go with a plywood with an appropriate veneer. The most common are maple or oak, but you can get cherry, mahogany, etc.

I assume some folks build with baltic birch and then veneer it themselves with another, more attractive wood.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View jbay's profile (online now)


2733 posts in 1069 days

#3 posted 09-21-2016 02:00 AM

I only use baltic birch for drawers, and jigs.
I buy domestic plywood for building cabinetry. My lumber company calls it gold ply, probably goes by a lot of different names depending on the manufacturer. It has a plywood core and approx. 1/8” mdf on the outsides then the veneer of choice over the mdf

-- “Hanging onto resentment, is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” (Ann Landers)......

View bigJohninvegas's profile


500 posts in 1632 days

#4 posted 09-21-2016 02:20 AM

All the above is good advise. I use baltic berch for jigs and fences. Drawers boxes, and cabinet boxes like a bathroom vanity with a hardwood face frame. No cabinet sides showing. For cabinet or furniture where the ply wood side show, I to use gold ply hardwood plywood. My local wood store sells it in most common hardwoods like maple, walnut and cherry.

-- John

View JAAune's profile


1846 posts in 2487 days

#5 posted 09-21-2016 03:42 AM

Baltic birch is a little stronger and has better screw-holding capability due to the inner plies being more dense. The edges also look a little nicer.

I mostly use it when I need a plywood and don’t want to glue edging to it. For jigs I prefer MDO as it seems to stay flatter.

-- See my work at and

View bondogaposis's profile


5043 posts in 2521 days

#6 posted 09-21-2016 03:43 AM

It is simply the best plywood product out there. It is expensive. I only use it limited situations where I want durability in shop jigs an the like. I don’t use it for cabinets, too expensive and overkill in that application.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View realcowtown_eric's profile


617 posts in 2107 days

#7 posted 09-21-2016 06:05 AM

why baltic birch?

Well just try and get some other type of 1/2 ply to make drwers with. scope out the options, Not much better than Baltic birch when youconsider cores

I pay 35ish (CDN) for a 5×5 sheetof 1/2”, thats about 1/2 the cost of 1/2 4xx8 sheet——but a sheet of what? Mdf core oak/etc- which doesn’t sand up on ede, doesn’t finish up near as well and if you start doin ‘arithmetic you will see the the 5×5 sheets actually have lower waste. Then you can use the scraps for jigs. the cuttings work out generally better than 4×8 sheets of mdf coarse ply core.

No brainer as far as I am concerned. Better quality, less waste, finishes nicely. Some wholesalers now have 4×8 sheets if yer really fixated on that size

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2280 days

#8 posted 09-21-2016 12:18 PM

What I haven’t seen mentioned above:

- The BB ply I buy labelled as 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 is actually the stated thickness, not 1/32” or 3/64” thinner.
- When used for built-in or cabinet parts, the presence of far more plies keeps it much flatter that lower ply count materials.
- Real BB ply is birch all the way through. Cheaper, and especially home center products usually use different species for internal plies, reducing stability.

One of my local dealers carries 5×5 and 4×8 in most thicknesses, another is all 5×5. The first guy can quickly get sheets as large as 5×10, even larger with notice. 5×5 is popular with kitchen builders, as it can generate less waste with many standard sized boxes.

To jbay’s comment above, I agree with not using BB for cabinet boxes. In my case, I prefer a prefinished maple plywood product. I use the best prefinished face IN, so once the box is assembled, the inside is completely finished and the plywood outside is never seen after installation. The factory finish is durable enough to make it through the building and assembly process undamaged, and resists most chemical and water damage, making it perfect for box inside faces.

View Aj2's profile


1783 posts in 1968 days

#9 posted 09-21-2016 01:55 PM

I also agree with the other comments.BB plywood also has a nice smell when cutting it.
Be advised it will still warp.You just can’t lean it up against the wall in your home shop and come back to it in a week or two and expect it to be flat.
When I buy BB I store it on a flat assembly table sometime sandwiched between to sheets of Melamine covered with
Clear visqueen.


-- Aj

View splintergroup's profile


2338 posts in 1393 days

#10 posted 09-21-2016 04:29 PM

I love BB! About $20/sheet (1/2” 5’x5’) locally for Russian BB. The thickness is nominal, 1/2” typically is a bit less and varies quite a bit from sheet to sheet purchased on different days.

The BB plywood has many more plies than the standard Pine and these plies are for the most part 100% void free.
The wood is also typically very stable and flat if stored properly. This makes it great for jigs and drawers. The edge grain of BB plywood is also fairly attractive in a way, not too offensive if left exposed on a drawer side.

For visible/decorative plywood, the guys are right in the MDF faced veneer plywood. The surface is dead flat. My only complaint is this has allowed the plywood manufactures to place 1-atom thick veneer sheets for the surface, good luck sanding more than a quick pass with 220.

View dschlic1's profile


442 posts in 2140 days

#11 posted 09-21-2016 05:22 PM

If in the USA, most Lowes carry a birch plywood that approaches the quality of Baltic Birch plywood. As many layers/plys, has a bit more voids. BB ply is not totally void less.

View Cooler's profile


299 posts in 1014 days

#12 posted 09-21-2016 06:24 PM

The plies on Baltic birch can be used as a design element, which you cannot do with most other plywood as they have frequent voids.

Here is an example which I found online but is from Lumberjocks anyway:

-- This post is a hand-crafted natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar should not be viewed as flaws or defects, but rather as an integral characteristic of the creative process.

View MrRon's profile


5130 posts in 3414 days

#13 posted 09-21-2016 06:47 PM

True Baltic birch plywood comes in 5’x5’ sheets and the thickness is in millimeters. If you see birch plywood in 4’x8’ sheets, it is NOT Baltic birch and the thickness is in fractions of an inch. It could be made in the USA, but more likely it comes from China. All the plywood sold at the big box stores come from China. If you want a high quality plywood besides Baltic birch, you will usually have to order it and be prepared to pay big bucks for it. Quality costs money. There is one plywood that I found that is almost as good as BB ply. It is called “Araco” and is made in Chile, S.A. It has the multi ply construction of BB and is reasonably priced. The surface veneer used is “Radiata” pine aka Monterey pine. The thickness of the surface veneer is thicker than the ply from China which means; you won’t sand through the surface when using a power sander. Another plywood that is made in the USA is called “Appleply”. It is also similar to Araco ply and has to be ordered through a plywood supplier. The following BB plywood sheets are available as follows: 3-ply 3 mm, 5-ply 6 mm, 7-ply 9 mm, 9-ply 12 mm and 13-ply 18 mm. These correspond to 1/8”, 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2” and 3/4” respectively.

If you want a good quality plywood for utility use, there is one called MDO (medium density overlay). It is used for highway signage and sign makers. It is primed 1-side (or 2) and has to be special ordered. It is more expensive than the average plywood, but it is a good strong and stable material. It takes paint well. There is a lesser grade of MDO that is used in making concrete forms, but still is good for utility projects where appearance is not important.

View Cooler's profile


299 posts in 1014 days

#14 posted 09-21-2016 07:07 PM

And Baltic birch is the ONLY plywood that you can use to make a ping pong table, which is 9 feet long and 5 feet wide and would be joined under the net. So two sheets for one ping pong table.

-- This post is a hand-crafted natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar should not be viewed as flaws or defects, but rather as an integral characteristic of the creative process.

View rbm328's profile


13 posts in 1051 days

#15 posted 09-22-2016 01:33 AM

Thats some great information that i would never have thought of.

Thank you all who replied!


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