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Plywood vs manufactured wood in shop/outdoor furniture

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Forum topic by JohnTM posted 11-23-2017 02:33 PM 1210 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JohnTM

89 posts in 111 days


11-23-2017 02:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plywood mdf osb workshop furniture cabinets beginner

Noob type, complex question. Feel free to shoot me. But this IS a serious question. I AM new at this, so here goes.

Plywood has more of a “quality build feel” to it than MDF even for shop furniture to me, at least in looks. But is there more to it than just what meets the eye?

I’ve read up on MDF, OSB, hardboard and other manufactured products in various places. Obviously, workbenches, furniture & cabinets have all been made with both plywood and manufactured products, but other than looks, I am still at of a loss saying that one construction material is more suitable for a purpose than another from a costs-benefits view. Is plywood more structurally sound when placed on end/edge than MDF/OSB? The other way around? How about if it’s going to be outside function-over-looks furniture/cabinetry? If it’s painted, does MDF/OSB stand up as well as plywood in high humidity environs outside – not directly rained on and not with an edge in “standing water”?

I don’t know of any “fine furniture” made of either plywood or manufactured products, but that’s not under discussion here, just outside patio/workshop type stuff. (Then again, I admit to being very ignorant on this subject.)

Appreciate any explanation, discussion ya’ll might think relevant.

Happy Thanksgiving, btw.


23 replies so far

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

1033 posts in 2594 days


#1 posted 11-23-2017 05:22 PM

First of all, for outdoor use, you MUST use a product that is intended fro that, meaning the glue holding it together is waterproof. Most MDF doesn’t meet this qualification. What might meet this qualification is floor underlayment-type flakeboard or roofing flakeboard. You must make sure it does. The other caveat is flakeboard with its various oriented wood grains will become rough as a cob when exposed to water, so you must seal the wood surfaces thoroughly with the completed project and keep it sealed.

As to strength, MDF is never as strong as plywood. It is strong enough for use with furniture though. Most of today’s manufactured furniture is made with MDF and faced with veneer or some other facing. Making joints with MDF type panels is another problem. You must rely on nothing but glue or some type of metal fastener. You can’t make dovetails or any other type of fancy joint. The wood” will crumble or break. You must join flat surface to flat surface.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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MrRon

4487 posts in 3076 days


#2 posted 11-23-2017 05:34 PM

Dear Ignorant, I agree with you about the “quality build feel”. It will stand up better outdoors than MDF/OSB. It is also not as heavy and will accept fasteners better. With painted MDF/OSB, paint will wear eventually exposing it to moisture and eventual failure. I have used MDF for indoor projects where a flat surface was needed (ie: a workbench top), but I prefer plywood. The big problem with plywood is the lack of high quality. Good plywood, like Baltic birch, marine plywood and furniture grade plywoods are expensive. I have found a plywood that is fairly reasonable in price that I have found at Home Depot. It is called Arauco ply and is a product made from Radiata pine, a renewable wood thats comes from New Zealand and Chile. It is also known as Monterey pine. Unlike most imported panels, Arauco ply has a face veneer thickness of 1/8”, so you won’t risk sanding through the face. There is another product called “Appleply”, but it is a bit more expensive.

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Planeman40

1033 posts in 2594 days


#3 posted 11-23-2017 05:50 PM

Hey, thanks for the tip about Arauco ply at Home Depot. I usually shop at Lowe’s as it is closer, but I think I’ll wander over to Home Depot for a look.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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JohnTM

89 posts in 111 days


#4 posted 11-23-2017 08:41 PM

Thanks for the replies. Very educational.

Now for an additional and confounding part of my question/ignorance. I am using wood/wood products which come from pallet re-cycling, well, 99.9% of it. Some of it has been used or left outside for undetermined periods of time, both plywood and MDF/OSB. Should I avoid using the MDF/OSB completely, especially considering the end product will be remaining outdoors, though under carport cover?

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Planeman40

1033 posts in 2594 days


#5 posted 11-23-2017 10:21 PM

A judgment call. I would say if the man made material looks like it has been left outside (weathered) for a period of time and it appears not to have disintegrated, It should be able to be used outside. No guarantees though. Wood lumber material should hold up outside. But be aware that the wood used in these pallets, etc. are of the lowest quality wood. That means knots, wild grain, checks, and other flaws. Also, I would expect some of this wood would be prone to warping. Understand you are taking this chance and try to weed out the worst of it before using.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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AlaskaGuy

3625 posts in 2142 days


#6 posted 11-24-2017 01:06 AM

Plywood v manufactured wood. I though plywood was manufactured wood. No?

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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JohnTM

89 posts in 111 days


#7 posted 11-24-2017 01:38 AM

Plywood v manufactured wood. I though plywood was manufactured wood. No?
Okay. You’re correct…. But it’s different from MDF/OSB which is what I was trying to get at…

As I said, you’re correct

Moving on.

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tomsteve

660 posts in 1052 days


#8 posted 11-25-2017 01:03 PM

theres quite a bit of outdoor furniture constructed that can be classified as fine furniture. OSB is for construction- period.and NOT construction of furniture. MDF,imo, is for ikea type furniture or countertop underlayment.

if you dont want this furniture to last and not look nice when completed, use osb and mdf.
i you want to fight all the way through construction, use osb and mdf.

if ya want it to last, use whats been tried and proven to work good for construction

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Rick_M

10598 posts in 2213 days


#9 posted 11-25-2017 07:51 PM



Is plywood more structurally sound when placed on end/edge than MDF/OSB? The other way around?
- JohnTM

The other way around. OSB is stronger in shear when oriented correctly.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View woodbutcherbynight's profile

woodbutcherbynight

3634 posts in 2242 days


#10 posted 11-26-2017 12:42 AM

Cabinets made of MDF or OSB (using say 3/4 ish thickness) tend to be heavy. I have one, and only one, I made from 3/4 OSB and it weights a ton. Someone gave it to me, I used it, still regret it. For shop stuff I use what is available at a box. Inside the house, baltic birch.

Outside stuff hold up better if you edge the ends of the ply but you can always caulk edges and paint.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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JohnTM

89 posts in 111 days


#11 posted 11-26-2017 12:54 AM

I guess I should have stated explicitly that part of the reason for asking is I am using reclaimed/salvaged/pallet wood. I’ve been lucky enough to harvest plywood, MDF/OSB and lumber. Ultimately, all of my workshop products/furniture will be kept outdoors, though under a carport.

Baltic birch is above my paygrade/outside my wallet’s ability. OTOH, I have recently salvaged some 3/4”x36”x41.5” 7-ply plywood which has a near furniture-grade exterior veneer. This is in addition to my previous stash of harvested 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4” 5-9 ply plywood and and 1/2” and 3/4” MDF/OSB of varying quality (mostly just construction grade),

My ultimate goal is to to make/have a couple mobile carts/workbenches that are left outside(under the carport) but usable for at least 3 years without having to remake/repair them every year due to being left outside. If I get lucky, I’ll be able to put some cabinets in a tool room off the carport (still negotiating with the landlord).

So, on-edge strength, warping if laid flat (benchtop surface), and resistance to humidity (Deep South/Louisiana Gulf Coast) are considerations behind the question.

Thanks for the very helpful responses thus far.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile

woodbutcherbynight

3634 posts in 2242 days


#12 posted 11-26-2017 01:05 AM

A frame of pallet wood with a inexpensive ply top, then painted will last under a carport for more than 10 years. I have one and have not had issues. Even left it out in the rain a few times as my outside workbench. All of my first benches were scraps from all over. They worked, and in time I upgraded.

I feel ya on the $$ involved for the better stuff. My neighbor often wants something done around his place. Big or small project all that money goes into my slushy fund. Only way I afford it. LOL

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View robscastle's profile

robscastle

4491 posts in 2037 days


#13 posted 11-26-2017 01:28 AM

John

Simple answer, ...go for it.

More detailed answer, if you check out LVL beams you will find they are plywood on its end cased with timber and are structural graded.

So yes plywood is OK for your intended use

A technical answer.

Plywood and OSB have a range of grades, information regarding the grades and their application can be found on the web

If you are interested they should be branded somewhere, If you are lucky enough to get a full sheet!

Plywood for instance look up Tradewood and you will find a PDF on the various grades.

OSB look up Norbord in the UK and there are all the gades relating to OSB.

If you do a search here you will find heaps of plywood furniture especially chairs.

Need to know more? just ask I am full of it!!

-- Regards Robert

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

89 posts in 111 days


#14 posted 11-26-2017 02:57 AM

...I am full of it!!...
Only you would write that!
.
.
.
.
.
Well, maybe not ONLY you….
I’m sure it applies to at least one more person….we won’t talk about who that might be.

View Chook2's profile

Chook2

4 posts in 18 days


#15 posted 11-26-2017 04:21 AM

The hassle we have here in Australia of repurposing wooden pallets is you need to know what they were used for.

Maybe hazardous chemicals were transported on them.
Also our quarantine rules are very strict and they may have been fumigated and still contain residues.

We have to be careful but still use a lot of them for projects at school making planter boxes etc. for herb gardens.

Most of our agricultural machinery is imported and parts come in some really outstand boxes and pallets that we use. Some of these are up to 20 feet long and 4 feet square. They are ply or flakeboard covered and brilliant to use. We always use masks to cut and work with, as they are also fireproof. Off cuts just turn black and wont burn at all.

-- Chook, Esperance Western Australia

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