A complaint about plywood

  • Advertise with us

« back to Wood & Lumber forum

Forum topic by richgreer posted 10-17-2011 07:42 PM 5166 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3073 days

10-17-2011 07:42 PM

First, let me say that I really don’t like working with plywood, but sometimes the job requires it.

I was recently doing a job that required me to work with 3/4” oak plywood. I bought 3 sheets at Lowes. To my surprise, I discovered that it was exactly 3/4” thick. At other stores, 3/4” plywood is 19/32” thick. In fact, I own a 19/32” router bit for the purpose of cutting grooves or dados to accommodate 3/4” plywood.

I was almost done with this project when I made a mistake and I needed to buy another piece of oak plywood to replace the piece I screwed up. I only needed a piece that measured 23.5” by 32.5” so I went to Lowes and bought a pre-cut piece of oak plywood that measured 2’x4’x3/4”. That piece was 19/32” thick. Unfortunately, I had already cut the grooves for this piece, so I ended up making some shims to make the new piece of plywood fit snugly into grooves.

First – I don’t like the idea that a 3/4” piece of plywood is normally 19/32” thick. More seriously – I don’t like the idea that the thickness of plywood isn’t consistent. Finally – I just don’t like working with plywood. I think I will decline to work on any project in the future that requires me to work with plywood.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

13 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


5659 posts in 2812 days

#1 posted 10-17-2011 07:51 PM

You only made one mistake… buying plywood at Lowes.
We have three local suppliers of hardwood plywood and shop grade plywood in my area. The shop grade stuff is better than what they sell at Home Depot and Lowes. In terms of grain pattern, voids, and consistent thickness I have been much happier with plywood from the specialty stores. Some plywood is actually metric, and mistakenly marked as English.

Best of luck with you next (hardwood) project!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2597 days

#2 posted 10-17-2011 07:55 PM

I agree that there needs to be some sort of standard on plywood thickness. I dont really care if it 23/32, 19/32 or any metric measurement. Just the same, trying to match sheets from different retailers, different projects or scraps can be a pain. I dont mind working with it, other than its a little akward for one person in a 4×8 sheet, and I wish the quality standards were not as varied as they are. Not all plywood is created equal.

View DS's profile


2917 posts in 2419 days

#3 posted 10-17-2011 07:56 PM

Rich, this is a common ailment when working with plywood. I’ve sometimes seen where boards from will vary in thickness within the same unit. There are some varieties of ply which will guarantee thickness with “engineered” cores, but these are more expensive. (Classic core plywood comes to mind.)

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I typically use a CNC router for cutting my casework. (Can be leased by the hour at a local cabinet shop) To compensate for the thickness issue, I utilize a blind dado / rabbit technique that nullifies the thickness variation. This would be a bit harder to accomplish on a table saw or router table.

The principle is that I can put a rabbit on my shelf to a specific thickness, say 3/8”, then use a 3/8” blind dado in the end panel. The front edge of the shelf is notched so that the it looks like a butt joint on the face. It turns out to be very clean and strong and can suffer the wild variations of plywood thicknesses.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3661 days

#4 posted 10-17-2011 08:01 PM

Rich—Me too (hate plywood, that is). And it’s not just the stuff at Lowes (we don’t have a Lowes) ... the stuff you get at Menards or HD is just as bad.

I bought a half sheet (2’x8’) of 3/4” at Menards for a cabinet project in the shop. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I measured it … it was 25/32” thick! First time I had ever seen plywood that was thicker than it was supposed to be.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5860 posts in 3193 days

#5 posted 10-17-2011 08:14 PM

It happens to us all…....just have to learn to deal with it, or quit using ply on projects. Simple.

You don’t like it anyhow, so now’s the time to give it up….If I didn’t like using something, I wouldn’t…..

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#6 posted 10-17-2011 08:16 PM

I think we all got screwed when we allowed mills to call anything less than 2” x 4” a 2×4. Once the cat was out of the bag; well, that’s where we are today. Up until a few years ago plywood and MDF or particle board was what it said it was. The explanation I was always given was the nominal inch dimension, e.g. 2×4, was the dimension of the green, rough board, but the final dimension in the store was what was left after drying and milling to finished size, but manufactured products like plywood were made from dried lumber and built to the designated dimension. That made sense to me so I accepted it.

Someone must have noticed it was taken for granted and accepted that wood would be less than what it was called, so they saw an opportunity to screw the consumer by scarfing a little raw material out of manufactured products as well..

This can be changed. Similar crap has happened in other industries and when there was enough complaints the standards were clearly defined and laws made to require compliance. Did you know that 10 and 14 karat gold jewelry, before the gold stamping act of 1974, was actually 9-1/2 and 13-1/2 karat; legally. The stamping act imposed strict fines and loss of trade mark copyright for the “under-karating” of tradmarked and quality stamped items. It further required a tradmark be stamped in any item with a quality stamp so the source of the offending marks could be traced.

Many things we buy today are controlled like this. And it works.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3073 days

#7 posted 10-17-2011 08:16 PM

In my case, the Menards here carries a oak plywood that is only oak on one side and for my application, that is not acceptable.

There is a hardwood lumber supplier in this area that sells some excellent 3/4 white oak plywood for $119/sheet. Allegedly, it has no voids and, from what I can see, the quality is very high. At the other end of the spectrum is Menards at $46/sheet. I think, for the money, Lowes offers good quality 3/4” plywood in full sheets. It sells for about $53/sheet. However, their pre-cut smaller pieces are of poor quality and they cost more per BD ($19 for a 2’x4’x19/32”).

The best idea – - don’t use plywood.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3661 days

#8 posted 10-17-2011 08:23 PM

crank49—Maybe, but I’m not so sure there is as much a conspiracy here as there are other factors.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of the plywood is either produced in countries that use the metric system, or it is produced for sale in countries that do not use the imperial standard.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#9 posted 10-17-2011 08:57 PM

Gerry, You’re probably correct in relation to plywood and similar products today being manufactured in metric centric, or non imperial standards centric locations.

But, there is no excuse for allowing non-standard product on the market; what ever the standard. If it says it’s 12mm or if it says it’s 1/2”, then by God it ought to be what it says it is. We wouldn’t accept 7/8 of a gallon of gas when the pump charges us for a full gallon. I don’t care if that was to allow for evaporation.

Besides, this could be a safety issue. Engineers calculate loads based on cross section areas of materials. What if it’s only 80% of what it says it is. I know safety factors are always included to allow for variances, I’m an engineer myself, but it’s the principle.

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3661 days

#10 posted 10-17-2011 09:04 PM

crank49—”... wouldn’t accept 7/8 of a gallon of gas …”

Looks like you have never bought gas at a Kwik Trip! LOL


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4173 posts in 3163 days

#11 posted 10-17-2011 09:14 PM

Use a lot of plywood. Hate of lot of plywood.

Plywood is cheap. I am cheap.

Plywood and I were made for each other.

But if plywood were made better, I could be better.

Thank goodness this is just a hobby…........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#12 posted 10-17-2011 09:22 PM

Rich, Are you going to keep your 19/32” router bit just in case? ;-))

Gerry, The 25/32 sheet was probably a 1” sheet in the wrong bin ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View allmyfingers's profile


40 posts in 2645 days

#13 posted 10-18-2011 02:35 AM

we use plywood where it should be used, and use hardwood when it should be used.
DON’T BE A WOOD SNOB! just do the job!

-- I cut it 3 times and it was still too short?!?

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics