questions on types of plywood

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Forum topic by JesseTutt posted 09-05-2012 05:46 PM 1180 views 0 times favorited 1 reply Add to Favorites Watch
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854 posts in 2138 days

09-05-2012 05:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plywood

Although I have been a woodworker for years I realize that I don’t really understand the terms that are associated with plywood. How about helping enlightening me?

1. Sometimes plywood comes in 4×8’ sheets, sometimes 5×5’ sheets. Why the difference and what term should I apply to each?

2. Recently I purchased two sheets of cabinet plywood for a shop cabinet. Both sheets were supposed to be cabinet grade. I compared the number of plys to the number of plys in the lower cost plywood from Lowes. They had the same number of plys, so what makes one “cabinet” grade and the other not?

3. Some plywood has 15 or more plys for the same thickness. What advantage is having that many plys? What do I ask for to get the higher ply count plywood?

4. What is Appleply (spelling?) and Baltic Burch plywood?

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

1 reply so far

View CplSteel's profile


142 posts in 2191 days

#1 posted 09-05-2012 06:35 PM

Not an expert but-
4×8 ply is an american convention, while 5×5 is more common in eastern Europe and northern Asia. Our European friends probably see some of each depending on where the product came from. Some say the 4×8 size is because that was the common height for ceilings in post WWII American modular building boom.

2. If the two sheets you bought had the same number of plys as cheaper stuff, then the price difference is probably because of the quality of the layers. Knots, cracks, filled voids, interior voids, color, grain consistency, etc… Cabinet grade is not a defined term, though it is often used to contrast itself from shop grade. Shop grade will have some cracks or other defects that make it unsuitable for finished goods (cabinets) but the defects can be worked around or ignored if used for another task. You can google plywood grades and come up with a lot of information.

3. More layers is better for stability because it is harder for the ply to warp when it has many layers. It also costs more. For most ply, the more layers there are then, the more stable and strong the finished good, up to a point with diminishing returns. Therefore, in 3/4 ply, 13 layers is better than 5. Never by ply with an even number of layers (far more prone to warp), but that would only be found in the lowest grade cheap stuff.

4. Plywood is made from, or in some cases veneered with a specific type of wood. Cheery ply is ply veneered with Cherry wood. Baltic Birch and ApplePly are special cases where they are both Birch products, Baltic is from the Baltics (area the Baltic Sea, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and depending on who you ask, Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine can make that list). While ApplePly is a name brand (like Xerox or Kleenex) that has come to be synonymous with North American Birch products that resemble Baltic Birch. Most “Baltic Brich” in the United States is a Birch ply that never came from the Baltics. Baltic Brich gained some fame because it was cheap, light, mold-able, stable, strong and looked good. It is still comparably cheap

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