The world of hardwood plywood includes a variety of species, thicknesses, and veneer options. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we carry all the species and variations that our customers desire for the many applications hardwood plywood. As long as you’re aware of some potential drawbacks, many projects can benefit from the use of this fabricated product.
As its name implies, hardwood plywood is comprised of several thin layers (or plies) of hardwood lumber. Because the plies are cross-banded and balanced in order to avoid shrinkage or warping, the dimensional stability of plywood is actually superior to solid hardwood lumber. (As a result, it can actually cost near the amount of a similar amount of solid hardwood.) The plies are stacked at right angles to one another, producing consistent strength both with and across the grain.
The most preferred species used in hardwood plywood include these top ten:
• African Mahogany
• Natural Birch
• Natural Maple
• Red Oak
• White Birch
• White Maple
• White Oak
Full sheets of hardwood plywood measure 4 feet by 8 feet. Standard thicknesses include 1/8-inch, ¼-inch, 3/8-inch, ½-inch, and ¾-inch thicknesses, all of which eliminate the waste that comes with planing. Some variations include veneers, which are basically small slices off a log, often peeled by a lathe. The erratic grain pattern that results from rotary-cut slices typically cover an entire sheet in one slice. These rotary-cut veneers cost less than flat-sliced veneers, which come off the log one cut as a time.
When veneers are added to the plywood core, they’re often slip-matched, or butted up against each other, side-by-side. Some pieces are applied with book-matching, instead, presenting a mirror image next to the first slice. Premium grades have at least one side with consistent graining and coloring, allowing for easier staining and finishing.
Because of its stability and resistance to movement prompted by changes in humidity and temperature, plywood is ideal for low-tolerance applications such as door panels housed inside frames. It’s a budget-friendly option for sizeable applications such as wall panels and cabinetry, that require large widths and matched color and grain.
For exterior applications, you’ll need to use plywood that’s been bonded with a WBP Phenolic Glue, which is waterproof. (Internal moisture resistant [MR] adhesive is sufficiently water-resistant for interior applications, but it is not designed to withstand the elements.)
Limitations of hardwood plywood include sometimes higher costs, variable thicknesses, and thin face veneers. While limited selection can also be an issue, the inventory at J. Gibson McIlvain leaves this potential negative out of the equation. As long as you know what you’re looking for and do your homework regarding price and size, your project can benefit greatly by using hardwood plywood for some applications.
The lumber experts at J. Gibson McIlvain can help you select the type of hardwood plywood that’s best suited to your project and help you compare costs and other factors between it and solid lumber options.
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