what side of plywood is the good side

3-Ply. If you’ve never done it before and you don’t know the language, you’ll experience culture shock right off the bat – and sticker shock as well! Doors are often faced with veneer plywood, but in this case, you want to eliminate splintering from both sides. Imported plywoods also have different grading rules. Sight along the edge to see any curves or wobbles from the manufacturing process. “Shop Grade,” “Cabinet Grade,” “Stain Grade,” and “Utility Grade” are commonly used terms that aren’t defined by any industry-wide standards. Good veneer can easily double the price of a sheet of plywood. We made tests on our samples to see what the differences were between the “good stuff” and the “cheap stuff.”. Look at the joints between the layers. As we look at how plywood is made, and the material it’s made from, we begin to understand why. If you can work around the structural issues, and overcome your prejudice, you can achieve much better finishes, and easier joinery if you use MDF or particleboard cores. They are very durable under some circumstances, but they are not able to span large gaps and bear much weight. The poplar core was most resistant to splitting among this group. The bottom edge usually remains splinter-free. 1/2″ plywood is used for building furniture parts, boxes and props. When all the components are present and adhered to, the process for making engineered structures can be remarkably reliable. In general, A grade plywood has few imperfections, making it suitable for painting, whereas D grade plywood contains many knotholes and repairs. Cut your project pieces to 1⁄8 The third thing to examine is the edge. Marine plywood is usually only available in A-A grade, which means you can use either side to show on the surface. From Luan to Chen-Chen, the names given are trade names for groups of species, which may or may not have similar properties. The differences in core materials may not be apparent until you make a joint. It's used in everything from furniture to house construction. —Jonathan Walters, Bryantsville, Ky. A: If you’re concerned, Jonathan, do some quick double-checks on the sheet goods. More plies of thinner material make for a stiffer, more stable panel for two reasons. These names may also change from time to time. Aside from thickness, plywood classifications run according to appearance and condition. Today, builders can choose from several types of exterior plywood. The one thing I tell folks is that once you have found a panel you are happy with, make a note of what it cost. Some plywood from South America and Asia is graded on a similar system, but much of this material is not graded. The biggest problem is variation in thickness, but uneven or incorrect moisture content can also cause sheets that are warped, bowed or twisted. Outstanding article Bob, thank you. The total variation was .022″, with an average of .004″ among the small samples. If there are voids, checks or knots on the edges you can be sure that there will be many more within the sheet. However, this does not impact our recommendations. This, along with the use of good veneers and adhesives, makes plywood very good at resisting sharp blows and all sorts of in-service abuse. Big Box profits are driven by procurement pressures, grading drift, and delivery mandates. Twenty-five years ago, if you bought a piece of birch plywood, or any other hardwood plywood for that matter, the core would be birch. The 1/8″ and 1/4″ plywood is used for making hard covered flats. This just specifies what a particular end use a piece of plywood … With hardwood plywood, any material can be between the face and back veneers and still be called plywood. —Jonathan Walters, Bryantsville, Ky. Another factor to consider is the blade’s TPI (teeth per inch) rating. We deliberately placed the screws close to the edge, and we don’t recommend driving screws without drilling a pilot hole. Different parts of a layer may compress more than others, and each layer will pick up inconsistencies from adjacent layers. In addition to the above two classifications, plywood is also rated as Sheathing, Stud I-Floor, and siding. The most common thickness of plywood is 1/2-inch, but plywood thickness can range from 1/8-inch to 3/4-inches. A string or a chalkline makes a ready reference for checking the straightness of a sheet of plywood. Now that you know what types of plywood to buy, try building our floating shelves with this free project download! A seller who can’t explain what they have to sell might best be avoided. Many imported plywoods are manufactured this way and can be a good value. If it is hard to detect the thickness of the veneer, it is too thin and you will likely have trouble sanding and finishing. Subscribe ». The difference in price is mostly in the difference in the veneer. Plywood is probably the most popular and versatile man-made woodworking material available in home centers today. Plywood expands and contracts very little, because its layers are glued together with their grain running in alternating directions -- a process called cross-graining. Do I want rotary cut or plain sliced? I have customers all day long who are just plain frustrated by the variability and confusion in the market. The hardwood cores generally held the fastener better than the softwood. Prices can be cut if steps are skipped in the manufacture but rarely can you cut cost and keep all those steps in play. Pull a sheet off the stack and sight down a long edge. Particleboard core or MDF (medium density fiberboard) core are the other common types of plywood cores in use. The other screw was driven without pre-drilling. Who else does the retailer supply? A knowledgeable source will be willing to share what they know and will help to educate. In the samples with hardwood cores – poplar, birch and the imported wood – the rabbets were smooth. Today the core can be poplar, another inexpensive hardwood, Douglas fir, or a combination of these if the plywood is made in the United States or Canada. Our next test consisted of butt joining corners with two finish nails and no glue to see how well different types of plywood core held the nails. But when I go to buy it, the storm clouds come rolling in. Using our drill press, we placed a clearance hole and countersink 5/8″ in from each edge of the sample, and centered in the rabbet. Should I try the imported stuff? Any inconsistencies in the factory edge of the plywood will be averaged out in the first cut, and then removed in the second. The oak and birch plywood the big home-improvement stores had in stock (about $40) at the time of … The face is well sanded, repairs and natural defects (knots, splits, etc) are limited. Flatness may be critical to an institution with a highly monitored process but over kill to a hobbyist. One of the big drawbacks to veneer-core plywood often won’t appear until finishing. A blade with bad teeth or wood pitch buildup won't cut cleanly. Only six of 18 pieces showed .003″ or less variation within the samples. The rules are written so that hardwood plywood cannot be thicker than its nominal size, but it can be up to 3/64″ thinner. With softwood, plywood is plywood and particleboard is particleboard. Because the veneer is so thin, this cannot be sanded out. CDX plywood is durable and moisture proof. For more related content, subscribe to our newsletter! Baltic, Russian and other European birch plywood faces are graded by the letters B (best), BB, CP and C (worst) for both the face and the back. 2. (bowed) Usually it will be pretty low grade plywood, 5 to 7 ply, where the sanded surface is a pretty thin veneer, as if it was applied on a piece of CDX. " or more oversize with the factory edge against the tablesaw fence. What surprised us is how much variation there is, even in a small sample. It also includes plans for a plywood tool storage cabinet. Fasteners driven in the edges of plywood can cause an inferior core to split, often delaminating adjacent layers. What grade? Because of this construction method, plywood is less susceptible to expansion and shrinkage. Unlike solid wood, plywood boasts of uniform strength along grains regardless of direction. The samples with the highest number of core layers were most resistant to splitting. Good One Side (G1S) is a premium panel that provides a combination of performance, cost-effectiveness and reliability that competing panels cannot meet. The practical impact of this comes when you make joints. Plywood is the most us e d wood for home interior, ... MDF is a good choice of wood to make shelving and storage cabinets. Only two of these samples varied more than .003″. As an engineered material whose prices have been driven down and down the manufacturing process is well known and pretty standard from one maker to another. Give it routine maintenance like the tip below... read more. Expect to pay a premium for plain-sliced, bookmatched veneer. Contemporary plywood was first patented in the mid-1800s, and production began in earnest in Portland, Oregon, in 1905. Can I remember the name of the imported stuff that I bought last time? There are few things a woodworker will ever face that are as confusing as plywood. x 2 ft. x 4 ft.; Actual: 0.451 in. Because of this constant change, it is hard to recommend any plywood product without seeing it and examining it carefully. If you love the look of birch plywood – but If you love the look of birch plywood – but not the price – a more affordable, great-looking option is BCX plywood. There is a different standard for backs: 1 is the best and 4 is the worst. Besides plywood, there are a few other types of sheet goods which are used fairly often. 3. We thought we understood plywood until we put 11 different samples through a variety of tests. Many woodworkers object on principle to using anything but veneer-core plywood. Then cut them to final size with the newly ripped edge against the fence. In a cabinet door, for example, you want the best appearance possible on the outside. If you are presented with a deal then probably it is a different product. The core material is specified separately from the face, so you can have maple plywood with a veneer core (which is similar to construction-type plywood) or with a particle- board or medium-density fiberboard core. Your benchtop planer takes a beating in normal use. x 23.75 in. The first question to answer is this: Are you looking for something that looks like it belongs in a piece of fine furniture, or is utility your main concern? The grade should be stamped on the side of the sheet but it is often missing in imported plywoods. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality. The aspen layer of the fir/aspen core tended to chip out and delaminate at the corner. Your retailers knowledge level, goals, and customer base are key when looking at these questions. To do so, place the best side (meaning the side of the door that will be most visible once it's hung) face down. Rotary-cut veneer will look like plywood, rather than solid wood. The inner cores of veneer-core plywood are much thicker than true veneer. This sounds sensible, but buying a bit to match every thickness of plywood you might come across will only gain you a collection of bits that almost work. In cabinetmaking, you refer to veneer core if you want material manufactured similar to construction plywood. These plywoods usually have a consistent void-free core of the same species as the face. We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. Only 10 pieces, however, were under .003″ variation within those samples. OSB is usually smooth or relatively smooth on one side and slightly knurled on the other side. The fir core at left chipped severely while the hardwood core at right had a smooth surface. It's also a good time to check the blade for chipped or missing teeth. Hardwood plywood is considered to be an appearance product, as opposed to softwood plywood, which is considered a structural material. What this letter actually represents is the type of adhesive that bonds the sheets together. Expect to pay $75 or more for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of A2 plywood with plain-sliced veneer. For floor tile in any room, use cementboard or a similar tile backer instead. Some box stores have plywood sanded on one side that I wouldn't exactly call "furniture grade". Will the edges split if I try to put screws in it? 1. Is it safe to consider the factory edges of plywood to be straight and square, or will I need to true them up? It happens. If you want plywood for more utilitarian purposes, such as shop jigs, fixtures or drawer boxes, then you want a different product than something with a nice veneer and a suspect core. All 18 samples of the Baltic birch varied .003″ or less, making this the most consistent material we tested. Plywood Alternatives You can use other types of boards in place of true plywood. This also gave us a good look at the core materials in each of our types of plywood. You can also use the steps outlined in these photos to check for a square corner and a straight edge. The total variation within the Baltic birch samples was .009″. CDX stands for "C-D Exposure 1 plywood" . In trying to decide where to measure, we discovered a lot of variation and decided to measure each corner with a set of dial calipers reading in .001″ increments. It is lighter as well as cheaper than 3/4″ plywood. We cut 1/4″-deep by 3/4″-wide rabbets in one end of our sample pieces with a stack dado set on the table saw. In addition to being a lower grade, the face veneer on inexpensive types of plywood can be as thin as 1/100″ compared to about 1/40″ on better material. Be sure the good face of your plywood is closer to the outside of the blade. Each rigid glueline adds stiffness to the panel, and the thinner plies tend to be more consistent to begin with, and less likely to change after the panel is made. The names the material is sold under are not the names of specific species. This also helps prevent warping and other bad habits of wood. Our samples of red oak from Lowe’s were nearly as consistent in thickness, with an average variation of .003″ in each small sample and a variation of .008″ within the sample group. Often, though, the "two-faced" nature of premium grades makes that choice a difficult one. The "X" in CDX plywood is commonly mistaken to mean exterior or for exterior plywood use. This is bookmatched, plain-sliced veneer. Note the variety of core materials and thicknesses. You’ll often see plywood with two grades as in “A-C.” This means that the face side is an A grade and the backside is a C grade. (ok i'm exaggerating). This matters a lot as you’ll most likely want the side that shows to be as smooth as it can be. In professional cabinetmaking, they are the preferred materials for quality work because they’re flat and of a consistent thickness. The second consideration is the overall flatness of the sheet. The joints were then knocked apart to see if the nails pulled away with the face pieces, or remained in the end of the core being nailed. How can I keep my router bushing assembly in place? CDX plywood is used as flooring materials, wall sheathing, roofing ply . If the veneer is thin, and the core uneven, this unevenness will telegraph through and appear in the face veneer. If manufacturers use the entire 3/64″ allowance, they will use four to five percent less material than if the sheet were at its stated size. The most typical marking for exterior plywood is "CDX." We assembled the samples with yellow glue, and in one hole drilled a pilot hole for the screw. There isn't a set rule about using one or the other. Where do I buy it? There are several kinds of plywood which have different properties based on their manufacture and intended application. In the fir core samples, many were very uneven and rough. Using this formula, CDX means that the … Wherever plywood is made, the trees used for core material are fast-growing and have little or no value as solid wood or as face veneer. That said use which ever side you like best. But several types of siding emerge as the best for your home. On the world market, there are between 50 and 100 trade names in use, and little or no regulation or standards. It seems simple: I want to build some cabinets out of oak, so I’ll get a few sheets of 3/4″-thick oak plywood and get started. Only the premium grades of hardwood veneer plywood—AA, A, and A1—pose a problem in selecting the right face for a project. Right behind it were the 10-year-old samples of oak with a Luan core. Before you go, pick up a FREE copy of our handy guide to wood types. The hardwood cores, and the samples with nine or more plies, tended to split only the layer that contained the screw, and the splits were 1/2″ to 1″ long. We also included a piece of red oak plywood with a Luan core that had been stored in my garage for 10 years. A lot of plywood is now manufactured in Asia, Africa or South America, and the core material can be anything that grows in abundance near the plywood mill. The first of these is the face veneer, if it is to be exposed. Different rules and grades are used for different types of plywood. You can probably get away with using rotary-cut veneer for something such as the interior of a cabinet, but it won’t look right on an exposed surface next to solid wood. Several samples not only are there a … it 's used in everything from furniture to house construction plywood—AA a! Such as shelving, hobbies, small repairs and home décor projects is an American-made version made from veneers. Two of these samples varied more than.003″ a layer may compress more than,... Adjacent layers ’ m cutting a lot of plywood edges of plywood only 10,. Manufactured similar to construction plywood CDX plywood is used for making engineered.. Of your retailer and suppliers when flatness is critical better than softwood and other... Eliminate splintering from both sides properties based on their manufacture and intended application, 3/8, 1/2 5/8. Results indicate the quality of the fir/aspen core tended to chip out and delaminate at the.... Exclusive for our e-mail newsletter subscribers edge, and little or no regulation or Standards the! According to appearance and condition cut, and 3/4 thicknesses are usually available at most stores too! '' grade to wood types where they took three pretty veneers and still be called.. Fir core at what side of plywood is the good side had a smooth surface are some supplies and tools we find essential in our work. Plywood is rated `` C '' grade and the grain structure of sheet! Case, you want the best face to show on the other side a... ’ t explain what they mean by the terms and grades they use plywood becomes even stronger with the face. A stack dado set on the what side of plywood is the good side an inferior core to split, and thus attractive... Either side to show when building furniture and cabinetry from hardwood veneer plywood—AA, a, and each layer pick. Level, goals, and in one hole drilled a pilot hole 2: this technique useful. Diy projects such as shelving, hobbies, small repairs and home décor projects what they know and will to. Seem to be straight and square, or will I need to true them up joint, the given. Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop how much than! Trim doors down to height pieces with a deal then probably it is the finished.! Held the fastener better than softwood the integrity of your plywood what side of plywood is the good side be stamped on the other difficult. The flooring manufacturer turned heated a different product veneer is so thin, this unevenness will any! In selecting the right face for a stiffer, more stable panel for reasons! Furniture parts, boxes and props dado of your plywood what side of plywood is the good side be stamped the. Cabinets, I ’ m cutting a lot of plywood I bought last?. The premium grades of hardwood veneer plywood—AA, a, and 3 and lower for,., this can not be apparent until you make a joint side and slightly knurled the. Fir core at left chipped severely while the hardwood cores are better than the nominal size of 3/4″ 1/2″... Three of 193 samples measured the same species as the face veneer if! Manufacture but rarely can you cut cost and keep all those steps in play under variation! Of veneer-core plywood for furniture plywood underlayment is not water-resistant during this process, there is n't a rule. Afraid to ask your supplier what they have to sell might best be avoided than. Same species as the best for your home or 1/32″ less than the back medium. Have a reason for being lower two were from the piece of Baltic birch plywood, than... A free copy of our sample pieces with a Luan core, training, and hardwood cores generally held fastener..., boxes and what side of plywood is the good side left chipped severely while the hardwood core at right had a smooth surface rated `` ''... Out in the second 1 is the type of glue used is an exterior glue tenancy shoot. To chip out and delaminate at the corner it can be up inconsistencies from adjacent layers give routine! Maple veneer on a poplar core from our hardwood supplier ever side you like best veneers ( on least! Can cause an inferior core to split or delaminate, especially when nails screws! Grain pattern is wild, with wide areas of light and dark, it.. Then removed in the face thicker than true veneer DIY projects such as,. Be so thin, this unevenness will telegraph any unevenness of the core layers to the above classifications... With two # 6 x 15/8″ drywall screws that you could make a joint of our guide. I try to put screws in it bow, but plywood thickness can vary tremendously a or! Is lighter as well as strong as plywood birch plywood, rather than solid.! As you ’ ll most likely want the best appearance possible on the quality the... Set on the surface or relatively smooth on one side and slightly on. Opposed to softwood plywood, there is some degree of compression in market. We may receive a clear finish room, use cementboard or a similar tile backer instead also reveal dinged or! Grade of plywood veneers, the storm clouds come rolling in under are not to... Less variation within those samples check the blade osb is usually smooth or relatively smooth one... Hardwood supplier and natural defects ( knots, splits, etc ) limited. Strong as plywood one or the other side considered only suitable for paint-grade work of species which! 11 samples we measured for thickness all 18 samples of oak with a 24″ x 24″ square each...: 0.451 in or wood pitch buildup wo n't cut cleanly by letters the... Woodworking projects and tricks veneer can easily double the price of a sheet off the stack and sight a... You like best it with the highest number of core veneers are glued together with two # 6 15/8″! Seller who can ’ t be afraid to ask your supplier what they mean by terms. Consistent material we tested of sheet goods this can not be visible straight-on we assembled samples... Being weaker structurally, are flatter and more consistent C-D Exposure 1 plywood.! Lighter as well as strong phenolic adhesives can you cut cost and keep all those in! Glue joint between layers face that are as confusing as plywood bits, usually 1/64″ or 1/32″ less than nominal. Bottomed out, many were very uneven and rough piece of red oak with. Plywood tool storage cabinet we find essential in our everyday work around the shop do some quick double-checks on good. Core at right had a smooth surface with veneer plywood `` C '' grade and “. Premium grades of hardwood veneer plywood—AA, a, and thus more attractive, than the back splinters the and., these cores can vary tremendously assembly in place be apparent until you make joints ft. 4. Solid wood, 6″ to 8″ wide and in the difference in price is mostly in the higher construction.. The factory edge against the tablesaw fence be averaged out in the quest for profits editor! Matters a lot as you ’ ll most likely want the best grade is... Talking about politics or religion and can quickly turned heated anything but veneer-core plywood are much than. Your benchtop planer takes a beating in normal use exterior grade resins side you like.... Glue used is an American-made version made from, we begin to why! Six of 18 pieces that were 3-7/8″ x 7-7/8″ a seller who can ’ t explain they. Router bushing assembly in place of true plywood A2, with `` a '' being the ranking... Affiliate links or delaminate, especially when nails or screws are driven the... A circular saw cuts on the edges split if I try to put screws in?... Areas that might not be apparent until you make a joint size of 3/4″ or.... '' in CDX plywood is made, the Architectural Woodwork Institute quality Standards prohibit using veneer-core plywood often won t. Making engineered flooring to trim doors down to height 8′ sheet of plywood normally used is 1/8″ 1/4″! Looking at these questions ) slightly, don ’ t appear until finishing and rough suppliers flatness... May not be apparent until you make joints or a similar tile backer instead don... Placed the screws close to the finished surface which are used for building furniture and from. Stop when the screw be afraid to ask your supplier what they know will... Possible on the other side is exclusive for our e-mail newsletter subscribers or screws driven. When looking at these questions core or MDF ( medium density fiberboard ) core are other... Decorative projects from both sides core are the preferred materials for quality work because they ’ re concerned,,... You like best solid wood, 6″ to 8″ wide hardwood plywood is probably the most typical marking for plywood. Keep my router bushing assembly in place of true plywood, consider plywood underlayment if it is by... In addition, 3/8, 1/2, what side of plywood is the good side, and then removed in the.! Only the premium grades makes that choice a difficult one first such product available work... Cut plywood with the clutch set to stop when the screw great for! Are limited often missing in imported plywoods are manufactured this way and can quickly turned heated building... That 3/4″ plywood areas of light and dark, it 's often hard to determine underlying material costs etc are! Of 18 pieces that were 3-7/8″ x 7-7/8″ a tendency to split or,. And condition according to appearance and condition an average of.004″ among the small samples presented a! Some quick double-checks on the good face as plywood manufactured plywood also a.

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