Chinese firewood...I mean plywood!

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Review by Dadoo posted 04-21-2008 01:39 AM 8988 views 1 time favorited 46 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Chinese firewood...I mean plywood! Chinese firewood...I mean plywood! Chinese firewood...I mean plywood! Click the pictures to enlarge them

All of my cabinets so far, have been made from birch plywood and trimmed in pine. Now I’ve got a load of old maple for trim and want to build a bookcase system using maple plywood. I’ve looked around and have found that the only place that carries it, is Lowes. Oh, my local yard will be happy to order it…at like $70.00 a sheet…sight unseen. So being careful not to buy some cheap stuff (there’s been some bad vibes concerning Chinese plywood here) I found that the brand they carry is from Samling USA. Well, the Samling sounds Chinese but the USA must mean it was made in, well Canada right? The sheets looked square and true so I bought two. Beautiful Spring weather here. Sunny, warm in the 70’s, no rain. Well, once at home I unloaded the sheets. They were allowed to acclimate for a couple days while I was at work. Didn’t really need to acclimate but I wasn’t ready to start cutting. On my next weekend off I produced the first two base carcases. I noted that there was a lot of chipout, one area was missing about 6” of the center ply, and the outside maple veneer was really thin. Then I noticed it. There in faint blue ink was stamped “Made in China”! I felt bad. Really bad. Kinda like I had been had, bad. The next day I found the cabinets were no longer square. Oh, they were glued and nailed and rabbeted and clamped for awhile. Two days later I found that they weren’t only not square, but one had developed a twist as well!

So the wife and I took the uncut sheet and the two pieces of scrap you see in the third pic back to Lowes. I was hot. This stuff was like $55.00 a sheet and a 50 mile round trip hot. So we showed the clerk the warped scrap and I said, “Can you imagine what my cabinets look like?” She called the manager…he readily credited us for the uncut sheet. Then the wife said, “What about the sheet we cut up, that failed?” And you know what? He credited me for the second sheet as well. Kudos to Lowes management, but doom on the desk jockey who thought he’d make money by ordering this crap.

So guys and gals…blue ink disappears in those high intensity sodium lamps. Be careful what you buy and avoid this stuff! The wife asked me what I intend on doing with the left over scrap. Can’t use it as it’ll soon warp too. Maybe a canoe? Probably fall apart as soon as it gets near water. Firewood…It is camping season ya know!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4799 days

46 comments so far

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 4697 days

#1 posted 04-21-2008 02:16 AM

It is unfortunate that substandard products find their way to market. From a woodworker’s perspective, it is a shame that we end up with sheet goods that do not meet expected standards. I would think aside from making a profit, that these economies would want to establish a reputation for quality. Having a poor reputation is worse than not having one at all.

Anyway, I am glad you were able to recover your investment, but you still lost time and effort in this transaction. I guess paying $70 a sheet for good sheet goods looks pretty good given the options.


View grovemadman's profile


556 posts in 4580 days

#2 posted 04-21-2008 02:20 AM

Don’t burn it! It might contain lead….

-- --Chuck

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4630 days

#3 posted 04-21-2008 02:40 AM

Hi Dadoo,

Thanks for the post. I just bought some maple plywood at Home Depot for 46.88 a sheet. I looked at it but couldn’t seen any tag on it. I suspect that it is the same thing that you bought at Lowe’s. I will watch it and see if it develops the problems that you had.

But at least you got good service at Lowe’s. A lot of stores would not have credited you with the cut sheet.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5123 days

#4 posted 04-21-2008 03:51 AM

Don’t feed it to your dog! It might contain melamine…

View Praki's profile


203 posts in 4805 days

#5 posted 04-21-2008 05:10 AM

I have a similar story of “Birch Plywood” that I bought from my local orange box. A 2’x4’ sheet cost me $15 and some change. After I cut it to the dimensions I wanted, it just curled up like a potato chip! I have jut about resigned myself to using heavy carcinogenic MDF :(

Incidentally, I bought the more expensive birch plywood from one of the wood working supplies chain. The 20”x30” sheet I bought looked worse than the other and the cuts were badly chipped. Luckily, they have remained usable.

I have to say, quality plywood is pretty much unavailable or extremely expensive. I just hope that the smega stores get the message and stop carrying junk.

-- Praki, Aspiring Woodworker

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4683 days

#6 posted 04-21-2008 05:16 AM

Wow Dadoo, that sucks more than a dust collector. A huge thanks for letting us know. Use it to make a satellite dish… no shaping involved. Or maybe one of those modern one-piece chairs? Or maybe an outfeed table for my tortoise shell table saw?

-- Happy woodworking!

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4797 days

#7 posted 04-21-2008 06:41 AM

Thanks for the warning!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View jcees's profile


1079 posts in 4607 days

#8 posted 04-21-2008 08:26 AM

First, shame on me, I knew better after reading horror stories about this stuff. Now I’ve used exactly one sheet of this crap and I will do without before using it ever again. Trouble is, I bought it from my “real” cabinet supply company. Sheesh! Apparently shame is in shorter supply than crappy plywood.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4607 days

#9 posted 04-21-2008 10:16 AM

once again. proof that really cheap is usually expensive.

-- making sawdust....

View BrianM's profile


116 posts in 4561 days

#10 posted 04-21-2008 01:25 PM

Motthunter is correct.

If you want nice fresh oats you have to pay the price. If you wants oats that have already been through the horse they are much cheaper.

-- There is no such thing as scrap wood!,

View Ad Marketing Guy - Bill's profile

Ad Marketing Guy - Bill

314 posts in 4607 days

#11 posted 04-21-2008 01:52 PM

GOOD Posting it is definitely worthwhile knowledge to share with all
- Thanks

-- Bill - - Ad-Marketing Guy, Ramsey NJ

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 4587 days

#12 posted 04-21-2008 04:52 PM

I’m pretty sure that Lowes and Home Depot only carry China plywood now. I only use the stuff for shop projects now. I buy the $100+ plywood for other projects at my local hardwood supply house. Maybe we should start a write in campaign to see if we can get HD or Lowes to bring in some quality lumber?

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View SplinterDave's profile


15 posts in 4501 days

#13 posted 04-21-2008 11:26 PM

I like what Mr. Herron said about getting our local discount hardware stores to stock some better quality, cabinet grade ply. Unfortunately if they switch over the better quality stuff they no longer are a discount hardware and Wally World will edge them out as they have all the other small speciality sotres. Personally I can’t afford expensive stuff. I guess this ply may be OK for small projects that do not have long sheets that can twist or curl. I also noticed that the finished layer is very thin. “Do Not” sand should be stamped on it. Any sanding of this ply will burn right through the outer layer and leave a fatal blemish only suitable for painting.

View OttawaP's profile


89 posts in 4535 days

#14 posted 04-22-2008 12:55 AM

Chinese plywood is also sneeking into sheathing grade plywood for floors, construction etc. It’s also complete garbage.+

-- Paul

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4576 days

#15 posted 04-22-2008 01:15 AM

I can’t believe the things they market as “select, cabinet grade, and A/C” at those big box scores. I go there and their select plywood had at least 5 places where they cutout the veneer and replaced it. They didn’t even try to match the veneer either. on half of them the repairs grain was running in the opposite direction. It’s a shame.

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