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Routing Plywood vs Solid Wood

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Forum topic by DIYWaterDog posted 02-15-2018 02:12 PM 1204 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DIYWaterDog

59 posts in 846 days


02-15-2018 02:12 PM

Hey All,

Understand I am a hobbies/diyer.

I have just begun to dabble with plunge routing to make some fun signs.

All of my work has been in solid wood and not yet plywood. So far just old salvaged wood planking. Free is for Me!

While solid wood is probably preferred, would plywood provide the same results or should I stay away from plywood.

Just not sure how plywood will react to being plunge routed with a straight bit, since essentially plywood is layers of wood glued together. How about the edges of plywood with a more rounded or decorative bit?

Any advice on how to best approach plywood would be appreciated.

I am using the makita colt palm router. Usually with a 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch straight bit..

Thanks,

TRU

-- Why pay somebody when you can DIY?!?


10 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

3115 posts in 2593 days


#1 posted 02-15-2018 02:24 PM

Use sharp bits and let us know how it goes

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View DIYWaterDog's profile

DIYWaterDog

59 posts in 846 days


#2 posted 02-15-2018 02:41 PM

Any advice on speed?

My concern with it being plywood would be the splintering of the top layer.

TRU

-- Why pay somebody when you can DIY?!?

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

1884 posts in 583 days


#3 posted 02-15-2018 02:48 PM

be aware that the cheaper plywoods have voids in the inner plies.
so you have to have a purpose to engrave plywood. just for fun, practice, etc.
for more serious work – you have to use the more expensive brands with no voids.
on a HEALTH SAFETY note: you have no idea what the manufacturer used to
glue the plies together with…..... if it comes from outside the United States,
it could have some significant harmful chemicals in it that are not good for your innards.
I would suggest a full face respirator – not a paper mask – but a charcoal filtered respirator.
you don’t want that nasty stuff in your lungs that may cause you a lifetime of problems.

if you need bigger stock for your projects, I would suggest gluing up panels the size you need.
just for fun panels do not have to have dowels or biscuits – just edge glue, some sanding, and you are done.
and like Johnstone said – new [very sharp] carbide bits will give you a much cleaner cut. (and last longer).
as for speed: you will have to determine that yourself. some woods behave differently than others
with a router – personally, I use full speed of the tool in just about everything.
and yes – plywood will splinter – that is their nature. and not just the top layer, but all layers.
a slower speed will produce more splinters – a faster speed for a smoother “less” splinters and tearout.

good luck !!

-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

2483 posts in 4291 days


#4 posted 02-15-2018 03:52 PM

invest in some Whiteside compression bits, they are both a up and down cut, and cut a super nice line in about anything, not cheap but really do a super job… my .02

View DIYWaterDog's profile

DIYWaterDog

59 posts in 846 days


#5 posted 02-15-2018 04:21 PM

Thank you! Excellent advice on the adhesives. Something I did not think about.

What I have is a 4×4 remnant of furniture grade plywood with finish sanded sides. Was going to use it to make a rather large sign. After thinking about the risk of adhesive dust, think it might be best to use it in another way.

Thanks!

TRU


be aware that the cheaper plywoods have voids in the inner plies.
so you have to have a purpose to engrave plywood. just for fun, practice, etc.
for more serious work – you have to use the more expensive brands with no voids.
on a HEALTH SAFETY note: you have no idea what the manufacturer used to
glue the plies together with…..... if it comes from outside the United States,
it could have some significant harmful chemicals in it that are not good for your innards.
I would suggest a full face respirator – not a paper mask – but a charcoal filtered respirator.
you don t want that nasty stuff in your lungs that may cause you a lifetime of problems.

if you need bigger stock for your projects, I would suggest gluing up panels the size you need.
just for fun panels do not have to have dowels or biscuits – just edge glue, some sanding, and you are done.
and like Johnstone said – new [very sharp] carbide bits will give you a much cleaner cut. (and last longer).
as for speed: you will have to determine that yourself. some woods behave differently than others
with a router – personally, I use full speed of the tool in just about everything.
and yes – plywood will splinter – that is their nature. and not just the top layer, but all layers.
a slower speed will produce more splinters – a faster speed for a smoother “less” splinters and tearout.

good luck !!

- John Smith


-- Why pay somebody when you can DIY?!?

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5571 posts in 3664 days


#6 posted 02-15-2018 04:29 PM

I would recommend Arauco ply as the face veneer is 1/8” for 19/32 and 23/32 thick stock and 5 and 9 ply respectively. Baltic birch is recommended as well.

View Mike_D_S's profile

Mike_D_S

595 posts in 2635 days


#7 posted 02-15-2018 09:06 PM

A couple of comments as I’ve done some testing of different bit styles doing pocket routing in a few different plywood and MDF types with different bits.

The compression spiral is a good bit if you are cutting completely through the plywood as the compression spiral acts as an upcut on the end and a down cut on the top, basically shearing towards the material in both cases.

For relatively shallow inlay, I recommend a downcut spiral to give the cleanest top surface and fairly minimal fuzz along the cut wall.

Mike

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

1398 posts in 1236 days


#8 posted 02-16-2018 05:05 AM

Charles is giving good advice but if you are not doing deep through cuts, a downcut spiral will work about as well and is a lot cheaper. I use both on my CNC router on a regular basis. My preference is also Whiteside bits.

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4259 posts in 2981 days


#9 posted 02-19-2018 11:52 PM

Like everyone knows plywood has a ton of glue in it so it really dulls bits quickly. So either carbide down cut bit or compression like Charles said which cuts really cleanly to, Down cut bit cuts the outside edges really good but it leaves the dust in the area. The Up cut bits take the chips out but leaves a rough edges around the cut.

HSS bits do pretty well but they will dull pretty quick with the glue in plywood hince Carbide.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View Sark's profile

Sark

136 posts in 781 days


#10 posted 02-20-2018 01:01 AM

Plywood can certainly be routered. Done all the time. But quality bits make a big difference. For your project, a downcut bit is what you need. You can lose some control of the router when you encounter an air pocket or void, and that can totally muck up the final product. And its possible that the void is quite visible when you’re finished, and the voids would need to be filled to look right. So buy a piece of quality plywood that is doesn’t have voids if you can.

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