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Baltic Birch Table – Need Advice

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Forum topic by DesignDude posted 02-02-2019 01:04 AM 614 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DesignDude

3 posts in 76 days


02-02-2019 01:04 AM

Topic tags/keywords: baltic birch plywood table cnc polyurethane

Hello,

I am new to this forum and fairly new to woodworking. I have access to an awesome wood shop and a 5-axis CNC machine at my school (industrial design student here), and plan to take advantage of these resources while I can. The project I need help with is a basic plywood table. It will be CNC machined at the school, and the hidden joinery will be CNC’d right into the pieces—yay! I do need help with a few different aspects of the project though:

Wood Quality
I have used Baltic birch plywood in the past for a much smaller project, however I am not sure if it is appropriate for a table. The best Baltic birch I can find is BB/BB grade. My understanding is that Baltic birch and other imported woods use a different grading system than domestic woods. Is BB/BB suitable for a table? If not, what light-colored plywood would be better?

Finishing
I have never finished plywood beyond basic sanding. Since this is a table I would like some protection from scratches and spills. Water-based polyurethane seems like a good choice because it is easier to apply than oil-based polyurethane and doesn’t darken the wood. Is there a better product I could use though? Not able to use sprays.

Thanks for reading—any input will be much appreciated!


12 replies so far

View Ripper70's profile

Ripper70

1258 posts in 1236 days


#1 posted 02-02-2019 01:21 AM

If you’re going to use plywood, you may want to consider edge banding to give the project a more finished look. Plenty of vids on YouTube can show you the basic techniques of installation and the few simple tools you’ll need.

Birch edge banding is available in most big box stores and can make a big difference in how the finished product looks.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

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Stowerscw

25 posts in 458 days


#2 posted 02-02-2019 03:24 AM

Are you worried the plywood will not be structural enough or just not look right? I haven’t done too many plywood projects and when I have I was more worried about getting the proper thickness and either painted or veneered the project so defect rating of the plywood didn’t matter much.

I say, if it looks good it is good!

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newwoodbutcher

791 posts in 3177 days


#3 posted 02-02-2019 04:09 AM

I’m building a project now where I’m veneering mahogany over Baltic Birch and using solid wood for the “show” edges

-- Ken

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JAAune

1864 posts in 2644 days


#4 posted 02-02-2019 02:37 PM

BB means there may be football-shaped patches on the face. So BB/BB means you can expect to see them on both faces. As long as you’re okay with seeing the patches and the edges of the plywood don’t bother you, it’s fine for use on furniture.

If you use water-based poly, check out Varathane’s Diamond Floor Finish. It’s the best of the water-based finishes I’ve used to date. Applies easily (never tried brushing it though) and looks more like an oil-based poly than other water-based products such as Polycrylic or Kem Aqua Plus.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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DesignDude

3 posts in 76 days


#5 posted 02-04-2019 07:18 PM


BB means there may be football-shaped patches on the face. So BB/BB means you can expect to see them on both faces. As long as you re okay with seeing the patches and the edges of the plywood don t bother you, it s fine for use on furniture.

I was hoping to not see any patches. I actually ended up purchasing three sheets of 3/4” domestic birch plywood that is A1 grade. I am confused about the plies though. The domestic birch I bought has less plies than Baltic birch which doesn’t look as nice, however apparently the plies are less likely to have voids which is good. Hoping the CNC machining process will clean up the edges a bit.


If you use water-based poly, check out Varathane s Diamond Floor Finish. It s the best of the water-based finishes I ve used to date. Applies easily (never tried brushing it though) and looks more like an oil-based poly than other water-based products such as Polycrylic or Kem Aqua Plus.

I’ll definitely check that out, thanks for the recommendation! When you say it looks more like an oil-based poly, do you mean it darkens the wood more? I am hoping to keep the wood as light as possible.

Here are some photos of the plywood I just bought. Let me know what you think!


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bondogaposis

5323 posts in 2678 days


#6 posted 02-04-2019 07:39 PM

It looks like Chinese with super thin surface veneers. Don’t sand it much.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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pottz

4683 posts in 1312 days


#7 posted 02-04-2019 07:52 PM



It looks like Chinese with super thin surface veneers. Don t sand it much.

- bondogaposis


ditto, think of that outer veneer as a sheet of paper,thats about how thick it is!

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

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DesignDude

3 posts in 76 days


#8 posted 02-04-2019 07:54 PM

Uh oh, should I cancel the order? I think it’s domestic (manufactured by Columbia Forest Products) but if I won’t be able to sand it even just a little bit before the poly coating then it won’t work for me. Is this poor quality wood? Paid $86/sheet.

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Ripper70

1258 posts in 1236 days


#9 posted 02-05-2019 05:58 AM


Is this poor quality wood? Paid $86/sheet.

- DesignDude


If it’s imported, it may well be. Often the veneers on the imported ply is very thin. It can be sanded but care must be taken to not overdo it. Also, cutting on a table saw can be tricky as the veneer can splinter easily. One method to avoid splintering is to do an initial pass on the saw to score the veneer before making a final cut. You want to avoid this:

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

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pottz

4683 posts in 1312 days


#10 posted 02-05-2019 03:07 PM



Uh oh, should I cancel the order? I think it s domestic (manufactured by Columbia Forest Products) but if I won t be able to sand it even just a little bit before the poly coating then it won t work for me. Is this poor quality wood? Paid $86/sheet.

- DesignDude


most hardwood ply is already sanded pretty smooth so it wont need much,you can do a light sanding with 220 or 320 grit just dont sand too long in one spot.try a test on a scrap piece to determine.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

498 posts in 2059 days


#11 posted 02-05-2019 03:44 PM

$86 for a single 4’x8’ sheet seems high—but maybe where you are located the prices are higher. At the HD near me (Maryland), they sell 4’x8’ birch plywood for about $55.

As others have said be careful when cutting the plywood to avoid splintering. You can use painters tape on the cut line to help minimize splintering and/or a higher tooth blade and/or a zero clearance insert on tablesaw or zc shoe on your circular saw. Be very careful if you decide to sand the surface as the face veneer is likely to be thin. You can use hardwood edging or iron-on veneer to cover the plies.

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5323 posts in 2678 days


#12 posted 02-05-2019 03:49 PM



Uh oh, should I cancel the order? I think it s domestic (manufactured by Columbia Forest Products) but if I won t be able to sand it even just a little bit before the poly coating then it won t work for me. Is this poor quality wood? Paid $86/sheet.

- DesignDude


If it is Pure Bond, that should be be ok. Just take it easy on the sanding.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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