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Tips for buying plywood, for newbies?

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Forum topic by Dan Thomas posted 05-29-2019 02:52 PM 920 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Thomas

160 posts in 637 days


05-29-2019 02:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plywood

I’m planning on doing a video on buying plywood, for newbies and others who don’t know a lot about it. What to look for, what to avoid, how to tell decent plywood from crappy, etc. Even where to buy it, although that is always subject to where you live. Let’s assume the plywood is for shop projects, like cabinets or jigs, since this is for newbies and they’re probably not making furniture.

What tips have you learned over the years that you’d like to pass on to others? I don’t promise to use your tips, but at the minimum you can help me to not forget something obvious.

Thanks!

-- Newbie Dan, https://www.youtube.com/c/thenewbiewoodworker


34 replies so far

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ScottM

747 posts in 2787 days


#1 posted 05-29-2019 03:09 PM

Big box stores sell crappy plywood…. Super thin surface veneer, lots of voids, and thickness actually varies.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12028 posts in 4069 days


#2 posted 05-29-2019 05:23 PM

Might be overkill but, I use nothing but real BB for jigs. A short tutorial on how to ID the authentic BB might be helpful. Also, you might talk about Appleply for jigs, as well.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

1477 posts in 1864 days


#3 posted 05-29-2019 05:25 PM

That can encompass a lot. Are you talking all kinds of plywood or for furniture?

For big box stores you can go into what it means when it’s acx, cdx, and the lettering grading system.

Then, for furniture, there’s all kinds of types as well. It can really be a lot to do in one video.

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pottz

7979 posts in 1625 days


#4 posted 05-29-2019 05:29 PM

one thing you might want to emphasize is sanding hardwood veneered ply,making sure to be very careful and not sand through into the inner core.nothing worse than making a fine piece of furniture with an expensive ply and ruining it with over sanding as most today are paper thin.

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

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CaptainKlutz

2470 posts in 2135 days


#5 posted 05-29-2019 08:39 PM

Not trying to be difficult, but this request makes me go Hmmm….. NEWBIE!
IMHO should not be making a video if you have ask for content?

Since you asked for help, here you go:

There are entire books written on the topic of Plywood, such as:
https://thamesandhudsonusa.com/books/plywood-hardcover
https://books.google.com/books?id=Wqct82LvVB0C&hl=en
https://books.google.com/books/about/A_Complete_Guide_to_Hardwood_Plywood_and.html?id=f8cgbhTISUcC

etcetera: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/browse?type=lcsubc&key=Plywood&c=x

Have you visited the web site for American Plywood Association?
https://www.apawood.org

Picking the right plywood for the application is 90% of the challenge:
https://www.menards.com/main/buying-guides/building-materials-buying-guides/hardwood-plywood-buying-guide/c-1451680674591.htm
https://www.familyhandyman.com/woodworking/16-tips-to-get-the-best-plywood-for-your-buck/
https://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/basics/choose_the_right_plywood/
https://www.remodelista.com/posts/plywood-facts-pros-cons/

IME buying it is easy:
Best way to buy hardwood plywood is to visit a real lumber yard (NOT a Home Depot or Lowes), one that carries many different types of plywood laminates, and hardwood veneers. Tell them face veneer type, core type, grade desired, and how many sheets you need (maybe what you are building if they ask). If they have it; Pay bill, load into truck or trailer, take home. Done.

Cheers!

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

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Rich

5256 posts in 1230 days


#6 posted 05-29-2019 09:20 PM

Plywood is a pretty narrow subject. Why not cover sheet goods in general? Advantages and disadvantages, etc. For example, what are the tradeoffs between building a cabinet carcass from pre-finished plywood versus melamine? Solid core veneered sheets? MDF? Sheet laminates? Think Light Weight panels?

What about bending plywood? Uses?

A full understanding of all of those options is needed to make educated choices regarding workability, durability, cost, appearance, etc.

Maybe you’re long-winded, but I’d have trouble filling more than maybe a minute or two in a video with plywood alone.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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CWWoodworking

631 posts in 819 days


#7 posted 05-29-2019 11:36 PM

I buy a fair amount of the b-2 American ply from Menards. It’s decent FOR WHAT IT IS. That part is important. It’s b-2. It’s not the good stuff and it says it on the label. It is exactly the same as the b-2 ply I would get from a “real” lumber yard.

If you compare apples to apples, it’s the same stuff. Lumber vs borg.

My lumber yards are a little more difficult to deal with, but will usually be cheaper for larger quality.

The main reason I use Menards is convenience.

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1985 posts in 1855 days


#8 posted 05-30-2019 02:54 AM

NewB Dan- This project will be a great learning tool for those who use and to those who go to the “big box stores”.
From experience, I have learned to know and appreciate- good plywood
I use “Spellmans hardwoods” in Phoenix- this is where you can purchase the higher end substrate (plywood, particle board, melamine… A grade)

-- Desert_Woodworker

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therealSteveN

4906 posts in 1215 days


#9 posted 05-30-2019 03:06 AM



I buy a fair amount of the b-2 American ply from Menards. It’s decent FOR WHAT IT IS. That part is important. It’s b-2. It’s not the good stuff and it says it on the label. It is exactly the same as the b-2 ply I would get from a “real” lumber yard.

If you compare apples to apples, it’s the same stuff. Lumber vs borg.

My lumber yards are a little more difficult to deal with, but will usually be cheaper for larger quality.

The main reason I use Menards is convenience.

- CWWoodworking

CW if you are already using Menards I think this is a very smart move. Now if you are buying 50 sheets or so at a time, then go through the desk, and for around 50 bux they can deliver it. When delivered it is separated to types, so your BB will be in one group, your ARAUCOPLY will be in another, any type will be separated, and they use a skidder of beater ply, over, under, and in between types, it’s well wrapped, and those skid loaders that are truck mounted can slide it right into your shop if you have a 12 foot or wider door, with 7 to 8’ of height, they are setting it into your shop. Rains later, you aren’t rushing, throwing tarps over truck beds, all that BS stuff.

None of this will have come from the yard, which is where ply get’s a butt whopping, straight off clean skids in the warehouses. I always chuckle when someone says you need to go to a dealer. I used to occasionally use the Paxtons in Cinci, they sell absolute Crap compared to what I get at Menards. Plus they can sell you whatever grade you want to pay for, and in SW Ohio generally cheaper than any of the local specialty places.

Chad at Muterspaw is one known exception, his 5×5 BB ply is choice compared to WoodCraft, or Rockler, and much much less costly.

-- Think safe, be safe

View John_'s profile

John_

232 posts in 2346 days


#10 posted 05-30-2019 05:27 AM

sheet goods for a painted project = MDO

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12028 posts in 4069 days


#11 posted 05-30-2019 02:08 PM



NewB Dan- This project will be a great learning tool for those who use and to those who go to the “big box stores”.
From experience, I have learned to know and appreciate- good plywood
I use “Spellmans hardwoods” in Phoenix- this is where you can purchase the higher end substrate (plywood, particle board, melamine… A grade)

- Desert_Woodworker


Their Flagstaff store is great, too. About 5% higher than in Phoenix but, much closer. I reckon I save that 5% in gas.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View PPBart's profile

PPBart

87 posts in 471 days


#12 posted 05-30-2019 02:36 PM



Might be overkill but, I use nothing but real BB…

For years I dealt with big-box plywood because there was simply no reasonably convenient source for anything better; however, a few years ago such a source opened here (just a few miles down the road!). Now when it comes to plywood, I use BB for virtually everything beyond really rough work. It costs a little more, but I find there is less waste, fewer problems with the material, and I personally prefer the 5’ sheet.

-- PPBart

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Robert

3641 posts in 2121 days


#13 posted 05-30-2019 02:39 PM

Yes its nice to say “nothing but real BB” but at $70-80/sheet lots of people, I for one, can’t justify it for things like shop cabs etc.

I’ve built lots of jigs and shop cabs out of the Chinese “pine plywood” Home Depot carries. Its actually decent product for what it is.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Rayne's profile

Rayne

1311 posts in 2180 days


#14 posted 05-30-2019 02:50 PM

1) Regularly check your local big box stores; the inventory changes regularly and you could get some really nice 11 pile plywood for $30 – $40. One week you could get good stuff; next week could be ultra thin veneer, 5 pile crap.

2) Always look for cabinet shops to see where they source their BB ply. For me, Rockler has deals with local distributors and can order directly from them as necessary. The ones I get are “cheap’ to me for 5’x5’ sheets of Real BB ply ($52). I’m making my entire Miter Saw station out of it since it’s actually cheaper than the 4’x8’ crap sheets at the big box stores.

3) Always look for voids and straightness. Don’t need a curved panel unless you actually need it to be curved. lol.

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MrRon

5831 posts in 3884 days


#15 posted 05-30-2019 03:33 PM

The problem with a lot of people is they live in an area where good plywood is hard to come by because the local lumber yards don’t stock good ply. If they have to order it, the cost goes way up. The same goes if you have to order it from a plywood supplier and have to pay hefty shipping costs. If you need a size larger than can be shipped by UPS, you have to pay for truck shipping. I guess the best place to get plywood is to strike up a relationship with a local cabinet maker and have your order tacked on to his order. Some cabinet makers may even sell you a sheet they have in stock.

Other than Baltic birch, there is Applyply and Araucoply, both of which are high quality for making jigs and shop furniture and won’t break the bank. As one mentioned, MDO is a high quality plywood that is used for signs and for concrete forms in a lesser grade.

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