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hardwood plywood versus solid hardwood

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Forum topic by KMS posted 12-07-2019 05:00 PM 768 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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KMS

9 posts in 3694 days


12-07-2019 05:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I am preparing to build a jewelry chest for my MIL. I have a fair amount of experience with building small boxes and a couple of desks, but this is a new challenge for me. I bought some plans which call for mahogany hardwood for rails and drawer fronts and mahogany plywood for the case. I had previously, maybe out of ignorance, considered plywood construction to be inferior and so had some thought about building the whole project out of solid wood. My question is, should I be concerned about wood movement / failure if building out of solid wood? I want this to be an heirloom type of project. Cost is not my main concern. Also not necessarily sticking with mahogany as the wood of choice (also considering cherry, qswo, walnut) Any advice is appreciated.


25 replies so far

View GT350's profile

GT350

377 posts in 2588 days


#1 posted 12-07-2019 07:39 PM

I prefer solid wood over plywood, just keep in mind that it expands and contracts over the width not length. If you join two pieces of wood that are going different directions just make the joints so they can move, an example would be if you have a shelf that will connect to solid sides use dadoes and only glue at the front. I have several dressers and other cabinets and have never had an issue with cracking.

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Fred Hargis

5928 posts in 3100 days


#2 posted 12-07-2019 07:45 PM

I disagree about plywood being inferior to solid wood, but it’s my opinion. I think your question is more of a personal choice type of thing. Plywood solves some problems with wood movement (why I like it) that solid wood can have. But it does depend on the size of the case, and since ply only comes in large pieces (usually) the solid wood may be the best choice. Let me say, there is crap plywood (I’m not sure I’ve seen it with mahogany veneer) and there is really good plywood; the stuff I use is mostly from Columbia Forest Products and it is first rate. Anyway, to your questions: yes, you need to consider wood movement. Small pieces not so much but anything over maybe 6-8” wide will move some. It gets worse with some species, and also how the wood was milled (qtr sawn, etc.). That said, I would probably choose solid wood if I thought the piece would be an heirloom.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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AlaskaGuy

5522 posts in 2916 days


#3 posted 12-07-2019 08:02 PM

Not knowing what you plan is I’ll say this

I wouldn’t say plywood is inferior. I will say I prefer the look of most hardwood to most plywood. I also enjoy the hell of the whole processed of taking ruff-cut lumber and turning into something nice. To me all the milling, glue ups and cutting joints are fun and satisfying. You have to learn sometime so why not start now.

That being said, I hope you have a jointer and planer

https://www.finewoodworking.com/2003/06/01/anatomy-of-a-chest-of-drawers

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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pottz

7696 posts in 1591 days


#4 posted 12-07-2019 09:05 PM

i dont it’s inferior either but i also prefer the look of solid wood,one thing about hardwood ply is do not attempt to do much sanding,the veneers these days are so thin i mean the thickness of paper youll burn right through,and you will not be happy.for heirloom stuff im for solid wood.

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

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ibewjon

1174 posts in 3400 days


#5 posted 12-07-2019 09:19 PM

Solid wood. No contest. As stated,.the veneer is just too thin. Junk imo, better used for framing a shop. (Or house) The only place I would consider veneered plywood is for a back that shows but won’t be easily damaged, as in bookshelves.

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JackDuren

720 posts in 1566 days


#6 posted 12-07-2019 09:30 PM

Use what one thinks is the best product for the task. Opinions will vary….

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Redoak49

4354 posts in 2595 days


#7 posted 12-07-2019 09:53 PM

It all depends on the use. I just made a couple large book cases and used oak ply along with solid oak for trim and front and back on shelves. I would not have even considered using solid wood for the shelves. I bought the ply from Owl Hardwood in Chicago and it was a quality product and much better than the big box places.

There are some furniture projects where I wouldn’t consider plywood. As someone already stated, the best product for the task.

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JackDuren

720 posts in 1566 days


#8 posted 12-07-2019 10:00 PM

If your restoring and old piece or recreating an old piece I would use the same. New piece new methods. You use the best options available today…Opinions vary

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Andre

3009 posts in 2413 days


#9 posted 12-07-2019 10:02 PM

you answered your own question when you said Heirloom piece, could you look at it when finished and be satisfied it is/was your best work that will last generations? One of Krenov’s rules was not to mix Veneers and solid woods, I would call ply wood a cheap Veneer and sort of agree with James!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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pottz

7696 posts in 1591 days


#10 posted 12-07-2019 11:28 PM



It all depends on the use. I just made a couple large book cases and used oak ply along with solid oak for trim and front and back on shelves. I would not have even considered using solid wood for the shelves. I bought the ply from Owl Hardwood in Chicago and it was a quality product and much better than the big box places.

There are some furniture projects where I wouldn t consider plywood. As someone already stated, the best product for the task.

- Redoak49


i agree,good point for when ply is the better choice.

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

View ibewjon's profile

ibewjon

1174 posts in 3400 days


#11 posted 12-08-2019 12:23 AM

I will look at Owl’s plywood next week when I am there. Thanks for the tip.

View SMP's profile

SMP

1596 posts in 512 days


#12 posted 12-08-2019 04:34 AM

For me it depends. And depends on the quality of the plywood you buy. For something large, a lot of times i don’t like the glue ups of the veneers. As to save money its usually done whatever way maximizes use and thus profit. If i am making something smaller where i am not going to see many veneer seams, and for sure not going to see the edges of the ply i am more likely to use it. I also agree on the cheaper plywood having really thin top veneers. I had inadvertently sanded through one in a spot, kept sanding to try to “fix” it and ended up having to scrap the whole thing. If you go to a real lumber yard and get the higher quality stuff it can be good but very pricey. I think by me, a sheet of mahogany is around $150, and i think its african mahogany. So keep that in mind if trying to match a certain kind of mahogany hardwood.

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KMS

9 posts in 3694 days


#13 posted 12-08-2019 04:56 AM

Thanks for all of the feedback! I was leaning toward solid wood before, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t headed down a path I would regret. After reading your responses I am convinced Solid hardwood is the way to go.

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Manitario

2797 posts in 3490 days


#14 posted 12-08-2019 04:57 AM

Depends on the project and design. Generally I use hardwood for almost all my projects as most of my projects have joinery that is dependent on using hardwood, ie. most of the casework projects I do involve half-blind dovetails. As well, generally I find that hardwood looks better than plywood; it has subtle variations that you often don’t get in plywood.

If I was doing casework with pocketscrews, biscuits/dominos then I’d use plywood and/or if I wanted a custom veneered surface.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

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therealSteveN

4645 posts in 1181 days


#15 posted 12-08-2019 06:57 AM

I gonna go down as saying both have their place, depends on the project, the look you want, price, but like Fred started with, wood movement it solves a lot of problems right there.

I am in total agreement the look of the repeating grain patterns sux for a look, but if you can break it up, just a little a lot of that goes away.

As to the question asked.

“My question is, should I be concerned about wood movement / failure if building out of solid wood?”

You betcha solid wood will move more than plywood, which generally doesn’t at all.

-- Think safe, be safe

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