Plywood or glue up lumber for this project?

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Forum topic by bbasiaga posted 04-13-2015 07:58 PM 1099 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1243 posts in 2264 days

04-13-2015 07:58 PM

I’m planning to make this TV stand for our bedroom. It will get everything up at/above bed height so my lazy butt doesn’t have to sit up too far to change channels. I know how it sounds, but I it’s me. I like me. I own it. ;) The middle shelf will hold misc things, and the bottom shelf will probably hold books. It will eventually go with a set of night stands and a dresser.

Debating between using lumber (maple or cherry), or plywood for the top and shelves. would edge band that with matching lumber most likely. What would you guys do, plywood or glue up lumber in to panels? And why?


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

15 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5305 posts in 2763 days

#1 posted 04-13-2015 08:16 PM

Plywood, so I can be less worried about wood movement.

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

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2264 days

#2 posted 04-13-2015 08:23 PM

For reference, it is about 48”x20” on top.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View bondogaposis's profile


5217 posts in 2621 days

#3 posted 04-13-2015 09:22 PM

I would be afraid of the lower shelf sagging from the weight of books if you use plywood. 48” is a large span even for solid wood. The top is well supported so you’ll be fine there w/ plywood.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Kazooman's profile


1272 posts in 2222 days

#4 posted 04-13-2015 09:45 PM

Plywood with the edges of the top and shelves capped with strips of hardwood. Slightly thicker shelves look nicer (to me, anyway). A piece of 1” by 1” (full dimensions) works for me. Could be larger, depending on the piece. Put a rabbet in it for the plywood. Glue and pin it. It dresses the edge, adds some thickness for looks, and really helps stiffen the panel.

Skinny thin plywood shelves just look like skinny thin plywood shelves, even after edge banding.

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 2064 days

#5 posted 04-13-2015 09:46 PM

I enjoy working with solid wood much more than plywood, so that’s got my vote.

View AandCstyle's profile


3191 posts in 2526 days

#6 posted 04-13-2015 10:55 PM

Brian, I would use solid wood because plywood will take stain differently than the solid wood edging will. FWIW

-- Art

View Kazooman's profile


1272 posts in 2222 days

#7 posted 04-14-2015 12:47 AM

Brian, I would use solid wood because plywood will take stain differently than the solid wood edging will. FWIW

- AandCstyle

I missed the part about stain.

View newwoodbutcher's profile


786 posts in 3119 days

#8 posted 04-14-2015 01:08 AM

Plywood can be very tricky to finish well. I recommend you get some scraps of the chosen material and experiment with finishes. Start with sanding, then follow all the finishing steps till you are completely finished with the finish. That’s what your finished product will look like. If you don’t like it you can either keep trying or change the material. If you use any lumber or banding in addition to the plywood, color/finish test them all together as well If you are looking for maintenance free utility, go with plywood (color and finish tested). If you want to make a nicer piece of furniture go with solid wood till your skills improve enough to make plywood look amazing. This kitchen hood is 3/4” cherry plywood and solid cherry frame and trim I built five years ago, I’m pretty happy with it.

The finish is Potassium Dichromate with wipe on Polly with a wipe on wipe off water based flat black. You can make some very nice things with plywood, it takes practice.

-- Ken

View Kazooman's profile


1272 posts in 2222 days

#9 posted 04-14-2015 01:42 AM

That looks great! Just a reminder for those who may not know it, potassium dichromate is very toxic. Hexavalent chromium is an acute toxin. However, the real problem is that it is also a very potent carcinogen. It is especially associated with lung cancer. You need to be aware of this and use appropriate protection if you choose to use it. Gloves and a good mask are a must. Any sanding after the staining has to be done very carefully to protect you from the dust and to keep the dust contained to prevent later exposure.

View rwe2156's profile


3277 posts in 1750 days

#10 posted 04-14-2015 10:33 AM

1. Solid wood

I avoid plywood for furniture if possible, but there are some cases where it is justified. In your case here, solid wood lumber will look better, be stronger, and finish better. I think Cherry would look great for something like this because there is so much surface area to show off the wood. Tiger maple or birds eye veneered to a maple substrate would also look great.

For the shelves, I would use 6/4 stock and try to end up with a shelf around 1 1/8” thick.

You definitely need support on the front edge even with solid wood.

Yes, compared to plywood it will be more expensive, take longer to build, and require several glue ups. But hey, that’s furniture building, isn’t it? I just think your end product will look much better.

Just a design suggestion have you considered arched stretchers just to add some interest?

2. Plywod

bondo is right shelves that long will sag especially with plywood.
At 40+” wide, you will need to add some hefty edge supports.
Also, since its 20” deep I would put a rib lengthwise down the center, too.

For the top shelf supporting the TV, I would either laminate 2 sheets together or put a center support.

I think the simplest option would be to add a middle leg and cross support.

Good Luck

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

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5045 posts in 2578 days

#11 posted 04-14-2015 11:05 AM


-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2264 days

#12 posted 04-14-2015 02:01 PM

Thanks guys.

Its hard to tell, but I have some cleats/edge thickeners on the back to get some strength there. For the front, I was thinking of trying to put some cross members under there to help give them some strength.

I like the ‘thin’ edge look so I was thinking of trying to avoid stretchers if I could. The top shelf I think I might be able to manage with a center cross support tied back to the back panel. This shelf will be lightly loaded. The bottom I can put several ‘feet’ underneath it that will be hidden but rest on the floor to prevent sag.

I hadn’t considered the staining aspect of plywood. Not sure what color I would use for this. I think the wife is thinking a ‘blonde’ color for the room, so some amber color over maple might do it. But I am not an expert finisher so trying to match the plywood to the hardwood could be a challenge. I could do contrasting wood for the edge banding, but now I’m really opening a can of worms!

Decisions decisions….


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View OSU55's profile


2094 posts in 2259 days

#13 posted 04-14-2015 02:12 PM

If building for myself, glue up solid lumber. I’m able to pick the grain showing and it won’t dent and ding like plywood. Also the grain and stain/dye matching goes much better, not an issue if you know how to precondition and then tone for color match. I don’t mind plywood as much on vertical panels where things won’t get dropped on the surface. Something like that kitchen vent would definetly be ply.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5859 posts in 3083 days

#14 posted 04-14-2015 03:47 PM

Plywood lower shelves with thick hardwood edge banding for strength. This is where wood movement could be an issue with the legs, so plywood is actually preferred.

Hardwood top, a little thicker than the shelves. Perhaps 7/8” or 1” thick. Since the top overlays the frame, wood movement is not a big issue. Attach the solid wood top with figure 8 fasteners and it will look great.

I have not encountered problems staining quality plywood. I stained a mantle last night with solid white oak and QS white oak plywood, and it blended really nice. It depends on the stain you use. Stains with a high solid content like Rodda, Varathane, and Cabot tend to blend panels together very well. Stains with a high dye content like Minwax can leave stark contrast between panels. You didn’t mention what the finish is, maybe it is a natural color like the drawing.
Best of luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2264 days

#15 posted 04-14-2015 05:54 PM

I havent even picked a species of wood yet, let alone a finish. Though if i go with a stain i am thinking to try something water based so I can then also try the GF water based top coat people are raving about.

The shelves as drawn there are not within the legs. They are sitting on an L shaped side piece. the width is all in between the legs. I was thinking to use an oversized screw hole in the middle of each so the solid shelf could expand as needed. If I go ply then that is not an issue.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

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