Solid wood is great stuff to work with but for some projects sheeting materials are more appropriate. Plywood is an excellent way of cutting down on costs in both materials and labour. In this article I am going to discuss some pros and cons and uses of ply.
Plywood is a strong and very stable material, which makes it ideal for use in furniture. The advantage over solid wood is in the speed at which it can be cut into panels for case backs, drawer bottoms and door panels. A task that would take many hours with solid wood can be accomplished in minutes by using plywood.
One of the best plywoods for furniture making is called Baltic Birch. It is made out of much thinner veneers then most ply and is made from birch throughout. It doesn’t have large voids between the plies, which make the edges very attractive, and the board stronger.
Plywood always comes with an odd number of layers and the grain direction faces in alternate directions, which is what makes plywood so strong. The more layers the stronger the plywood. Plywood is very good for holding screws and attaching hardware, which is something it outperforms other sheet goods at.
Plywood is available with many attractive veneers, which allows you to match to solid wood. However because of it stability plywood makes a good surface for applying your own veneers. Plywood wont split because of the cross grain plies and unlike solid wood is very strong in any direction.
In most furniture interior plywood is used, but exterior plywood is water resistant and is good for kitchens. Marine ply is very high quality waterproof plywood selected to have fault free laminations.
A few disadvantages are that it is more expensive then particleboards and can have voids in the core layers. And when making traditional furniture the general public may see solid wood furniture as better quality. However I regard plywood as the best man made board available and I have seen birch ply being used as a very attractive feature.