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Solid wood vs. Plywood

Solid wood vs. Plywood

Plywood is a processed wood product made up of many layers or plies of thin solid wood that are glued together to create a sheet of a certain thickness. The plies are positioned such that the grain direction of one ply is 90 degrees different from the grain direction of neighboring plies. This improves the plywood's strength and dimensional stability. A sheet of plywood usually has an odd number of plies.

Plywood is usually available in thicknesses ranging from 3/16 to 3/4 of an inch. A standard sheet of plywood measures 4 feet wide by 8 feet high, but oversized plywood measuring 5' x 8' can be ordered as well.

Plywood comes in a variety of grades depending on the consistency of the face and back veneers and is made from both softwoods and hardwoods. For instance, a grade plywood has virtually no defects in the face and back veneers, whereas X grade plywood has numerous knots, knotholes, cracks, and other flaws.

  • Wooden Building

Solid wood lumber is made from logs that have been sawn into slabs and dried in a kiln. The drying process increases the wood's strength and dimensional stability while reducing its moisture content. Solid wood can shrink and expand dimensionally in response to seasonal changes in atmospheric humidity, even after kiln drying.

Solid wood lumber grading standards are a little more complicated than plywood grading standards. They vary depending on whether the wood is softwood or hardwood, and can include both structural and aesthetic considerations.

  • Submissions

Plywood is suitable for applications that require a non-cracking, non-shrinking, and non-warping sheet material. Cabinets, desktops, and storage containers are only a few examples. Plywood can also be used to make angled surfaces like skateboard ramps.

For thousands of years, solid wood has been used as a building material, and it shines in applications where strength and stiffness are essential, such as bookshelves, decking, and structural supports like floor joists and roof rafters. It's also the material of choice when it comes to aesthetics and elegance.

Plywood is often used in tandem with solid wood. Solid wood edging, for example, is widely used to cover the unsightly plywood edges on a desktop or shelf made of plywood. Solid wood support strips used to stiffen a plywood shelf are another example.

  • Stiffness and Strength

Solid wood is much more durable than plywood, especially in terms of stiffness. A shelf made of solid wood can sag less than one of the same dimensions made of plywood.

Solid wood furniture that is not built properly can deteriorate over time due to wood movement caused by changes in atmospheric humidity. Cracking and splitting of the wood can occur in extreme cases. This is not something that plywood can do. In a damp environment, however, plywood layers can separate.

  • Considerations of Woodworking

Plywood is relatively easy to rip to width, but crosscutting can be difficult due to the thin outer layers of veneer tearing out. When sanding plywood, it's important to avoid sanding through the veneer, particularly near the edges.

When making furniture out of plywood, remember to factor in the extra time and effort needed to apply edging strips.

Solid wood is relatively easy to rip and crosscut, though ripping stock with internal stresses can cause saw blade pinching. Solid wood can also be planed to hollow it out, which is not possible with plywood.


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