Choosing plywood - baltic birch v. box store - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 Old 05-07-2014, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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Choosing plywood - baltic birch v. box store

Hello wise advisers,

My wife and I are going to build free-standing kitchen cabinets for our recently purchased home.

I am considering using a modified version of the Fine Woodworking plywood workbench as the cabinet base, with drawers and such to be added later:
https://www.finewoodworking.com/wood...ood-bench.aspx

My question for you is whether I should be using baltic birch plywood ($115 a sheet) or if I can entertain using Home Depot stype birch-faced plywood ($50 a sheet).

As someone new to this, I have to admit I am a bit confused about all the plywood options.

Thank you from sunny Tampa Bay,
Justin
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post #2 of 15 Old 05-07-2014, 02:03 PM
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You wont regret buying quality veneer plywood.

But you will regret buying any lumber product from the box stores.

Scott
OH, wait a minute ............Yep!.............That's what he said!

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post #3 of 15 Old 05-07-2014, 02:34 PM
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In my neck of the woods baltic birch does not cost $115 / sheet. 3/4" in a 5' x 5' sheet is ~$45 - $50 / sheet. Glad I don't live in Tampa Bay.

George
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post #4 of 15 Old 05-07-2014, 03:11 PM
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"My question for you is whether I should be using baltic birch plywood ($115 a sheet) or if I can entertain using Home Depot stype birch-faced plywood ($50 a sheet)."

I looked at the plans which have the legs and stretchers made from strips of plywood, with edges left exposed. If you build your bench out of the typical case construction plywood you will find that it is filled with voids or have MDF cores. These voids will be exposed and hard to hide.
Baltic birch plywood is a superior grade of plywood with NO voids and all wood core. The end result will be much nicer. The edges of Baltic Birch will finish beautifully, edges of construction plywood look terrible.
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post #5 of 15 Old 05-07-2014, 03:56 PM
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If you're new at it, try building a storage cabinet(s) for your garage/basement/shop first.
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post #6 of 15 Old 05-08-2014, 11:50 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone. Based on your input, I am going to build some workshop cabinets and tables using the box store plywood. Once I have a bit of an idea what I am doing I will move up to the good stuff for anything in the house.

Thanks!
Justin
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post #7 of 15 Old 05-09-2014, 01:37 PM
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Justin,

It might be worthwhile looking around to see if you can get ApplePly in your area. This is the American manufactured equivalent of Baltic Birch. The Apple in the name is just symbolic - like "American as Apple pie", no wood from the apple tree. It comes in 4 x 8 sheets, instead of 5 x 5, so I prefer it over BB, although it is quality and price are similar to BB). I greatly prefer it over big box ply (even their "premium" stuff), for these reasons:

1. All of the inner plies are made from hardwood (Birch or Maple, I think).
2. The glue is far superior to whatever the big box stuff is made from. I have had a lot of that stuff delaminate on me.
3. The inner plies are all very thin and uniform in thickness: no voids and no overlaps.
4. Reasons 1 - 3 mean that it will hold edge-driven screws really well!
5. The panel thickness is uniform.
6. The outermost plies (veneers) are thicker than the big box stuff.
7. You can get it (at least in CA), in a variety of species for the veneers.
8. You can get it pre-finished!

One down-side (other than cost):
1. The panels are heavier - a full 3/4" panel is almost 100 pounds.

Not a bad idea to build shop cabinets out of cheaper stuff, though. I would probably use exterior grade plywood, though - better glue.

Carl
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post #8 of 15 Old 05-09-2014, 01:39 PM
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BTW, most of those benefits apply to Baltic Birch, as well as ApplePly, and your choice may come down to price and availability.
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post #9 of 15 Old 05-09-2014, 01:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you MapleMoose, that's helpful. I will take a look!
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post #10 of 15 Old 05-09-2014, 08:50 PM
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Coffeecup, I took another look at the plans which look straight forward and requires little in tools besides a table saw for cutting the plywood strips to a consistent width, and a drill/screw driver. They recommend pocket hole screws to hold the top in place, but if you don't have, or can't afford a pocket hole jig, they offer an alternative way to attach the top. This is a perfect first time project.
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post #11 of 15 Old 05-10-2014, 12:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeecup View Post
Thank you everyone. Based on your input, I am going to build some workshop cabinets and tables using the box store plywood. Once I have a bit of an idea what I am doing I will move up to the good stuff for anything in the house.

Thanks!
Justin
You would still be better off at certain hardwood lumber stores then box stores. Brazos Forrestry products has better prices then Home Depot.

China birch is not all the same and I second the thing about Baltic birch being 5x5x1/2" and it's only like $35.
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post #12 of 15 Old 05-10-2014, 06:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rrbrown View Post
Baltic birch being 5x5x1/2" and it's only like $35.
Anyone know of a source for BB or appleply at that price in central PA? It was quite a bit more when I priced it a couple years ago, and the 3/4x5x5 that I really wanted was hovering around $90.
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post #13 of 15 Old 05-10-2014, 08:10 AM
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The difference in price may be because of it being either " or ". In determining what plywood to use would depend on what you want it to look like and how the particular material will fit in with the surroundings.

The other consideration is whether to make them frameless or face framed. A face frame would add some strength to the cabinet, but if the sizes are not excessively large, a face frame isn't a must. A frameless cabinet is easier to clean, offers more open accessible space, enables the use of cabinet wall hinge plates, and doesn't require all the material and labor to make and install frames. Drawer hardware works out better. I might use a face frame if it had to match other cabinets, or if the face frame was an integral design feature for the cabinet. In some cases doors may be desired to be inset (flush) with a full face frame showing. Or some ornamental design may be incorporated to the frames' faces.

Your materials choice may not have to be plywood. It may depend on how the exterior of the cabinet will be finished. For a utility cabinet, or one that needs to have a woodgrain or laminate exterior, a melamine cabinet might be a good choice. It needs no interior finishing, is durable, and easy to clean. The exterior can be veneered or laminated with a Formica type laminate, or, " hardwood plywood could be used as a veneer.

If your materials choice will be a plywood, independent hardwood plywood distributors usually carry a better selection of sheet goods. Domestic grading for plywoods vary from what you'll find at the box stores. Some plywood veneer faces don't finish well, like some of the Sandply's, Meranti's, Luan, or any of the Virolas. They just won't look like a distinctive hardwood veneer. Faces like Birch, Maple, Oak, can be finished to look very good. If you have to purchase plywoods, no matter where, check out the sheets completely. Some defects will be hard to find. Check for any delamination on the edges, any differential in the sounds to the face veneers by tapping, or variations in the integrity in the veneers...high/low spots.

Birch or Maple would be a good choice for cabinet boxes. Of course for utility or shop cabinets, you could use MDF, or even particleboard. Fabricating with sheet goods IMO works out best using dadoes, rabbets, glue, and fasteners if applicable. I wouldn't use pocket screws or biscuits.






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post #14 of 15 Old 05-11-2014, 03:21 AM
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While it's true that Baltic birch is a better product, I have bought $45 birch ply from Home Depot due to convenience and lack if a friendly lumber yard out here in California's Bay Area.

That being said, pure bond is the product that the BORG uses, and I have had zero problems with it. I was able to rip down a full sheet on my table saw, and used blue painters tape for protecting cross grain cuts that would tear out and splinter the edges. It worked beautifully. I say; since it's a work bench you can't go wrong with one plywood over another if it's a hardwood veneer. It's not much different than using MDF anyway since the core has MDF. I'd rather use ply than MDF anyway, so go with what is more cost affective for you.

Note: my bench was built with Douglas fir 4x4:
I'd use it over pine, as it's stronger and more stable. Avoid purchasing 2x6 anything from any retail giant, as it's the dampest in the stack. 2x4 KD is also a little brittle and will splinter/tear out easily when cross cutting for those lap joints. My advice is to buy 2x4 or 4x4 and let it sit in your shop for 10 days. By that time it will have adjusted to your shop temp and moisture level. This will make it easier. Be advised that I learned this the hard way and in my bench, the top was done three different times for this reason. 3rd time worked because the lumber sat for 2 weeks before hand planing. When I attempted to make the top immediately after buying the lumber, it twisted and gapped between laminated faces, resulting in a crappy surface and legs.

Hope this helps.
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post #15 of 15 Old 05-15-2014, 02:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeecup View Post
Thank you everyone. Based on your input, I am going to build some workshop cabinets and tables using the box store plywood. Once I have a bit of an idea what I am doing I will move up to the good stuff for anything in the house.

Thanks!
Justin
Good idea. I was going to second the previous advice in that regard.

Those plywood prices do seem high. I'd shop around. Makes me appreciate McBeath's Hardwoods in Berkeley - they have Chinese birch play that's not bad for about $54 - 3/4 and Baltic for a bit more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarge240 View Post
While it's true that Baltic birch is a better product, I have bought $45 birch ply from Home Depot due to convenience and lack if a friendly lumber yard out here in California's Bay Area.
I use Home Depot plywood semi regular, not for high quality stuff. It'll work in a pinch. But if you want a friendly lumber yard in the Bay Area, hie thee to the afore mentioned McBeath's Hardwoods - Ashby Ave exit in B town, you can see the large sign on the right shortly after exiting.

Last edited by cmac2012; 05-15-2014 at 02:47 AM.
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