Baltic Birch Not Flat - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Baltic Birch Not Flat

I always see on YouTube and read that people say to use plywood as it's going to be flat. I buy my Baltic Birch both 3/4" and 1/2" from a hardwood supplier, not HD and it is many layers thick. I live in a hot dry climate (Las Vegas area) and store it flat.

I usually don't get many flat sections and am wondering could it possibly be the wood supplier? What's your experiences? Thanks, BillF

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post #2 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 01:16 AM
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How flat is flat?

Everything has manufacturing tolerances. Give examples of the problem for camparison.
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post #3 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 09:03 AM
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The good stuff is flat.
It could have been improperly stored like on uneven racks. It could be an inferior product - cheap knock-off like the big box stores carry.
Usually BB 3/4" had at least 13 layers and the edge usually has NO voids. That is why it is popular as drawer sides where the edges are routered round-overs
Maybe you should find another hardwood dealer.
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post #4 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 09:38 AM
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It doesnt stay flat unless it's stored flat. Still can change once used...
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post #5 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 10:06 AM
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"Baltic birch" is not synonymous with perfect plywood, with may the exception of voids. My supplier sells 3 grades of BB and I've gotten perfect C sheets and bent A sheets.

Flatness is definitely an issue, as Rebel said it really depends on how its stored - both before and after you get it home. It applies to all sheet goods especially MDF. Melamine is a lot more forgiving. I often cringe when I see how they store MDF at the HD.

Once you get it home leaning a sheet or parts of any length against a wall or table is asking for trouble.

Once its warped you're usually done. I've never gotten one to go flat and stuff can come back to haunt you like a slight bow in a side when you install drawer slides.

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post #6 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 10:09 AM
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Depending on your project if its for for interior use you might think about mdf - it seems to be very flat.
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post #7 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 11:01 AM
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I like to keep 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 inch Baltic Birch in the shop just to have on hand when needed. In my experience, Baltic Birch tends to stay flatter than other plywoods, but it can bend and warp, too. When I go to the store, I avoid the pieces that are already warped. The thicker pieces tend to warp less.

I recently took out a piece of 1/4 inch Baltic Birch that warped while stored in my shop. I improved it by setting the edges on some books on a large table, piling more books on top down the middle, then leaving it set for several days, checking it once in a while to make sure it didn't warp the other way. After 4 or 5 days, it wasn't perfectly flat, but it was much improved and useable. That trick may not work with 1/2 inch and above.

It would be nice, but I don't have space to store them flat. One of these days, I want to build racks and carts, so they don't rest directly on the concrete floor, which I know is not good for any stored wood.
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post #8 of 12 Old 09-24-2020, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
I like to keep 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 inch Baltic Birch in the shop just to have on hand when needed.

It would be nice, but I don't have space to store them flat. One of these days, I want to build racks and carts, so they don't rest directly on the concrete floor, which I know is not good for any stored wood.
There is strength in numbers. Clamping thinner sheets between thicker sheets will go a long ways to keep all the sheet goods flat. Yes this requires that the sheet goods are blocked up off the floor to allow room for the clamps. A vertical 2X4 can also be added from top to bottom, to distribute the clamping pressure towards the center of the sheets.

I use a lot of 5 inch grinding discs. Once a sealed bundle of discs have been opened, they tend to warp like crazy. Clamping them together in a stack helps keep each disc flat.
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post #9 of 12 Old 09-25-2020, 12:56 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony B View Post
The good stuff is flat.
It could have been improperly stored like on uneven racks. It could be an inferior product - cheap knock-off like the big box stores carry.
Usually BB 3/4" had at least 13 layers and the edge usually has NO voids. That is why it is popular as drawer sides where the edges are routered round-overs
Maybe you should find another hardwood dealer.
Hi Tony,
Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately it is the same plywood you describe as like you stated the big box stores carry crap. I think maybe (hopefully) it got warped before I started storing it flat now that I think of it. We'll see as I have some 1/2" and 1/4" I bought there that have been stored in my container laying horizontal.

Bill F.
post #10 of 12 Old 09-25-2020, 08:11 AM
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I believe the reason Baltic Birch is known for its flatness is due to 2 factors. One would be the greater amount of layers and two, the layers themselves are full sheets. Thats a lot of mechanical tension in there to hold its manufactured shape of flat.
One of the flattest boards you can get is MDF. HD is famous for warped MDF. The big box stores are like an alternate universe, they defy all the known laws of physics.
Last week or so, I was in HD and they had some 'stuff' labeled "Marine Grade Plywood". It looked like an oily or wet mass of something. It did not look like any marine grade ply I ever saw.

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post #11 of 12 Old 09-25-2020, 02:43 PM
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Very few of us have the space to store our sheet goods flat. I count sixteen sheets of plywood in my vertical stack of different thicknesses and grades that I will use at different times (I HATE to go to the lumber yard, so I buy like crazy. I don't have endure the lumber supply nearly as often!). Even if I could store them flat I wouldn't. The sheet that I wanted would always be toward the bottom of the pile.

Since I cannot or will not store my sheets flat I clamp around three of the four sides to make one big slab. I rest them on slats on the floor but do not clamp the bottom edges.

Ideal? Probably not. But I have managed so far to keep flatness within reason... most of the time. Occasionally I'll pull a sheet out that didn't succumb to clamping. Oh well.

My biggest problem is the partial sheets. They are all kinds of different sizes and rarely stack into a easily clampable bundle. The smaller cuts I can lay flat but some of the other pieces are simply leaned onto the big sheets. Again, so far so (mostly) good.
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Another $000,000,000.02 worth of advice,
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post #12 of 12 Old 09-25-2020, 07:26 PM
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@Shop_Rat just posted what I was planning to post. The clamping trick works well when your boards are evenly matched in size. As you cut off pieces that you need, the pile becomes less manageable for clamping. I am still looking for a good solution. Right now, the boards are stacked with long bungees holding them tightly against the cabinets that form the "wall."

I pulled out a 1/4 inch sheet of Baltic Birch plywood sheet this afternoon, 40 x 60 inches. It was nice and flat when I looked at it not long ago, and it was sandwiched within thicker plywood in the stack. I was surprised to see how warped it was. Perhaps the recent weather heat waves caused issues; I dunno.

I cut off a piece ~25 x 45 inches with the circular saw, and have it de-warping on the table as shown. I will leave it for a couple days and see if it improves. It will be a back panel for a project. It doesn't need to be perfect, but flatter would be better.

Photo: 1/4 inch Baltic Birch panel 25 x 45 inches. The amount of warp was similar to the bend you see, but in the opposite direction. I draw from our Dr. Seuss collection for the edges, because Dr. Seuss books are fairly uniform in thickness. These days, I use the unabridged dictionary more often for its weight than its contents. :-(
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