The first step in any do-it-yourself woodworking project is to choose the right type of wood. Plywood is a smart choice for almost any type of use including walls, subfloors and furniture. But because of the way plywood is made, it may not be the right wood for your particular needs.
How Plywood is Made
Plywood is basically a pile of layers bonded together and covered with a veneer on the front and back. The simplest plywood consists of a particle board center with a veneer on both sides. Next is a veneer core with several additional layers of veneer set crosswise to each other and finished with front and back veneers. The last type is made of layers of cross-faced veneers and finished front and back like the others. This layering gives plywood its strength, but the cross-facing can sometimes make very thick plywood hard to work with and cut through.
Types of Plywood
Plywood can be made of soft woods, hardwoods or a mix. The most popular softwood used to make plywood is Douglas fir. Cedar, pine and redwood are also common. Hardwood plywood can be made of ash, birch, mahogany, maple and oak. Hardwoods are more expensive, but they are also more durable. The advantage to the many different types of wood used is that you can find the perfect one for your project.
Uses For Plywood
Plywood is used in almost every type of building project. It comes in different thicknesses and is suitable for a wide range of projects like shipbuilding and decorative lawn ornaments. In home building, plywood is used for walls, floors, closets, cabinets, doors and shutters. It is often used as headboards and foot boards, wall paneling and as the bones of upholstered furniture. Plywood can be treated to be resistant to hazards such as bugs, fire, mold and water.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Plywood
The advantages of plywood include its availability and cost, as long as you aren't set on the more expensive hardwood varieties. It is very strong and the thinner cuts are easy to work with. Plywood that is faced with a good quality veneer can be stained to look like almost any wood and is easy to paint.
The disadvantages of plywood are that it is not always easy to find more than the most common types. While plywood comes in several standard thicknesses, the manufacturer's claims aren't always accurate. It is difficult to finish the edges of plywood without applying thin strips of veneer which can be an issue for those new to woodworking. Another disadvantage is that plywood veneers made of expensive woods such as black walnut tend to be very thin. This makes them unsuitable for use in high traffic areas, or in homes that have rambunctious adults, young children or energetic pets where the risk of scratching or other damage is high.