Plywood Face Veneer Grades

A question about a spec for "AA" face veneer on cabinet sheet goods leads to a discussion of industry grading standards for face veneers. July 2, 2008

I'm looking at a spec sheet for a job and it's calling for AA oak plywood face. I asked my supplier and he has no clue. I know the A and B grades and such but have never heard of AA. The architect is out of the office until the middle of next week, so I can't ask him and was curious if anyone else ever came across this type.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor K:
I believe it means good "A" face on both sides. An "AC" sheet is good on one side and crappy on the other. Perhaps both sides of the project need to be visible?

From contributor P:
The AA is the grade of the face veneer. You should find a supplier that can get this grade for you and will have it laid up for you as well.

From contributor M:
"AA" is probably another way of saying "A2" grade, which is generally the highest grade of veneered material commonly in stock at suppliers. It has the highest grade veneer (A grade) on the face, and only a slightly lesser grade of the same specie veneer on the back side.

From contributor P:
In plywood or MDF the grades that are A are the highest, but in veneer you can get I think up to AAAA grade. It sounds like they are asking you to have an AA grade veneer laid up on a MDF or veneer core. This is something different than just buying hardwood plywood.

From contributor A:
It is confusing at times. My suppliers often have B/C. Meaning 1 side B and the other side C. AA should mean a on both sides. I still have no idea what determines C3 grade, this is the product my dist. sells for maple paint grade.

From contributor L:
AA oak plywood is available in white oak (at my supplier). All other grades are A1. You should be able to get away with A1, but maybe not. There are definitely differences in the A and the 1 side. The A side is almost always the better. In red oak plain slice both sides are very similar. The 1 side will more than likely have less wide strips.

From contributor P:
I would check with the architect before using a grade A1 plywood in place of AA plywood that is called for. If they do not like the grain they will ask you to prove that you used AA grade. Most cabinet makers only know the grades of what suppliers carry unless they do veneer work. I would also check on the core that they want you to use because veneer core plywood will not give you a smooth surface as MDF will. Remember when the customer has a complaint the architect or the designer will turn to you for the blame so make sure you have proof of what you used.

From contributor R:
I don't know of any stock better than A1. For AA you will have to have it laid up. It’s much cheaper than having the job rejected plus you could even select the veneers (for a price).

From contributor B:
We have AA-2 laid up for us in cherry. I believe the main difference is that it is sequenced. The color and grain is consistent from sheet to sheet. I also think you get a better veneer because the mill tends to use larger flitches (bigger logs) to make it.

With that said unless the job called for many sheets, A would probably be fine. I will also bet if you were buying full lifts getting an AA face would not be that expensive. The color and grain of oak is pretty consistent.