Plywood Quality Issues Revisited

Cabinetmakers discuss trends in plywood quality. September 7, 2006

Just wondering if anyone else out there is having problems getting a good sheet of hardwood veneer plywood? I use 3/4 VC plywood in Oak, Maple and Cherry. For the last couple of years it seems like I spend as much time trying to cut around defects as I do assembling boxes. Recently I had 5 sheets of A-1 Maple ply delivered and 3 of the 5 had factory defects on the good face. The distributor discounted the 3 sheets but that didn't help with the time and frustration that was spent. I also have had problems with veneer chipping, voids in core plys, veneer cracks and warpage in all species.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I have experienced poor face quality veneers also. As far as problems with voids I now use the Classic Core or MDF core products. There's much less warpage and layer voids. It's worth the price difference.

From contributor B:
Itís a pretty common problem here too. I just refuse it and return it to the supplier. Two weeks ago I ordered 8 sheets of 3/4" select white Maple classic core and found out they switched from stocking plain sliced in favor of rotary cut, they replaced that with MDF core plain sliced and it had about 15% brown in it. That was returned also and the third batch was at least white and plain sliced, but had many more blemishes than I have seen in the past. It seems like with both Plywood and lumber, it is very hit and miss.

From contributor C:
My biggest beef is with the flatness of the sheet goods - not the shape of the plywood but the actual flatness of the surface of the veneers. If you run your hand over it quickly you can feel the unevenness of the veneer core below it. And it shows up in the sanding after your finish is being sanded between coats. You end up burning through the color on the high spots. I have yet to try the mixed cores (MDF on the top layer and veneer in the centers) but it sounds like a good solution. Most of my ply is gotten from Canada - Norboard is what it's called.

From contributor D:
I just avoid plywood and use MDF core. It is flat, consistent and finishes like a dream.

From contributor C:
MDF - I kind of hate it with a veneer on it. The manufacturers have gotten too good at what they do. Whenever I have to use veneered MDF I have trouble not sanding through. They have learned how to make the veneers so thin now. Almost all of my work with sheet goods has to have a flush surface between the veneer and the solid. This means using a flush cut bit and sanding. Cherry is the worst, I don't know how they can get it so thin and still have wood left over. If I could find a source of veneered MDF with a veneer thickness that I get on my plywood I might consider using it more. I also like the light weight and strength of the VC ply. When I use the MDF it is usually for a tabletop, because I can get a mirror like surface because of the flatness.

From contributor E:
This is why we almost always have veneered panels laid up for us by a custom veneer shop. They calibrate their panels before glueup, and the finish passes through the widebelt are as light as possible, so you get a finish face as thick as you reasonably can get. And you have some control over grain matching and consistency. For us it adds, typically, about $80 per sheet to the cost. For a $30K job, maybe that's 15 sheets for a total of $1200. I've lost more than that before having to remake panels that had sanding burn-through or blue stains showing up from paper-thin veneer.

From contributor F:
I lay up my own panels also. I am curious to how custom panel cost you extra $80? Granted, I donít do production work but when I have to do panel layout and glue up for my neighbors (7 woodworking shops on the floor) I charge close to $200 per glued up panel plus the veneer. Most of it is exotic veneer though, like Ebony or quarter swan anything.

From contributor G:
I am in Northwest New Jersey and I have all the same problems with plywood. Itís sad to say about 75% is warped, dinged, scratched, bad faces etc. I use mainly pre-finished Maple, unfinished Birch and Oak. I hear Norboard is better but my cost is about 20% higher per sheet.

From contributor E:
The $80 is the difference between off-the-shelf plywood at roughly $100/sheet and custom laid up ones at roughly $180/sheet. The price can vary, of course, depending on the veneer, and the substrate - usually if I'm having it laid up it's on MDF or PB to keep cost down and the panels flat. Your $200/sheet sounds about right to me.

From contributor H:
It's may be more expensive but you will find that the entire sheet is useable. If the product you are getting now is only 75% useable then you would be saving money buying better, fully useable sheets of ply. Spend the money on it two or three times and you won't go back to the bad ply.