Plywood – Versatile and Stylish?

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Plywood is one of the most versatile man made materials you can use for building. Don’t agree? Then ask yourself this. What other man made material can be used for, flooring, cabinetry, ceiling lining, wall lining, furniture making, doors, stairs, planes, boats, cars and cupboards?

Stylish is perhaps not a word you immediately think of when you think plywood, but we believe when used with great design you can achieve amazing contemporary stylish results. When have a few examples in this article which we believe will change your perception of plywood, so read on.

Plywood – What is it?

Plywood is a sheet material manufactured from thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another.

It is a very durable material that provides an excellent foundation for building, so it is used in a variety of projects. But, as with any building material, it has both advantages and disadvantages that should be understood before use.

Advantages – flexible, durable and strong, plywood has many different finishes designed for a multitude of uses.

Disadvantages – use plywood in the wrong way and it will fail. Pine plywood is not designed to be used outdoors, any exposure to water will be absorbed into the plies. All plywood whether marine or pine must be sealed with the correct finish in order for it to achieve the best results.

Different Types of Plywood

Different types of plywood exist for a variety of building functions, each usually composed of different materials. In Australia there are all types of plywood which are both imported from China and manufactured here in Australia. Not all plywood is the same so be careful when purchasing.

Softwood Plywood

Usually made of cedar, spruce, douglas fir (oregon), pine, or redwood, softwood plywood is the most common type used for construction and industrial purposes. This type can vary in the thickness and number of plies depending on its end use. Thinner plywood is used, for example, in roofing, while something thicker will be put down for sub-flooring.

Hardwood Plywood

Hardwood is a stronger kind of plywood made from angiosperm trees that’s valued specifically for its strength, surface hardness, and resistance to wear and tear. Hardwood plywood is less known than its softwood cousin, mainly because pine plywood is what you see in most hardware stores. Hardwood Plywood is more expensive and found in specialist timber yards.

Tropical Plywood

Mixed species of tropical wood make up this low-cost variety of plywood. It’s generally considered superior to softwood plywood due to its higher quality, density, and strength, and the evenness of its layers. In many countries around the world, this type is in wide use.

Aircraft Plywood

High strength, aviation-grade plywood is made from mahogany or birch and uses adhesives that are more resistant to higher levels of heat and humidity so it can retain its quality even in harsher conditions.

Decorative Plywood

This type is usually faced with some kind of hardwood, such as ash, oak, birch, maple, rosewood, or mahogany, and is used for things like cabinetry, furniture, and fixtures. There are also a number of coloured film-face birch plywood or film laminate products that also fit into this category. Available in many different colours they have become popular for furniture and cabinetry.

Flexible Plywood

Formed from a very thin central ply and two outer pieces, flexible plywood is specifically designed with curved pieces in mind. This type is made to bend, and is usually glued together once it is formed into its final shape, for a stiff finished piece.

Marine Plywood

Marine plywood is used in the construction of docks and boats, and it usually costs more than standard plywood due to the more durable face and core it must have to resist humid and wet conditions. Usually, marine plywood veneers are made from tropical hardwoods and attached with water and boil-proof glue.

Plywood Project Examples

London Project

Architect Larissa Johnston used birch plywood to create “carefully crafted linear plywood box,” ingeniously fitted to contain the kitchen and the stairs, as well as a series of shelves and storage units. The birch plywood finished with a water-based acrylic varnish.

Kids Bedroom

When Van Staeyen Interior Architects were tasked with designing a kids bedroom in old mansion, they came up with a unique design to house two beds and a play space.

Photography by Luc Roymans

New Zealand Kitchen

A contemporary take on a farmhouse style kitchen. makefurniture.co.nz has created a wonderful kitchen area utilising both an oak based plywood and black film-face plywood.

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