Sheet Goods- Part 1

“What kind of plywood do you recommend I use?” While it is a difficult question to answer it is my hope in the next few blogs to break down the pros and cons to help you decide which option is best for you. These blogs will address the core only, not the specific veneer wood species.

     We will first discuss veneer core sheets. Some shops may refer to veneer core sheets as plywood or plywood core. Sheet stock with a veneer core will have layers of thin sheets glued together. These sheets are often thought of as the best option for sheet stock. Because they are thin sheets of layered wood, they will have greater stability then solid wood and reasonable strength. The domestic made cores will have thicker “ply’s” (layers that make up the core) than their imported counterparts and will manufacture it with the ply’s grain direction alternating, for stability and strength. Our domestic supplier, Rockshield, makes the veneer layers out of aspen as it is light weight, stable, and creates a smooth veneer resulting in a great core to work with.

     There are some obstacles that can come with veneer core, such as the uneven thickness of the sheet. Because the ply’s are layered and glued, and being a more natural wood product, veneer core thicknesses come with a variance. The sheets should not be thicker than it’s stated size but may be down by 40 thousandths of an inch, or roughly 1 mm. We understand that may bring headaches in the shop if the sheet is not a consistent thickness, but they should be fairly even overall.

     Another obstacle that can be frustrating is core voids. The ply’s may be butted together to make a full layer. Occasionally 2 pieces don’t line up exactly, so there is a void created in that layer. That can be frustrating if you are screwing into the edge of the panel and the screw hits a void and has nothing to hold on to, or if you are cutting the sheet on a table saw and a void shows up on the edge of the panel that you were planning to keep exposed. There is also edge-tape that many use to cover the edge of the core. Unfortunately, some voids are allowed in the process of making veneer core.

     Despite the obstacles, veneer core plywood is durable, holds screws well, and is great for spanning long distances. These cores should be suited to span up to 32” wide without sag depending on the weight put on them.* If you need a shelf 32” wide or more you may benefit from either doubling the sheet, or putting a support bar underneath the shelf, or simply add a facer strip along the edge that’s a little wider than the thickness of plywood being used.

     Veneer core overall is a great choice for many common projects! In the next few blogs, we will layout the pros and cons of particle core and MDF.

*Specs are opinion only, not from Rockshield or any grading rules

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Matt Mullen
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October 20, 2022
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