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See how shop-made ply creates distinctive venture prospects.

Shop-made ply can obtain shapes and types strong wooden simply can’t deal with.

The title of this text could sound foolish, or maybe us woodworkers have simply run out of issues to jot down about? Now that’s foolish. But why on earth would anybody need to make plywood? It’s nearly as ridiculous as saying, “Honey, pick up a quart of aliphatic resins at the supermarket. I ran out of wood glue last night.” You don’t make plywood, you purchase plywood, proper? No one however a caveman would construct something out of BC plywood. Or would they?

The Why

Enjoy your sandwich. Can you rely the layers within the picture above? From high to backside: sunburst veneer of maple and beech, 1⁄16″ cherry, quartered mahogany core, 1⁄16″ cherry, 1⁄8″ white pine. 

Plywood: What do you image? A 4×Eight piece of laminated who-knows-what full of tan putty and football-shaped dutchmen that you’d solely use for reasonable store furnishings or faculty bookshelves.

Stock prep. These quartered boards of mahogany are an ideal materials to your core. If you may get all of your boards from one plank of wooden, all the higher.

First off, neglect in regards to the 4×Eight factor. You’re not mass producing these things – you’re making up items simply barely outsized. Say you want a cupboard door, 18″ x 24″. You make a bit of plywood that’s 19″x 25″. Done. You’re mainly making what you want, once you want it.

I need to squeeze. Basic panel glue-up right here. No rocket science concerned.

And right here’s why you need to make your individual plywood. Not for a fast set of cupboards, not for edge-banded bookshelves for the visitor room. You’re making plywood for actual, lasting furnishings from wooden that you choose. That distinctive venture that calls for one thing particular – and that particular one thing is named veneer. Yes, you possibly can veneer to strong wooden, however don’t count on it to remain caught for very lengthy. Wood motion will wreak havoc with it. The trick, mockingly, is to truly use veneer to immobilize the wooden.

Lumber Core

Core smoothing. A light-weight cross with a jointer airplane makes the core good and flat after popping out of the clamps. Don’t get overeager right here. You’re simply eliminating slight misalignments. The closing cross must be a light-weight traversing. This leaves a toothy floor your glue will love.

My favourite sort of plywood is named “lumber core.” You’re most likely picturing plywood as an odd variety of equal-thickness layers of veneer. The overwhelming majority of plywood falls into this class. But right here’s why it’s not the best for many furnishings making: When working with typical plywood, attaching {hardware} (particularly to the sides of the panel) could be problematic. Because in typical plywood you’ve got equal thicknesses of plys, you’re introduced with slender bands of lengthy grain in between rows of finish grain, making the screw-holding properties of the plywood iffy. With a lumber-core panel, you possibly can deal with the complete panel as strong wooden, attaching {hardware} in the identical method as you’ll with strong wooden.

A lumber-core panel, like several plywood, is constructed from an odd variety of layers. This serves the aim of balancing the layers. Balancing implies that the grain within the two outermost layers of a panel are all the time working parallel with one another, however perpendicular with the layer they’re glued to. This retains the panel flat. It doesn’t matter if there are three layers or 301, every layer is glued at 90° to the layer beneath it, and opposing layers are all the time parallel. You can’t screw this up so long as you orient every layer at 90° to the earlier.

Thick & wealthy. This is 1⁄16″-sliced veneer – superior stuff for lumber-core panels. This occurs to be cherry, however any wooden will work.

To maximize the solid-wood impact of lumber core plywood, it’s vital to make the central core thick. If your purpose is a 34“-thick panel (and that quantity is unfair – you may make no matter thickness you want), then your central core shouldn’t be lower than 716“. This leaves you some room for various thicknesses of the outer layers.

The core materials is vital. You’ll need to choose the highest quality materials you could find. I like to make use of mahogany, however any secure wooden is appropriate. Mahogany has a effective texture, and it’s stiff and light-weight. These attributes make for a splendidly light-weight however robust panel. Here’s the opposite vital factor: This central core must be constructed from probably the most quartersawn wooden you could find. Riftsawn is OK, however attempt your greatest to get these progress rings useless perpendicular to the faces. I often have to pick out narrower boards to get probably the most quarter throughout the complete width of the board, then glue these up till I get the width I would like. This is typical edge-joining work. Easy stuff.

Once the core is glued up, you’ll have to floor the faces by hand (usually the case because of the width) or run the panel calmly via both a floor planer or sander. You don’t need any raised ridges on the joint traces or airplane tracks that may telegraph via your veneer.

Remember, you’re constructing this panel oversize, so don’t get too finicky on dimensions simply but. Just be sure it’s greater than it must be.

Layered up. Here I’ve joined the sides of the 1⁄16″ veneer with perforated veneer tape. Note that the grain path within the core is perpendicular to the outer layers.

Once the core is prepared, you possibly can start getting ready your subsequent two outer layers. Orient the grain perpendicular to the grain within the core. I like to make use of thick-sliced industrial veneer, and 116” veneer is available in lots of species (I have a tendency to purchase from Certainly Wood). The thicker dimension makes it a bit simpler to work with. Jointing veneer may look like a difficult proposition, however it’s really fairly simple. My favourite approach is to make use of a pair offcuts of hardwood, about 34” thick, then place the veneer in between these boards, ensuring the veneer is correct on the fringe of the board, then cross the entire sandwich over a jointer, or clamp the entire works in a face vise and have at it with a jointer airplane. Because the skinny veneer is held tightly between the sacrificial boards, it planes precisely like a thick piece of strong wooden. You can get excellent edge joints in veneer with this methodology, and it’s fast and simple.

Apply the glue. I wish to unfold the Unibond with a disposable curler. Make positive it’s a pleasant, moist coat with no dry areas.

To be a part of the veneer, first tape the items collectively on the bottom with blue painter’s tape, pulling the tape tight throughout the joint (the tape will stretch barely earlier than breaking) each 3″ or so. Now flip the veneers over and repeat the method with water-activated veneer tape, including a single strip of tape down the joint.

Make the sandwich. With the core substances ready and the dressing utilized, you possibly can set the outer layers in place.

The water-activated veneer tape is vital. It shrinks because it dries, drawing the joint tightly collectively. It additionally removes simply after popping out of the press with the wipe of a moist rag and a bit scraping motion. Blue tape is an actual bear to take away after popping out of the press.

Once the veneer tape is on, flip the piece over and take away the blue tape. Make two items like this, one for both sides of the core. These items must be nearly the identical dimension because the core, however by no means greater. You don’t need skinny, overhanging edges to get broken within the press.

Press it actual good. Into the bag the panel goes, together with two MDF cauls to even the strain. I let it sit in a single day. If you employ Unibond, smear some inside a Ziploc bag, seal it up and use that to find out when it’s cured. It ought to crack like burnt cheese on the sting of pizza when it’s cured. Mmm, pizza.

The outer layers can now be glued to the core utilizing your most well-liked methodology. I take advantage of a vacuum-bag system, however you may get glorious outcomes with dirt-simple curved cauls and clamps. If you don’t thoughts tying up your bench for a couple of hours, you might use a number of go-bars and an enormous caul (34” MDF is nice) to exert huge strain on the panel. But again to the vacuum-bag system. You don’t want a high-dollar electrical pump system to get the advantages of squishing wooden underneath atmospheric strain. Do an web seek for “skateboard veneer press” and also you’ll discover a firm referred to as Roarockit that makes handbook veneer presses. Here’s the factor with utilizing a vacuum to make plywood: Atmospheric strain exerts a set quantity of pressure (until you go to the highest of a mountain the place the air is skinny). That plastic sack is pushing in your veneer the identical whether or not you suck out the air with a flowery electrical pump or an affordable plastic pump that you just function by hand. Your bike tire doesn’t know if it’s holding 50 kilos of air from the gas-station compressor or from the foot pump you’ve had within the storage since 1986.


This topic is open to some debate. The conventional alternative is hide glue, and in case you’re skilled with utilizing sizzling disguise in veneering functions, I don’t see a motive you possibly can’t use it to make your individual plywood. You don’t want any fancy instruments, and everyone knows the holding functionality of sizzling disguise glue. My favourite, nevertheless, is Unibond 800. It cures arduous and could be very very like sizzling disguise in its cured state. It is, nevertheless, chemical-based, and you might not really feel snug utilizing it. To every his personal. Epoxy can also be an choice, however it’s fairly messy and can seemingly break your bag or press in case you’re not cautious about squeeze-out. The Unibond stays put and doesn’t squeeze out like epoxy. Yellow glue can be used. I don’t suggest contact cement. It’s good for Formica, however not so helpful for effective furnishings.

After the Press

When your panel is cured and out of the press, you possibly can deal with it similar to strong wooden, aside from planing the floor (extra on that in a bit). If you want to add extra layers of veneer, it’ll add to the rigidity and stability of the panel. To preserve issues manageable, I don’t often glue greater than two layers on at a time.

Joining thick veneers. Here I’m utilizing ye olde strategy of candling to test my joint.

If I need my outer veneers to be fabricated from thicker materials, to permit some additional meat for dressing the inventory after glue up, right here’s what I do. On the chest lid proven on the primary web page, I needed the present facet to be constructed from the identical materials as the remainder of the chest: white pine. This allowed me to deal with the present floor similar to the remainder of the chest, that means I may handplane the floor extra aggressively, even to the purpose of inducing airplane tracks if I so desired. This can be dangerous in thinner veneer and wouldn’t permit for a lot error or stop tear-out. By utilizing a full 18“-thick veneer layer, I can handplane the floor with out fear and reap the advantages of the cross-grain development of lumber-core plywood. The thicker stuff additionally finishes like strong wooden. See, I informed you these things was nice!

Batten up. A 1⁄2″-thick batten raises up the items simply sufficient to exert the right quantity of strain on the joint of those skinny boards.

With the thicker veneers, I don’t use veneer tape to affix the sides. Because the wooden is thicker, the sides themselves additionally should be glued. I take advantage of an outdated luthier’s approach to do that: I joint the sides on a taking pictures board, as a result of the wooden is so skinny. I merely block up the veneers off my workbench floor so they’re introduced to the blade of my jointer airplane, which I run on its facet on the benchtop as I airplane the sides of the veneers. To test the standard of the joint, I maintain each items as much as a powerful gentle to test for leaks. This is named “candling.”

Nail clamps of yore. Another olde approach of doing issues. (Read the textual content for particulars – you didn’t assume I’d reveal all within the captions now, did you?)

To clamp these skinny veneers, I slip a 12“-thick batten underneath the joint, then drive small nails proper into my workbench (or a scrap of MDF in case you’re delicate about your benchtop) on the edges of the veneers. Apply glue to the joint, take away the batten, then press the joint flat to the benchtop. A bit of wax paper underneath the joint retains the meeting from getting glued to the bench. Press the joint flat and really feel that the glue line is flush. Now place a heavy weight on the panel and let it remedy. That’s it. The nails preserve sufficient strain on the joint whereas the glue cures, and the heavy weight retains it from popping up underneath the stress of the nails.

Sit on it. A weight retains all of it from misbehaving whereas the glue cures.

When you consider it, making a plywood panel is absolutely just one extra step past a panel of edge-glued boards. And the result’s a dead-flat and secure board you could work similar to strong wooden. Once you add this system to your woodworking arsenal, you’ll understand you may make shapes and types that strong wooden simply can’t deal with.



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