Monday, March 1, 2010

Is plywood a fine woodworking material?

Our friends at the Fine Woodworking magazine website took this "issue" on.
The article HERE was good, but the comments were almost a better read than the article itself.  The two pictured casework pieces are a delight to look at, so even if you don't read the article, follow the link for the pictures!  The picture I am showing you is not from the article, but from Timber Products.  They make not only hardwood veneer plywood, but pre-finished plywood as well.
Personally, I thought the Fine Woodworking list of helpful tips was pretty good, but the last one: "Delivery pays: Let the supplier deliver hardwood-veneer plywood to reduce the risk of damage in transit" didn't sit well with me as you are stuck with the grain they pick for you - rather than picking through the sheets to get the figure you want from what is available.  Or, if you have hand picked your sheet goods, the variability of turning it over to their delivery people...
I'm pretty careful with my material when I've spent hard earned money on it.  Not a fan of mangled corners and dented edges, not to mention strap marks on the wood.  One commenter got it right - if whoever you are buying plywood from has a panel saw (even Lowes and Home Depot have them) have them make some of the gross cuts there, so you are transporting smaller easier to manage pieces - especially if the cuts you need are rip cuts, because once a panel saw is locked in, it will give you near identical repeat cuts - which can be handy when what you need is a match between two pieces, not an exact / dialed in perfect measurement.  But, you have to be careful - if you are using the pretty cathedral grain for panels, you may want to make grain match decisions back in the shop, not in the store.
The Fine Woodworking article / discussion thread really caught my eye as a couple of the projects I helped work on lately have been predominately of plywood, with solid wood trim.  The one thing against plywood is that it is as flat is it is every going to be, the day you buy it.  If the juice is good, it will stay good.  If not... ...well there really isn't anything you can do about bad plywood.  And, to some extent with hardwood, there Are things you can do about it.
What I really didn't like is the (results pictured) POLL that went along with this article.  No concept that perhaps sometimes plywood was the right material?  That the only possible reason to use plywood would be to save a dime, or for lesser purpose?  It seems especially silly as a lot of people that turn their noses up at plywood are proud of their veneering skills -which is the art of making (you guessed it) plywood.  Anywho, a lot of this is in the comments to the online article.  But I really wish that at least the poll questions had better balance.  I was glad to see that people weren't bullied into rejecting plywood in the poll, based on their responses to the questions.  But then if the questions were fair, there probably wouldn't have been the active commenting! (grin)