Plywood has been around since the late 18th century. It’s quite a simple concept, combining thin layers of wooden sheet veneer with the grain running in opposite directions in order to create a tough, versatile material with a wealth of uses.
Plywood Pros and Cons
Plywood has many things in its favour when compared to other materials. Compared to solid wood it’s much more stable, meaning that it won’t warp, swell or shrink to the same extent. It is also uniformly strong, with no weak spots caused by knots or shakes.
It comes in large sheets – typically 8×4 – meaning that it’s often possible to complete jobs without having to join pieces together. Plywood can also be decorative, as some types have an attractive grain on one face that can be stained or varnished to produce a smart finish for covering walls or for use in cabinet making.
There are, of course, some drawbacks too. Because the component veneers are hardwood, ply isn’t cheap. Many suppliers also only stock a limited selection, so if you want a particular type of veneer to create a decorative finish you may have to order it specially. Also the surface veneer is often thinner than those making up the inner cores, so it’s easy to damage if care isn’t taken. Because ply often uses wood from various sources, it can be hard to know if it’s fully sustainable, though the industry is moving to address this.
You’ll find that plywood is used in a wide variety of situations, from packing cases to aeronautics. The V&A has even held an exhibition devoted to plywood and its various uses, including motor racing and furniture.
Today ply is often found in commercial situations. Plylining of vans as available from vehicle-accessories.net, for example, is popular as it protects the metal panels of the vehicle from damage caused by careless loading.
Plywood can be used both indoors and out. For outdoor jobs, marine ply is preferable since it performs better in wet and humid conditions and will resist warping and delamination. It will, however, still need protecting with paint or varnish – particularly on exposed edges – in order to ensure a long life. Ply can also be treated with chemicals to make it fire resistant for use in building applications.