How Is Plywood Made? Handy Hardware Facts To Know

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 06, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Oct 11, 2021
Large sheets of plywood lie on a transport cart.

Plywood has been the most convenient option for readymade furniture for the past few decades or so.

Some of the main reasons behind the popularity of plywood are its versatility, ability to retain the beauty of wood, and most importantly its affordability. In a few years or so, households might replace solid wooden furniture with ones made from plywood, a practice that has already begun.

The plywood manufacturing process is fascinating, albeit difficult. A crude summation of the whole manufacturing process might be that logs are stripped to form veneers, then lathered in strong adhesive and laid up in such an order so that the grainy side of each veneer is perpendicular to its adjacent one.

Three or more thin layers of wood veneer are then glued together with high pressure, pressed, trimmed, and sanded.

There are eight types of plywood that are accordingly used for various purposes such as manufacturing floors and laying roofs, building cabinets, wardrobes, various furniture, and wall sheathing. A detailed discussion has been done regarding how plywood is made, the different types of plywood, their usage, and their disadvantages.

Read on to learn more about plywood manufacturing and how versatile it is in usage.

For more related educational articles, please check out how is metal made and how is paint made.

Different Types Of Plywood

Plywood has become the staple choice for most households worldwide when it comes to selecting furniture and other wood-related stuff. These woodworking materials are made by glueing together thin layers of veneer and can be easily regarded as one of the most versatile inventions of man when it comes to home decor. There are eight types of plywood:

Softwood: Do not be fooled by the name of these plywood sheets as they are largely used in the construction site for sub-flooring, roof sheathing, and manufacturing the outer frame for sheathing. Softwood plies are mainly obtained from cedar, pine, and redwood.

Hardwood: Hardwood plywood sheets usually consist of three to seven layers of wood veneer and the toughness is achieved by using glue to stick the veneer at right angles to each other. These types of plywoods are typically used for things that want strong frames such as musical instruments, furniture, and packing cases.

Hardwood plies are acquired from oak, poplar, walnut, birch, and maple.

Aircraft plywood: Aircraft plywood is normally regarded as one of the most high-graded and durable types of ply. It is designed to combine very thin veneers in adjacent layers to form a sheet of plywood of this high quality.

It is moisture and heat resistant and though it is light and flexible, it is usually required for projects that require industrial strength plies. Aircraft plywood is procured from birch, mahogany, and spruce trees, and is commonly used for manufacturing boats, airplanes, and heavy furniture.

Exterior plywood: Exterior plywood sheets generally consist of several veneers glued to form multi-ply sheets.

This plywood is used for projects that require handling a lot of sun and rain, as can be understood from its name.

The type of glue used to stick the layers of wood veneers together is water-resistant and you can choose the type of wood you will prefer for exterior plywood in accordance with the weather condition of your residence.

For example, if you experience harsh weather conditions, oak might be your go-to option as it can resist mold and mildew arising from damp conditions.

Lumber core: Lumber core plywood sheets are typically made by two thin veneers glued with a thick core in between. The inner core can withstand screws and hence lumber plies are a convenient choice for DIY projects that require a strong screw hold.

Marine plywood: No knotholes are present in any of the veneer sheets used to make marine plywood. An industrial graded adhesive is used for the gluing process that is highly water-resistant to prevent the ply sheet from disintegrating in damp and harsh weather conditions.

Marine plywood is mainly obtained from Douglas fir and western larch and is used for building outdoor furniture and park benches.

Overlaid plywood: These types of plywood are made using the same manufacturing process but the overlaid surfaces have a resin coating that makes them scratch resistant and also prevents moisture and other particles from sticking to the surface.

There can be types of overlaid plywood based on the density of resin coating: high-density overlaid (HDO), and medium-density overlaid (MDO), and the coated surfaces are glued to the veneers using a hot press.

Structural plywood:These plywood types make use of a very strong industrial quality glue to keep the veneer sheets pressed together and are chiefly used for sheathing and framing structures.

Some of the lesser-known and uncommon types of plywood are flexible plywood, decorative plywood, sanded plywood, MR grade ply, commercial plywood, veneer core plywood, tropical plywood, and composite plywood.

The Manufacturing Process Of Plywood And Where It Is Done

A step-by-step guide of how plywood is made in a mill is provided below.

Step 1: Raw logs are sourced from sustainable forests in a legal manner pertaining to ecological rules for wood to make a plywood sheet. It is important for mills to follow the Timber Trade Federation's Responsible Purchasing Policy.

Step 2: The logs are transported to the mills for processing where sprinklers are used on them and they are submerged in a log pond for the logs to retain moisture. The logs are submerged in the log pond for a considerable period in order to make the cutting and peeling process easier.

Step 3: After peeling, the logs are de-barked and cut according to the size needed. The size of a log depends on the production, grain direction, and finished panel size.

Step 4: The logs are peeled using a rotary lathe and the veneer is transformed into long streams where they are cut to size and undergo an initial grading process. Countries like Finland peel the veneer sheets in longer sizes while China peels them in smaller shapes and stitches them accordingly as a more cost-effective method.

Step 5: The veneer panels are then dried and repaired (if defects appear) after which glue is lathered on them.

Step 6: The veneer panels are then cold-pressed to ensure the glue is spread evenly before they go for a hot press.

Step 7: Multiple veneer panels are loaded in a daylight press machine and compressed in high pressure as the panels begin to take shape eventually.

Step 8: After the panels are cooled, they are trimmed to remove excess veneer around the edges and sanded using a large, industrial sander machine.

Step 9: Finally, the plywood sheets are stacked together, packed, and shipped off to their relevant destinations. Some mills also have a quality testing board to evaluate the quality of the sheets and check for defects.

The Different Uses Of Plywood And The Reason Behind Its Strength

Plywood is known for its versatility and affordable price. It is used in the construction site for sheathing purposes as well as laying roofs and manufacturing floors.

It can be used to build planes and boats, shipping crates, beams, and many more depending on the quality and material of the plywood. The following list contains the various uses of plywood according to its quality and type:

Softwood ply is used for subflooring, roof sheathing, and making the outer frame for sheathing.

Hardwood plywood is used to build strong frames such as musical instruments, and packing cases.

Aircraft plywood is chiefly used for building boats, airplanes, and heavy furniture.

Exterior plywood sheets are used for building wooden walls, stables, and roof lining.

Marine plywood is used in the construction of docks, boats, and outdoor furniture, and park benches.

Structural plywood is used roof and wall bracing and building subfloors and beams.

Luan plywood, a type of tropical hardwood ply, is also made in the same process and used for dollhouses, toys, and small boats.

Plywood is so strong because of the way it is made. The many layers of wood veneer glued together and bonded under high pressure and placed in a cross-layered manner make its strength.

There are also a few disadvantages of plywood like it is expensive compared to particle-board. It often gets splinters and is tedious to cut. It might also be prone to termite infection and once infected may get damaged.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions forhow is plywood made, then why not take a look at why do monks shave their heads or why do people believe in astrology!

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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