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Plywood - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Plywood is a sheet material manufactured from thin layers

or "plies" of wood veneer that are glued together with
adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90
degrees to one another. It is an engineered wood from the
family of manufactured boards which includes mediumdensity fibreboard (MDF) and particle board (chipboard).
All plywoods bind resin and wood fibre sheets (cellulose
cells are long, strong and thin) to form a composite material.
This alternation of the grain is called cross-graining and has
several important benefits: it reduces the tendency of wood
to split when nailed at the edges; it reduces expansion and
shrinkage, providing improved dimensional stability; and it
Softwood plywood made from spruce.
makes the strength of the panel consistent across all
directions. There are usually an odd number of plies, so that
the sheet is balancedthis reduces warping. Because plywood is bonded with grains running against one
another and with an odd number of composite parts, it is very hard to bend it perpendicular to the grain direction
of the surface ply.
Smaller thinner plywoods and lower quality plywoods (see Average-quality plywood photo below and right) may
only have their plies (layers) arranged at right angles to each other, though some better quality plywood
products will by design have five plies in steps of 45 degrees (0, 45, 90, 135, and 180 degrees), giving strength in
multiple axes.

1 History
2 Structural characteristics
3 Types
3.1 Softwood plywood
3.2 Hardwood plywood
3.3 Tropical plywood
3.4 Aircraft plywood
3.5 Decorative plywood (overlaid plywood)
3.6 Flexible plywood
3.7 Marine plywood
3.8 Other plywoods
4 Production
5 Sizes
6 Grades
7 Applications
7.1 Softwood plywood applications
7.2 Hardwood plywood applications
7.3 Tropical plywood applications

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8 See also
9 References
10 External links

In 1797 Samuel Bentham applied for patents covering several machines to produce veneers. In his patent
applications, he described the concept of laminating several layers of veneer with glue to form a thicker piece
the first description of what we now call plywood.[1] Samuel Bentham was a British naval engineer with many
shipbuilding inventions to his credit. Veneers at the time of Bentham were flat sawn, rift sawn or quarter sawn;
i.e. cut along or across the log manually in different angles to the grain and thus limited in width and length.
About fifty years later Immanuel Nobel, father of Alfred Nobel, realized that several thinner layers of wood
bonded together would be stronger than one single thick layer of wood ; understanding the industrial potential of
laminated wood he invented the rotary lathe.
There is little record of the early implementation of the rotary lathe and the subsequent commercialization of
plywood as we know it today, but in its 1870 edition, the French dictionary Robert describes the process of
rotary lathe veneer manufacturing in its entry Droulage.[2] One can thus presume that rotary lathe plywood
manufacture was an established process in France in the 1860s. Plywood was introduced into the United States
in 1865[3] and industrial production started shortly after. In 1928, the first standard-sized 4 ft by 8 ft (1.2 m by
2.4 m) plywood sheets were introduced in the United States for use as a general building material.[1]
Artists use plywood as a support for easel paintings to replace traditional canvas or cardboard. Ready-made
artist boards for oil painting in three-layered plywood (3-ply) were produced and sold in New York as early as

Structural characteristics
A typical plywood panel has face veneers of a higher grade than the core veneers. The principal function of the
core layers is to increase the separation between the outer layers where the bending stresses are highest, thus
increasing the panel's resistance to bending. As a result, thicker panels can span greater distances under the
same loads. In bending, the maximum stress occurs in the outermost layers, one in tension, the other in
compression. Bending stress decreases from the maximum at the face layers to nearly zero at the central layer.
Shear stress, by contrast, is higher in the center of the panel, and zero at the outer fibres.

Different varieties of plywood exist for different applications:

Softwood plywood
Softwood panel is usually made either of cedar, Douglas fir or spruce, pine, and fir (collectively known as
spruce-pine-fir or SPF) or redwood and is typically used for construction and industrial purposes.[5]
The most common dimension is 1.2 by 2.4 metres (3 ft 11 in 7 ft 10 in) or the slightly larger imperial

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dimension of 4 feet 8 feet. Plies vary in thickness from 1.4 mm to

4.3 mm. The number of plies depends on the thickness and grade of the
sheet but at least three are required as the minimum odd number of plies.
Roofing can use the thinner 5/8" (15 mm) plywood. Subfloors are at least
3/4" (18 mm) thick, the thickness depending on the distance between
floor joists. Plywood for flooring applications is often tongue and groove;
This prevents one board from moving up or down relative to its neighbor,
so providing a solid feeling floor when the joints do not lie over joists.
T&G plywood is usually found in the 1/2" to 1" (1225 mm) range.

Hardwood plywood

Average-quality plywood with 'show


Hardwood plywood is made out of wood from angiosperm trees and used
for demanding end uses. Hardwood plywood is characterized by its
excellent strength, stiffness and resistance to creep. It has a high planar
shear strength and impact resistance, which make it especially suitable
for heavy-duty floor and wall structures. Oriented plywood construction
has a high wheel-carrying capacity. Hardwood plywood has excellent
surface hardness, and damage- and wear-resistance.[6]

Tropical plywood
Tropical plywood is made of mixed species of tropical wood. Originally
from the Asian region, it is now also manufactured in African and South
American countries. Tropical plywood is superior to softwood plywood
due to its density, strength, evenness of layers, and high quality. It is
usually sold at a premium in many markets if manufactured with high
standards. Tropical plywood is widely used in the UK, Japan, United
States, Taiwan, Korea, Dubai, and other countries worldwide. It is the
preferred choice for construction purposes in many regions due to its low
cost. However, many countries forests have been over-harvested,
including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, largely due to the
demand for plywood production and export.

Aircraft plywood

High-quality concrete pouring plate in


Birch plywood

High-strength plywood also known as aircraft plywood, is made from mahogany and/or birch, and uses
adhesives with increased resistance to heat and humidity. It was used for several World War II fighter aircraft.
Although the British-built Mosquito bomber, nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder", was constructed of a plywood
monocoque, this was formed in moulds from individual veneers of birch, balsa and birch, rather than machined
from pre-laminated plywood sheets.
Structural aircraft-grade plywood is more commonly manufactured from African mahogany or American birch
veneers that are bonded together in a hot press over hardwood cores of basswood or poplar or from European
Birch veneers throughout . Basswood is another type of aviation-grade plywood that is lighter and more flexible
than mahogany and birch plywood but has slightly less structural strength. Aviation-grade plywood is
manufactured to a number of specifications including those outlined since 1931 in the Germanischer Lloyd
Rules for Surveying and Testing of Plywood for Aircraft and MIL-P-607, the latter of which calls for shear
testing after immersion in boiling water for three hours to verify the adhesive qualities between the plies and

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meets specifications.

Decorative plywood (overlaid plywood)

Usually faced with hardwood, including ash, oak, red oak, birch, maple, mahogany, Philippine mahogany (often
called lauan, luan or meranti and having no relation to true mahogany), rose wood, teak and a large number of
other hardwoods. However, Formica, metal and resin-impregnated paper or fabric bonded are also added on top
of plywood at both side as a kind of ready for use in the decoration field. This plywood is a lot easier to dye and
draw on than any other plywoods.

Flexible plywood
Flexible plywood is very flexible and is designed for making curved parts. In the UK this is sometimes known as
"Hatters Ply" as it was used to make stovepipe hats in Victorian times . It is also often referred to as "Bendy
Ply" due to its flexibility. However these may not be termed plywood in some countries because the basic
description of plywood is layers of veneered wood laid on top of each other with the grain of each layer
perpendicular to the grain of the next. In the U.S.A, the terms "Bender Board" and "Wiggle Board" are
commonly used.

Marine plywood
Marine plywood is manufactured from durable face and core veneers, with few defects so it performs longer in
both humid and wet conditions and resists delaminating and fungal attack. Its construction is such that it can be
used in environments where it is exposed to moisture for long periods. More recently, tropical producers have
become dominant in the marine plywood market. Okoum from Gabon is now the accepted standard for marine
plywood, even though the wood is not very resistant to rot and decay. Each wood veneer will be from tropical
hardwoods, have negligible core gap, limiting the chance of trapping water in the plywood and hence providing
a solid and stable glue bond. It uses an exterior Water and Boil Proof (WBP) glue similar to most exterior
Marine plywood can be graded as being compliant with BS 1088, which is a British Standard for marine
plywood. There are few international standards for grading marine plywood and most of the standards are
voluntary. Some marine plywood has a Lloyd's of London stamp that certifies it to be BS 1088 compliant. Some
plywood is also labeled based on the wood used to manufacture it. Examples of this are Okoum or Meranti.
Marine plywood is frequently used in the construction of docks and boats. It is much more expensive than
standard plywood: the cost for a typical 4-foot by 8-foot 1/2-inch thick board is roughly $75 to $100 U.S. or
around $2.50 per square foot, which is about three times as expensive as standard plywood.

Other plywoods
Other types of plywoods include fire-retardant, moisture-resistant, wire mesh, sign-grade, and pressure-treated.
However, the plywood may be treated with various chemicals to improve the plywood's fireproofing. Each of
these products is designed to fill a need in industry.

Plywood production requires a good log, called a peeler, which is generally straighter and larger in diameter than
one required for processing into dimensioned lumber by a sawmill. The log is laid horizontally and rotated about

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its long axis while a long blade is pressed into it, causing a thin layer of wood to peel off (much as a continuous
sheet of paper from a roll). An adjustable nosebar, which may be solid or a roller, is pressed against the log
during rotation, to create a "gap" for veneer to pass through between the knife and the nosebar. The nosebar
partly compresses the wood as it is peeled; it controls vibration of the peeling knife; and assists in keeping the
veneer being peeled to an accurate thickness. In this way the log is peeled into sheets of veneer, which are then
cut to the desired oversize dimensions, to allow it to shrink (depending on wood species) when dried. The sheets
are then patched, graded, glued together and then baked in a press at a temperature of at least 140 C (284 F),
and at a pressure of up to 1.9 MPa (280 psi) (but more commonly 200 psi) to form the plywood panel. The panel
can then be patched, have minor surface defects such as splits or small knot holes filled, re-sized, sanded or
otherwise refinished, depending on the market for which it is intended.
Plywood for indoor use generally uses the less expensive urea-formaldehyde glue, which has limited water
resistance, while outdoor and marine-grade plywood are designed to withstand moisture, and use a water
resistant phenol-formaldehyde glue to prevent delamination and to retain strength in high humidity.
Anti fungal additives such as Xyligen may sometimes be added to the glueline to provide added resistance to
fungal attack.
The adhesives used in plywood have become a point of concern. Both urea formaldehyde and phenol
formaldehyde are carcinogenic in very high concentrations. As a result, many manufacturers are turning to low
formaldehyde-emitting glue systems, denoted by an "E" rating ("E0" possessing the lowest formaldehyde
emissions). Plywood produced to "E0" has effectively zero formaldehyde emissions.[7]
In addition to the glues being brought to the forefront, the wood resources themselves are becoming the focus of
manufacturers, due in part to energy conservation, as well as concern for natural resources. There are several
certifications available to manufacturers who participate in these programs. Programme for the Endorsement of
Forest Certification (PEFC) Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and Greenguard are all certification programs that ensure that
production and construction practices are sustainable. Many of these programs offer tax benefits to both the
manufacturer and the end user.[8]

The most commonly used thickness range is from 0.14 to 3.0 inches (0.36 to 7.62 cm). The sizes of the most
commonly used plywood sheets are 4 by 8 feet (1.2 by 2.4 m). Width and length may vary in 1-foot (30 cm)
In the United States, the most commonly used size is 4 8 feet (1,200 2,400 mm) or 5 5 feet
(1,500 1,500 mm).[9] A common metric size for a sheet of plywood is 1,220 2,440 millimetres
(4.00 8.01 ft).
Sizes on specialised plywood for concrete-forming can range from 6 to 21 mm (0.24 to 0.83 in), and a multitude
of formats exist, though 157501,500 mm (0.59 inch 2.464.92 ft) is very commonly used.
Aircraft plywood is available in thicknesses of 0.4mm (3 ply construction) and upwards, typically Aircraft
plywood uses veneers of 0.5mm thickness although much thinner veneers such as 0.1mm are also used in
construction of some of the thinner panels.


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Grading rules differ according to the country of origin. Most popular standard is the British Standard (BS) and
American Standard (ASTM). Joyce (1970), however, list some general indication of grading rules:[10]


Face and back veneers practically free from all defects.


Face veneers practically free from all defects. Reverse veneers with only a few small knots or

A/BB Face as A but reverse side permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.

Both side veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations.


Face veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations. Reverse side permitting jointed veneers,
large knots, plugs, etc.


Both sides permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.


For structural plywood, this grade means that the face has knots and defects filled in and the reverse
may have some that are not filled. Neither face is an appearance grade, nor are they sanded smooth.
This grade is often used for sheathing the surfaces of a building prior to being covered with another
product like flooring, siding, concrete, or roofing materials.


Guaranteed well glued only. All broken knots plugged.

Knots, knotholes, cracks, and all other defects permitted.

JPIC Standards


Face as BB, back as CC. BB as very little knots of less than 1/4 inches, slight discoloration, no decay,
BB/CC split and wormholes mended skillfully, matched colors, no blister, no wrinkle. Most popular choice for
most applications.

Plywood is used in many applications that need high-quality, high-strength sheet material. Quality in this context
means resistance to cracking, breaking, shrinkage, twisting and warping.
Exterior glued plywood is suitable for outdoor use, but because moisture affects the strength of wood, optimal
performance is achieved in end uses where the wood's moisture content remains relatively low. On the other
hand, subzero conditions don't affect plywood's dimensional or strength properties, which makes some special
applications possible.
Plywood is also used as an engineering material for stressed-skin applications. It has been used for marine and
aviation applications since WWII. Most notable is the British de Havilland Mosquito bomber, which was
primarily made using a moulded sandwich of two layers of birch plywood around a balsa core. Plywood was
also used for the hulls in the hard-chine Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and Motor Gun Boats (MGB) built by the
British Power Boat Company and Vosper's. Plywood is currently successfully used in stressed-skin applications.
The American designers Charles and Ray Eames are known for their plywood-based furniture, as is Finnish
Architect Alvar Aalto and his firm Artek, while Phil Bolger has designed a wide range of boats built primarily of
plywood. Jack Kper of Cape Town designed the plywood Dabchick sailing dinghy, which as of 2015 is still
sailed by large numbers of teenagers.

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Plywood is often used to create curved surfaces because it can easily bend with the grain. Skateboard ramps
often utilize plywood as the top smooth surface over bent curves to create transition that can simulate the
shapes of ocean waves.

Softwood plywood applications

Typical end uses of spruce plywood are:
Floors, walls and roofs in home constructions
Wind bracing panels
Vehicle internal body work
Packages and boxes
There are coating solutions available that mask the prominent grain structure of spruce plywood. For these
coated plywoods there are some end uses where reasonable strength is needed but the lightness of spruce is a
benefit e.g.:
Concrete shuttering panels
Ready-to-paint surfaces for constructions

Hardwood plywood applications

Phenolic resin film coated (Film Faced) plywood is typically used as a ready-to-install component e.g.:
Panels in concrete form work systems
Floors, walls and roofs in transport vehicles
Container floors
Floors subjected to heavy wear in various buildings and factories
Scaffolding materials
("Wire" or other styles of imprinting available for better traction)
Birch plywood is used as a structural material in special applications e.g.:
Wind turbine blades
Insulation boxes for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers
Smooth surface and accurate thickness combined with the durability of the material makes birch plywood a
favorable material for many special end uses e.g.:
High-end loud speakers
Die-cutting boards
Supporting structure for parquet
Playground equipment
Signs and fences for demanding outdoor advertising
Musical instruments
Sports equipment

Tropical plywood applications

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Tropical plywood is widely available from the South-East Asia region, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Tropical plywood boasts premium quality, and strength. Depending on machinery, tropical plywood can be made
with high accuracy in thickness, and is a highly preferable choice in America, Japan, Middle East, Korea, and
other regions around the world.
Common plywood
Concrete panel
Floor base
Structure panel
Container flooring
Lamin board
Laminated veneer lumber (LVL)

See also
BS 1088
Engineered wood
Glued laminated timber
Medium-density fiberboard
Oriented strand board
Particle board
Pressed wood

Wikimedia Commons has

media related to Plywood.

1. "Plywood" ( Gale's How Products are Made. The Gale Group Inc.
Retrieved 26 November 2013.
2. "Drouler" ( Le Robert historique de la langue
franaise. Dictionnaires Robert. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
3. "Plywood" ( Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
4. Muller, Norman E. "An early example of a plywood support for painting" (
/3179496?uid=3738016&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102998036157). Journal of the American
Institute for Conservation. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Retrieved
26 November 2013.
5. O'Halloran, p. 221.
6. Handbook of Finnish plywood, Finnish Forest Industries Federation, 2002, ISBN 952-9506-63-5 [1]
7. Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (
/media_release_-_formaldehyde_emissions.pdf). (PDF). Retrieved on 2012-02-10.
8. Pro Woodworking ( Pro Woodworking
Retrieved on 2012-02-10.
9. Metric conversions, Canadian government publication ( (PDF). Retrieved on 2012-02-10.
10. Joyce, Ernes. 1970. The Technique of Furniture Making. London: B. T. Batsford Limited.

External links

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APA The Engineered Wood Association

Material Uses (
/Material_Uses_Index.html) Pro Woodworking
Canadian Plywood Association (
Plywood (

Look up plywood in
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