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  1. #1
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    Jan 2014
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    seddon, vic
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    Default Plywood question for cabinet making

    I am new at cabinet making. I plan to make a whole bunch of kitchen cabinets using plywood. There seems to be a bunch of different types of plywood out there. I understand the Birch plywood is often used to make cabinets. When I started shopping around for prices, I noticed that Bunnings sell AA grade Marine plywood substantially cheaper than some BC grade Birchwood plywood I found else where. Seems very odd that BC grade plywood would be more expensive than AA grade. The AA grade Marine plywood at Bunnings looks and feels great. I was wondering if I could use it to make cabinets and drawers?

    Can someone explain the differences among the following plys?
    - Hoop pine
    - Hardwood ply
    - Marine ply
    - Structural ply

    Last, could someone recommend a plywood supplier in Melbourne (west).

    Thanks.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    Somerset Region, Qld, AU.
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    Kaoboy,

    I can't see any Birch Plywood of any grade on the Bunnings web site. The only BC grade ply Bunnings have seems to be small hobby sheets of what they call Project Panel, which is a Radiata Pine ply. If you can post a link to the BC Grade Birch Ply at Bunnies to which you are referring, that might help to identify the ply you are referring to.

    Plyco is a major supplier of Plywood in Australia. I haven't bought from them as they don't have an outlet in Brisbane, but contacts down south have mentioned Plyco from time to time. They've got three outlets around Vic (Fairfield, Springvale and Mornington). Maybe have a look at their web site to get more info about the different ply grades and types. http://www.plyco.com.au Plyco are retailers, as well as being manufacturers and distributors, so you can buy direct from them.

    Another Plywood Retailer with an informative web site (but only with outlets in Brisbane & Sydney) is http://misterplywood.com.au. Their web site is full of useful info as well.

    As for your question regarding some types of ply (Hoop pine, Hardwood ply, Marine ply, Structural ply).......

    When you're looking at ply, there are a few things you need to look at in the specifications:


    1. What it's recommended use is,
    2. What grade the two face have been prepared to (or what coating has been put on the faces e.g. Melamine, Formica, etc), and
    3. What the ply is made from.


    The terms "Hoop Pine Ply", "Radiata Pine Ply", "Hardwood Ply" etc are references to the type of wood used in the ply.

    Marine Ply is laminated using waterproof glues, and was originally designed for boat construction, but is often used anywhere a high quality ply with waterproof glue is required. Marine Ply, because of it's use in wooden boat and aircraft construction, comes in a very wide range of thicknesses, and a wide range in the number of plys. If you want a sheet of 3mm ply in Australia, you would most certainly end up buying AA grade Marine Ply. Almost all marine ply in Australia is AA grade, although in some countries overseas where wooden boat construction is common place, other grades of marine ply are available for use in the structure where a high quality "A Grade" face is not required.

    For an explanation of some of the grades of ply available in Australia, have a look at the Plyco and Misterplywood web sites listed above.

    Structural Ply in Australia generally refers to plys used in the Building Industry. These plywoods do not generally have faces prepared to a standard that cabinet makers would use. Construction Plywoods include plywood used for bracing timber walls, plywood used as flooring (or under-flooring), and plywood used for concrete form work (formply).

    In Woodworking magazines published in the USA, you'll often see reference to Birch Plywood, Scandinavian Plywood, and other similar terms. These are trade names for products sold in the USA - not product specifications. So, you need to do a bit of research to find an Australian equivalent to some of the ply woods mentioned in overseas woodworking magazines. The Americans often specify "Birch Plywood" because that trade name in the USA has equal ply thicknesses throughout. Some cheaper brands of ply in the USA are supplied as AA Grade but have very thin outer ply, which makes them difficult to sand and especially difficuly to stain.

    Hope that info helps you get going with those kitchen cabinets.

    Regards,

    Roy
    Manufacturer of the Finest Quality Off-Cuts.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    seddon, vic
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks for the info.

    I found the BB grade Birch Plywood at the Plyco website, not Bunnings... Sorry about the confusion. When I contacted Plyco for a quote. I vaguely recall it was almost double the cost of the AA-grade Marine plywood they have at Bunnings... which suprised me.

    I have not visit the Plyco store in person yet, but I will try to check them out next week. I was impressed by the quality of the AA-grade Marine plywood at Bunnings, but I am interested to check out what other plywood types Plyco has to offer for making cabinets. The guy I spoke to seemed pretty knowledgeable.

    The reason I find Plyco appealing is that that for a fee, they will cut your plywood to spec which will be much better than having me cutting everything myself. Bunnings does offer cuts for a cost as well, but I don't think they're capable of making precise, repeat cuts.

    I bought a small piece of 'premium' BC grade plywood from Bunnings to make some test drawers using my dovetail jig and router. Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of tear outs using the 'premium' BC plywood from Bunnings. I am contemplating just buying a big sheet of the AA grade Marine plywood and see how it performs. At $120 per 2400mmx1200mmx18mm AA sheet, it doesn't seem too bad.





    Quote Originally Posted by AussieRoy View Post
    Kaoboy,

    I can't see any Birch Plywood of any grade on the Bunnings web site. The only BC grade ply Bunnings have seems to be small hobby sheets of what they call Project Panel, which is a Radiata Pine ply. If you can post a link to the BC Grade Birch Ply at Bunnies to which you are referring, that might help to identify the ply you are referring to.

    Plyco is a major supplier of Plywood in Australia. I haven't bought from them as they don't have an outlet in Brisbane, but contacts down south have mentioned Plyco from time to time. They've got three outlets around Vic (Fairfield, Springvale and Mornington). Maybe have a look at their web site to get more info about the different ply grades and types. http://www.plyco.com.au Plyco are retailers, as well as being manufacturers and distributors, so you can buy direct from them.

    Another Plywood Retailer with an informative web site (but only with outlets in Brisbane & Sydney) is http://misterplywood.com.au. Their web site is full of useful info as well.

    As for your question regarding some types of ply (Hoop pine, Hardwood ply, Marine ply, Structural ply).......

    When you're looking at ply, there are a few things you need to look at in the specifications:


    1. What it's recommended use is,
    2. What grade the two face have been prepared to (or what coating has been put on the faces e.g. Melamine, Formica, etc), and
    3. What the ply is made from.


    The terms "Hoop Pine Ply", "Radiata Pine Ply", "Hardwood Ply" etc are references to the type of wood used in the ply.

    Marine Ply is laminated using waterproof glues, and was originally designed for boat construction, but is often used anywhere a high quality ply with waterproof glue is required. Marine Ply, because of it's use in wooden boat and aircraft construction, comes in a very wide range of thicknesses, and a wide range in the number of plys. If you want a sheet of 3mm ply in Australia, you would most certainly end up buying AA grade Marine Ply. Almost all marine ply in Australia is AA grade, although in some countries overseas where wooden boat construction is common place, other grades of marine ply are available for use in the structure where a high quality "A Grade" face is not required.

    For an explanation of some of the grades of ply available in Australia, have a look at the Plyco and Misterplywood web sites listed above.

    Structural Ply in Australia generally refers to plys used in the Building Industry. These plywoods do not generally have faces prepared to a standard that cabinet makers would use. Construction Plywoods include plywood used for bracing timber walls, plywood used as flooring (or under-flooring), and plywood used for concrete form work (formply).

    In Woodworking magazines published in the USA, you'll often see reference to Birch Plywood, Scandinavian Plywood, and other similar terms. These are trade names for products sold in the USA - not product specifications. So, you need to do a bit of research to find an Australian equivalent to some of the ply woods mentioned in overseas woodworking magazines. The Americans often specify "Birch Plywood" because that trade name in the USA has equal ply thicknesses throughout. Some cheaper brands of ply in the USA are supplied as AA Grade but have very thin outer ply, which makes them difficult to sand and especially difficuly to stain.

    Hope that info helps you get going with those kitchen cabinets.

    Regards,

    Roy

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Somerset Region, Qld, AU.
    Age
    60
    Posts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kaoboy View Post
    Thanks for the info.

    I bought a small piece of 'premium' BC grade plywood from Bunnings to make some test drawers using my dovetail jig and router. Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of tear outs using the 'premium' BC plywood from Bunnings. I am contemplating just buying a big sheet of the AA grade Marine plywood and see how it performs. At $120 per 2400mmx1200mmx18mm AA sheet, it doesn't seem too bad.
    Using plywood to make dovetail joints doesn't usually result in good quality joints. As you've found, tearout is a big problem. But the bigger problem is that dovetail joints - either sliding dovetail joints for things like shelves sliding into a cabinet side, or using normal dovetail joints for drawer corners or for joining cabinet sides to cabinet top/bottoms, etc - is that dovetail joints in plywood are weak due to the fact that in half of the plys making up the plywood, the grain is running in the wrong direction for a strong dovetail joint. I think it's reasonable to reserve dovetail joints for solid timber.

    For plywood (or MDF) cabinet work, most people use dados to join shelves to cabinet sides. Dados are also used on cabinet corners and drawer corners. Many people reinforce these dado joints (or simple but joints) using pocket holes. Some people have a lot of success with using a "Lock Mitre Router Bits" for cabinet corners and drawer corners in MDF. I'm told that they work in Ply as well, but when I tried I found Lock Mitre bits produce a weak joint in Plywood due to the cross grain plys.

    Regards,

    Roy
    Manufacturer of the Finest Quality Off-Cuts.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Pambula
    Age
    53
    Posts
    12,784

    Default

    Yes dovetails are no good in ply. For cabinets all you need is a butt joint or a rebate/dado. Dados can be a bit tricky with ply though, because the thickness can vary. So if you cut a 5mm deep dado, the thickness of the remaining cross section can vary from one cabinet end to another, meaning you have to trim your bases and tops to make the resulting box a consistent width.

    Still, I built mine that way and it was fine without too much fiddling (I was lucky, or not very fussy, or both). I used birch ply which I bought very cheap from EBay. It was about $30 for an 8x4 sheet. Not very good quality though, so I'd recommend buying it from somewhere reputable.
    "I don't practice what I preach because I'm not the kind of person I'm preaching to."

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Brisbane (Chermside)
    Age
    65
    Posts
    1,520

    Default

    Concur with AussieRoy and silentC.

    Made a few cabinets from ply, and used rebate or dado joints almost exclusively, with no real issues.

    If you like you can add quite solid timber sections to the front vertical members of the cabinet using these joints. The pic shows my drop saw cabinet, which is nearly all ply except for the vertical members on the sides of the cabinet and the web frames.

    Mitre Saw Station Open.jpg

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Huntington Beach, CA USA
    Age
    76
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    1,581

    Default

    Let me throw something out there about kitchen cabinets.

    This precludes cabinets built for show and or to display grandma great's china that was a wedding gift.

    When you look at kitchen cabinets you can see the face frame and doors or drawer fronts. If the string of cabinets are not built in between two walls, you may see one or both ends. Why use expensive plywood that no one is going to see?

    Cabinets built from plywood will need the interior painted. SWMBO probably wouldn't like that.

    Cabinets built using 19mm Melamine seem to be much more practical in the kitchen. Any ends that are visible can be covered with a 5mm or so piece of plywood using contact cement. The face frames can be attached with ordinary yellow glue (TiteBond II) and a nail gun. (16 gauge) By firing the nails into areas of grain they are almost invisible and the holes can easily be filled. Most of the SWMBO crowd love the Melamine interior because it cleans up so easily.

    The Melamine that we use here is Melamine faced, particle board and then "Gator" backed. The Gator backing is a bit rough but works well with contact cement and a veneer.

    As you glue things together, you'll find that TB-II scrapes off easily with a chisel without any damage to the Melamine. All the joinery is dados or rabbets. When you think about it, all that you're building is 5 sided boxes that will sit on a toe kick.

    It is much easier to install the toe kick level and set the cabinet boxes on a level toe kick than to level the cabinet boxes individually.
    Rich

    When SWMBO said "I won't cook in metric."
    The metric system died in the US.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    moonbi nsw Aus
    Age
    64
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    1,799

    Default

    Here in Australia the manufacture of Pyne board (particle board) and MDF is a whole lot larger business than the manufacture of Plywood. I have been using Melamine Pyneboard and faced (Melamine) MDF associated in the kitchen cupboard game for more than 30 years. In that time the evolution of both products has come a long way. The earlier stuff was like compressed chaff and after a while would dry out and start to disintegrate and water was also a definite No No. The bonding glues are better now and the board is a lot harder [we used to use staple guns to assemble carcases in the beginning but as the board was being redeveloped over the years we had to change to nail guns because the board was that much harder and staples would not penetrate the board] With the addition of a moisture resistant bonding glue the board now, can withstand the every day dampness in kitchens and bathrooms.
    The board available now is a lot heavier than the board of 25-30 years ago due to more material being compressed to form the board. What we have now is a very consistent product that is easy to get, comes in a wide variety of sizes and finishes and can certainly do a very good job.
    With so many American publications available to us we can read about how the use of Plywood is wide spread over there. Their plywood is as common as our particle board and MDF. What I have noticed is that our pine ply we buy here is very prone to not being flat (twisted if you like) in a full 2400 X 1200 sheet, where as our particle board and MDF is pretty well guaranteed to be flat [proper storage of sheets is a must though for flatness].
    As Rich has pointed out when you make a carcase for a kitchen job the women folk do love the whiteness of the melamine that greets there eyes every time they open a door. And as Rich has said why use more expensive and nicer looking plywood when you will be covering it up anyway. Leave the "Solid Timber look" to the doors that go over the fronts of the cupboards.
    Now that I have retired and get called upon to build a cupboard for some one, I will use (if the case dictates) White Melamine Moisture Resistant Shelving 16mm thick for the carcase. Buying shelving gives me a choice of board widths with one edge with 1mm PVC tape applied to it. I prefer lengths that are 3600 long so you can dock to length, reduce the width if necessary (to fit the application) and immediatly assemble. The 1mm edge protects the edge from the everyday knocks that it may encounter in its life. By using the right glue (AV56) buttjoints and screws or nials from a pneumatic gun do a very good job of making a sturdy cupboard. Another property that is experienced with this material is the whole job is more stable than solid timber that can move as it acclimatises to the environment its put into.
    With out the availability of this man-made medium to us out dwindling stocks of real timber will go a whole lot quicker
    Here ends the lesson, I will step down from the soap box and crawl back to my hole
    Just do it!

    Kind regards Rod

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