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Ultimate Guide to Baltic Birch Plywood: Why It’s Better, When to Use It

Baltic birch plywood is unique because of it's all-birch veneer core that's cross-banded and laminated with exterior grade glue, making for a superior stable sheet good. It also has a thicker face veneer than traditional cabinet grade plywood.
Baltic birch plywood is unique because of it’s all-birch veneer core that’s cross-banded and laminated with exterior grade glue, making for a superior stable sheet. It also has a thicker face veneer than traditional cabinet grade plywood.

Over the last few months, I’ve whittled up a healthy number of Baltic birch sheets to build a wide array of projects. A router table and fence, several drawer boxes, a craft table. In the same months, I’ve seen my colleagues use Baltic birch to make a table saw cross cut sled, a glue rack, a bookcase. The uses for Baltic birch are seemingly endless and the reasons why become apparent when you see what makes Baltic birch unique.

To start, Baltic birch is a plywood product native to the northeastern region of Europe around the Baltic Sea. It’s manufactured for European cabinetmaking. This begins to explain the product’s odd sheet size of 5’x5′ (more about this at bottom).

But here is the more important part. Baltic birch’s core is unlike traditional plywood you may be used to seeing: the layers of inner plies are 1.5 mm-thick solid birch veneer, cross-banded, and laminated with exterior grade adhesive. It’s a recipe that results in a void-free core with a number of advantages, which is why in the U.S. we’ve discovered that the material is fantastic for thousands of projects in woodworking.

See all Baltic Birch products sold by Woodworkers Source >>>

Why Baltic Birch Is a Preferable Plywood:

1. Superior Screw Holding

Because the core layers of Baltic birch are actually veneers of birch (rather than a softer, secondary wood)  and form a void-free core, screws bite and hold with 100% of their threads. Conversely, traditional veneer core plywood has voids and is also made up of softer materials so screws don’t get a chance to clench the best they can. You also might find sheet goods made with MDF (medium-density fiberboard) core, and though it’s 100% solid, MDF is soft and just doesn’t have the screw-holding power of Baltic birch.

Solid joinery like half-blind dovetail joints are not only possible with Baltic birch, but they look good too.
Solid joinery like half-blind dovetail joints are not only possible with Baltic birch, but they look good too.

2. Cleaner Joinery

Tipping the hat once again to the uniform birch veneer layers of the core, you’ll get clean dadoes, rabbets, dovetails, miters, and fingers for strong and, when appropriate, great looking joints. Because the core is free of voids, your joinery also won’t suffer from glue starvation—they’ll get 100% glue coverage. Anything you build out of Baltic birch should last a good, long time.

3. Improved Strength and Stability

All plywood runs the risk of warping, and the most common type of warp in plywood is bowing. Baltic birch is not immune, it’s still a wood product. However, Baltic birch has the odds stacked in its favor much better than other plywood, chiefly in 1/2″ and 3/4″ thickness. The cross-banded layers of 1.5 mm thick birch veneer makes the sheets balanced, which promises a flatter product. However the thinner sheets, like 1/8″ and 1/4″, simply will not remain flat in large pieces—and this is no surprise. That’s usually not a problem though because these are usually used in applications like drawer bottoms and cabinet backs where they’re cut down to smaller sizes or captured in dadoes and rabbets. It should be obvious that the thicker sheets are more stable because they have more plies. 3/4″ Baltic birch in particular won’t change much in width or length, that’s why it’s great for jigs and fixtures that need to maintain accuracy over the years.

Baltic birch edges don't look too bad when shaped, sanded and finished.
Baltic birch edges don’t look too bad when shaped, sanded and finished.

4. Attractive Appearance

One of the fortunate benefits to Baltic birch, too, is that you can leave the edges exposed if you like the look. Because the core is free of voids and all birch, the exposed edges sometimes have an appearance that works for the project, and this saves you time and material—no need to spend time and effort on applying edge tape or solid edge banding unless you want to. Simply sand and finish the edges as they are. The face and back can be stained when you need a different color. Like solid birch lumber, for it to stain evenly with an oil based pigment stain you’ll need to apply a stain controller or a wash coat of de-waxed shellac. Otherwise use dye for even color. To keep the uniform, light color instead, simply finish Baltic birch with a basic clear top coat of lacquer or polyurethane.

5. Thicker Face Veneer with Reasonable Quality

With close inspection of Baltic birch, you should notice that the face and back veneers are remarkably thicker than the veneers you’ll see on traditional cabinet-grade plywood. Sadly, it’s well-known that cabinet grade plywood veneer faces are dismally thin, which makes them easy to damage and easy to sand through. But not so with Baltic birch. Outer veneers are nice and thick.  As for the appearance, there are several grades of Baltic birch available, but we most often carry the highest grade which is B/BB. Plywood has two sides a face and a back—meaning one side is going to be better than the other, and they’re graded separately. B is the grade of Baltic birch’s face, or the best side. It’s a whole-piece face with no splices, has a light and uniform color, and there are no patches, mineral streaks, knots or voids. The back side is graded BB and slightly less attractive. There can be up to 6 color-matched “football” patches (about the size of a large egg), mineral streaks and small-but-sound dime-sized pin knots.

General Baltic Birch Grades:

Note: plywood is graded on the appearance of the face veneers, grade does not imply any sort of quality of the core. And plywood grade makes consideration for both sides. The better side is called the face, the poorer side is called the back. In a vast majority of projects, only one side is visible. These grades read face-slash-back.

baltic-birch-defectsB/BB: Single piece face and back veneer. Face veneers are considered clear and free of defects with a light-uniform color. Back allows 3-6 color matched patches, which are oval in shape and egg sized. Inner cores are solid birch single piece veneers.

BB/BB: Single piece face and back. Both face and back veneers allow 3-6 small color-matched patches on average and some light mineral streaks. Tight pin knots may be present. Inner cores are solid single piece veneers.

BB/CP: Single piece face and back. The “CP” back veneers are downgraded from “BB” grade veneers, which allow for unlimited patches and sound knots, but does not allow for open defects. Inner cores are solid birch single piece veneers.

CP/CP: Single piece face and back. Face and back grade veneers allow unlimited sound knots and repaired splits and unlimited patches. The panel is sound both sides and designed for laminating.

C/C: Patches, open knots, and small veneer splits allowed. Veneer lap and small core voids permitted. This panel is not sanded and would be used for structural purposes.

Projects and Uses for Baltic Birch Are Endless

In Your Shopbaltic-birch-router-fence
Take advantage of Baltic birch’s superior stability for making your own table saw sleds, tool cabinets, clamp racks, work tables, tool stands, auxiliary fences, router jigs (above), push sticks, etc. Baltic birch has fantastic dimensional stability that makes it great for these items.
In Your Home:art-table
Baltic birch has a nice appearance for certain types of furniture as well. Casework, cabinets, drawer boxes, children’s furniture (above), craft tables, and shelves are just a few options. Baltic birch is a good choice for cabinets that go under sinks because of the exterior grade adhesive it’s laminated with. If you ever have a plumbing leak, there’s little worry that the cabinet will be destroyed. Conversely cabinets that are made with particle board (which is common today) will easily foster mold if they get wet.
Special Applicationsbaltic-birch-trailer2
Baltic birch has numerous special applications, too. Custom speaker boxes, skateboards, teardrop trailer shells (above), scroll saw art, forms, CNC furniture parts, laser engraving, signage, etc. We may never be able to list all of the uses.

About Baltic Birch Sizes

Sheets are most often manufactured in 5’x5′ sheets for the European cabinetry market—so the actual size is metric, 1525 mm x 1525 mm. In fine woodworking, it rarely matters because you’re going to cut pieces to the sizes you need for much smaller items like jigs and furniture parts, custom sized cabinets, etc. The thickness is also in millimeters, but the U.S. market translates the thickness to the nearest Imperial value for simplicity. That means, for example, 3/4″ Baltic birch is not precisely 3/4″ thick, but slightly thinner at actually 18 mm thick. Be aware of this when planning and cutting your joinery—like in other aspects of woodworking, never assume a precise dimension without checking it first, and cut your joints for fit rather than size.

  • 3 mm ≈ 1/8″ (3 plies)
  • 6 mm ≈ 1/4″ (5 plies)
  • 9 mm ≈ 3/8″ (7 plies)
  • 12 mm ≈ 1/2″ (9 plies)
  • 18 mm ≈ 3/4″ (13 plies)


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You can buy Baltic birch plywood for delivery right to your door here at our website:
Baltic Birch at Woodworkers Source >>>



  • hennesseystealth .

    I build a teardrop camper using baltic birch for interior cabinetry and paneling. I only applied 3 coats of Deft waterborne acrylic finish and it looks great. Unfortunately, my son-in-law left a wet towel on the galley shelf and now I have black mildew stains in that area. I have tried oxalic acid and Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser (Sodium Percarbonate and Tetraacetylethylenediamine). The oxalic acid did nothing and the Stain Eraser made things worse by darkening the grain in the unaffected areas (manufacturer spec says it won’t do that except for some species of Redwood).

    Anyone have any ideas on what to do? The shelf is structural in that it is screwed in from the sidewall, which was then covered in aluminum sheet. The galley counter top is covered in stainless steel, so I could just give up and do the same to the shelf, but I really do like the look of the baltic birch.

    • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

      Sanding might be your only way out. But make the son-in-law do it . . . unless he can’t be trusted now.

      • hennesseystealth .

        I started with 100 grit and now have moved to 60 grit, but not making much headway. Any suggestions on where I should start and how aggressive I can be on 18mm? I don’t want to punch through to the second ply.

        • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

          Hmmm…I find that surprising. I would think 100 grit would do it. Can you send a picture of the problem?

          Did you by chance scrub the oxalic acid with a brush?

          • hennesseystealth .

            Yes, used a stiff bristle brush with both the oxalic acid and the Mold Stain Eraser. Left the products on (separately on different days) on for the maximum recommended times. The picture is after using both products and sanding.

            • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

              Okay. Thanks. I hate to say it, but this looks worse than I imagined. If you’ve already been sanding with 100 grit, that staining goes quite deep. This is clearly more of a “how to remove mildew stains from wood” than it is an issue about Baltic birch. Cleaning up mildew can take more than a few applications of bleach to get it completed. I’d say you need to do another scrub, but I’d try 50/50 chlorine bleach and water.

            • hennesseystealth .

              Thanks. Certainly can’t make things worse. If nothing works, then a nice stainless steel cover will be just fine.

            • hennesseystealth .

              50:50 bleach is making some headway, though it might be lightening the
              unstained wood areas. I’ll keep this up for another day or so and see
              how far it gets me

  • Dot

    I want to use high-grade birch plywood for flooring in my home but do NOT want to use urethane to seal it. Is there any sort of natural finish/sealer for the plywood as opposed to liquid plastic/acrylic type products?

  • Adisa Bekele

    I am currently building a tiny home and am considering finished Baltic Birch as the interior wall sheathing… at least for a portion of the walls. My question is, does anyone have any suggestions on how I can fasten those panels to the studs and finish the application in a way so that the fasteners aren’t exposed? I want it to look as “finished” as possible meaning no glue, fasteners, or unfinished seams exposed.

    • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

      You’ll have to use a fastener on the inside, between the stud and plywood. Do a google search for “flush mount bracket.” That kind of fastener would hide, and they’d screw to your plywood from the inside. They’d be totally hidden. However, it’ll be pretty difficult to keep your seams square and even, and the project will be an arduous one! It won’t be easy or fast, but it can be done.

      In the picture you shared, the fasteners are clearly well placed near the edges and they’re nice and even. For the application I think they look just fine. You know what they say . . . “if you can’t hide it, accentuate it.”

      • Adisa Bekele

        The flush mount brackets are a great suggestion! I never knew such a fastener even existed until you mentioned them. To your point though, it would seem very difficult to mount those panels so that they’re square with each other. Nonetheless, I’ll probably give it a try on least two panels to see how feasible it would be to do the remaining space. If that doesn’t work out as well, I’ll probably mount them as they are in the picture, spacing the fasteners equal distance apart to provide visual symmetry.

    • BigCharb

      I’d say don’t try and minimize the seams. Instead have a fastener that holds at the 4 corners, the stability of the plywood should not require mid-seam fastening. Make the seams a highlight rather than try and hide them only to experience a few that can’t be hidden. It could also lessen the appearence of dimensional thickness differences.

    • davecity

      Aluminum Z-clips on the back are one possiblity. the nice thing about this option is removable panels in the furture to gain access to utilities in the wall. Not easily removable mind you, i.e, not for daily storage, but for occasional updating or rewiring. We just did a project with a mural direct printed onto full shts of 3/4″ maple appleply (similar multiply product), and used 3 40″ wide z clips per sheet. worked great. Attach the with 3/4″ particle board screws . Downside to most blind fastener options would be a lack of air-tightness, so you may want to attach your mounting system to a more conventionally covered wall such as drywall or OSB/plywood over studs.

    • Steven Pluger

      Why not use dowels? Either sanded flush or blind.

  • Jeremy Sahlman

    why does the thickness and uniformity of thickness changes so much from supplier to supplier, and how do I request baltic birch that is high quality and uniform when trying to order it? so far it has just been chance, some stuff will show up, it will be crappy we’ll send it back try somewhere else maybe get lucky etc. It’s been very frustrating. Lastly why are 5×5 sheet so much cheaper per square foot than 4×8 sheets?

    • Clark Douglas

      At my lumber store BB Plywood is 2x cost of standard Plywood, not less

  • Mike Dooley

    What is the weight per square foot of 1/8″ and 1/2″ baltic birch plywood? I’m trying to judge whether this would be a lighter alternative to common pine.

    • Greg Martin

      I just calculated the weight of 1/2″ & 1/4″ BB last night for a project I am working on by weighing large pieces on a postal scale and dividing by the number of square feet:
      1/2″ BB – 1.66 lbs per sq ft
      1/4″ BB – .82 lbs per square ft

      Notes: 1/2″ BB is really 12mm thick, 1/4″ BB is really 6mm thick – close to the fractional inch measurements, but manufactured in mm. If you mean Western White Pine by “common pine”, BB is about 1.5x heavier, and much denser and stronger.

  • phn2

    Wich kind of glue for translam of baltic birch?

    • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

      Is there any reason not to use yellow wood glue? I’m unfamiliar with translam.

      • Alamelu Narayanaswamy

        Mr. Stephens,
        I have been reading your articles lately since I have a woodworking project in mind. Your articles are very informative and if I may say so, I did not know woodworking had so many things to consider, I did not even know that wood can move! (I do not know anything about woodworking). I would like to consult you on a project. Can I please contact you? Thank you so much, Allie

  • Charles M

    As a former hardwood salesman, you should be aware some suppliers are offering “EuroBirch” which is a domestic product, such as Columbia Forests Products brand. Trees are a product of nature and to keep the costs in line with what the consumer is willing to pay the veneers that don’t make a face grade or can’t be repaired for a back grade are used for the core. These have defects such as small solid knot or repairs that are not going to affect the structural integrity and visually they don’t show. Due to demand, most of the “Baltic” Birch sold today actually comes from China. The top of the line multiply is Aircraft grade and is imported by only one or two importers on the west coast so be prepared to pay a fortune if you wanted top of the line product.

    • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

      While this may be true in the grand scheme, for the foreseeable future what we sell (and are discussing here) is the real thing. Not a knock off or a Chinese made alternative.

  • Leo

    If one wants to leave the edges exposed, there may not be any defects in the laminate. However, there appears to be a difference in quality in that respect that the ratings don’t reflect. I find it frustrating that the wood I buy often has random dark spots in the laminate that ruin the appearance of exposed edges. This need not be as I often see commercial products made from wood that has perfect exposed edging.

    • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

      You really can’t judge the quality of any raw wood product based on the finished, commercially-made, store-bought items you find. I’ll explain. Let’s take tables made from Baltic birch for example. In a manufacturing shop, they’ll cut the parts then judge them: 1). orient the edges so the best ones show 2). Sub-par pieces either get used in products sold as “seconds” or they’re rejected and/or re-cut for use in another product.

      The same thing has to happen in your shop, just on a smaller scale.

      You should look closer at the edges of those commercial products, too. You’ll probably see the dark spots more often than you might realize. They are small knots in the internal layers, which is simply a fact of wood. And sometimes those knots will fall out and leave a gap, so you can use light colored wood filler to plug and hide those – just like manufacturers do.

  • rvosa

    Great article, thanks. Is formaldehyde a concern with this kind of plywood?

    • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens WWS

      No formaldehyde. But the risks of breathing wood dust are enough that we all should be wearing a mask when working with wood anyway, formaldehyde or not.

  • Zack

    ӏ couldn’t resist commenting. Exceptionally well wгittеn!

  • vltrnjd

    Just finishing a complete kitchen remodel – the cabinet bases are baltic birch. Why not ply or mdf – in Houston Texas the humidity rages most of the year – baltic birch handles the movement while keeping relatively plumb, level, and true. Solid wood or ply with chip layers will not handle the demands of a kitchen or a humid climate or both! MDF will bloat on any small scratch in this humidity; not kitchen worthy in this climate. Use a track saw for safety and accuracy for baltic birch. By way of comparison – the kitchen facade is solid wood with curly or quilted maple – abso gorgeous but has a life of its own! Rip an very straight board only to get arched boards. It’s gorgeous and a huge pain in the butt – hmmmm trophy spouse?