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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 >>>

7 Reasons 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.

6. Accepts Paper Back Veneer for More Decorative Projects

If you like everything about Baltic birch except its outer birch appearance (or occasional “football” patches), no problem. You can face this plywood with any kind of beautiful wood veneer. Be sure to veneer both sides to maintain its stability.

7. It’s Just the Thing for Laser Cutting and Engraving

It’s one of the few types of wood that can come in large enough sheets and yet be consistently dense through its thickness to be cut with a laser. Anything from parts for architectural models to artwork to schmaltzy engraved knick-knacks.

The downside is that 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick Baltic birch can’t stay perfectly flat. It does cup or warp. It’s not because it’s bad plywood but just an effect of the size. It’s thin and wide. Not a good combo for getting wood to lay flat.

So what do you do? Make a frame or jig that presses it flat and fits your laser cutter. Sometimes all you need is to tape it down to a piece of MDF.

General Baltic Birch Grades:

What To Know: plywood is graded on the appearance of the face and back veneers only (not the core). The better side is called the face, the poorer side is called the back. These grades listed below read “face/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.

Patches in Baltic Birch

You’ll find several football, oval, or irregular shaped patches in either side of Baltic birch. Even the highest grade of Baltic birch allows for patches. While at first glance they might seem unsightly, they’re indeed correcting a worse problem that you wouldn’t like any better – such as knots or discoloration. Fortunately, patches are color matched, so they blend as best as they can to the surrounding areas.

Projects and Uses for Baltic Birch Are Endless

In Your Shop

baltic-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 Applications

baltic-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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Buy Baltic Birch Plywood

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

***

Vice President of Operations – Woodworkers Source
We’re a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees.
Mark oversees the company and creates tutorials on wood finishing and woodworking tips for hardwood lumber.

Discussion, Questions & Answers


  • Tony Cellucci

    I will be installing shelves for a pantry unit. The pantry unit is 38″ wide x 40″ deep. Im thinking of installing 1/2″ prefinished baltic birch plywood shelves . Will the 1/2″ baltic birch plywood be strong enough for that span or sag over time. Also does having plywood prefinished help prevent warping over time.

    • 1/2″ will be just fine as long as you put in a cleat for support along the back wall. 40″ is a big span even for 3/4″.

  • Tom

    I wish to make a Rietveld Berlin chair. Where can I purchase 30mm thick birch plywood ?

  • Ryan Gallagher

    Hi Mark, I was planning on using 3/4″ B/BB for the table top portion of a coffee table/arcade project I was working on. I plan on having a 2’x4′ center section with fold up 2’x2′ wings (using soss invisible hinges). The center section will have roughly 26 1’1/8″ holes drilled into it to seat all the arcade controls while the wings have much less at about 8 holes each. Do you think I chose a strong enough wood for this application or would you be able to recommend something better? It’s my first time doing a project like this, so I want to make sure I’m getting something that will last.

  • Tony Alves

    Hi Mark
    I handpicked 3/4″ B/BB for my IKEA kitchen cabs and ran the grain horizontal and is stunning. The base cabs are drawers. I ran the upper doors 54″ high to hide the under and over cab lighting. All of these long sheets cross warped in varying amounts, some up to 1/2″. I tried over diagonal over bending but they would return.
    Any suggestions?

    Also I’m specing a commercial job and like to use BB but I can’t risk this.
    Any ideas?
    Thanks
    Tony

  • Nima Ebrahimi

    Hi!

    I have a couple of quick questions about the best wood to use for a project I’m heading up.

    I’m building a table top for my home office and having conflicting thoughts from several people around me and wanted to pick some smarter brains than mine.

    I want a table on a sit to stand base (already have this ready to go) and a nice wood table top so the desk will last a decent amount of time. I was initially looking at cherry since it matches the rest of the furniture and bookshelves in my office, but I know that is pricey and would need to be joined together for the size table I would need (1″x35″x72″). I was recommended the birch plywood as a stable and sturdy base that we could lay a veneer on to get that same appearance at a significantly lower price point. Other woods I was looking at were Walnut and Maple.

    Would the birch afford me the structural integrity I’m looking for? I would like it to be able to sustain a decent amount of weight ~200lbs. I don’t ever expect it to actually have that weight on it, but would like to know the piece is sturdy enough to house everything I need.

    Are there any downsides to using the birch plywood compared to a say walnut?

    Thanks!

    • I’m out of town until June 19, 2017. I will reply to your email then.

      Please contact John Porter john.porter@woodworkerssource.com or 602-504-1931
      Or you can reach customer service at 800-423-2450 or helpdesk@woodworkerssource.com
      Thanks for your patience.

      Mark Stephens

    • Veneering over Baltic birch plywood is perfectly fine and pretty common to do. Don’t skimp on the thickness though, use 3/4″ thick plywood for a desk top.

      Fret not, it’s got the strength you need. Baltic birch is *made* for building furniture and cabinets. Likewise, until we’re talking about driving trucks over it or shooting it with cannonballs, the strength and structural integrity of 3/4″ thick Baltic birch should not be in question.

      As for veneering, yes, you bet that is a great way to create a big desk top without gluing up a panel from solid wood.

      Veneering has a lot of advantages! Paper backed veneer gets you a gorgeous wood desk top faster for less cost and with fewer tools & skills. (compared to solid wood panel and glue ups).

      The downsides I can think of really relate to veneering vs solid, not so much Baltic birch vs solid:
      With veneer, 1). you have to be careful about sanding through it; 2). you must figure out how you’re going to cover the edges of the plywood; 3). veneer can eventually start to lift at the edges after a number of years; 4). you may or may not appreciate the look of paperback veneers because they are made of a sequence of bookmatched slices (they’re much more consistent in grain and color than solid wood).

      • Nima Ebrahimi

        Thanks so much!

        I think the 3/4″ is the way to go as well; I was planning on edgebanding the sides to get rid of the look of the plywood and make it more aesthetically pleasing. If I’m reading what you’re saying correctly, the veneers will have that peeling issue regardless of if it is a paperback veneer or a wood panel veneer? If that is only an issue with paperback veneer, I think I would rather use the wood panel veneer just for the sake of higher quality even if there is a marginal price differential.

        Thanks again for all the help and advice.

        • No sweat. Just to clarify, it doesn’t matter if veneer is paper back or not, veneers *can* peel depending on how good your glue job is and how much wood movement occurs throughout its life. It’s just a thing to be aware of when gluing your veneer down.

  • Kathy

    I use Baltic birch for panels for icons. I apply rabbit skin glue and several layers of true gesso, which is absorbent and accepts egg tempera. Sometimes the gesso won’t stick to the plywood, or, it sticks, and later when I am painting or gilding, it raises up in an area (the size of a patch–football size). If a coating is placed on the plywood, or adhesive smears on it, could this cause it to not accept absorbent layers? What would I use to ensure the surface is free of any type of coating that would interfere with the gesso? What will remove the adhesive? Thanks!

    • How to remove adhesive depends on what kind it is and whether or not it’s dry.
      If it’s still wet, the thing to use most likely is what ever solvent will cut it.
      If it’s dry, largely you’ll need to chisel, scrape, and sand it off.
      I don’t know what conditions are needed for applying gesso; but to prepare the plywood surface, sand it and vacuum off the dust residue.

      • Kathy

        My question is what type of glue is used in the manufacturing of Baltic birch plywood. Yes, it is dry, because that is how the plywood is sold. I have called my local supplier and he doesn’t know.

        • Ah, okay. That’s harder to answer, there are numerous manufacturers who may or may not be using the same adhesive. However I don’t think matters. First, I can’t imagine that the adhesive underneath the top layer of veneer can cause an adhesion problem for the gesso. Second, if it did indeed find its way to the outside of the veneer, the way to fix it is to chisel it off and prep-sand the plywood faces. I would also consider sealing the plywood after sanding, probably with dewaxed shellac or whatever the brand of gesso says it’s compatible with.

  • Yuv Raj Poosarla

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b6fbbb126168fb468ddc4897942b50ee90206032f198a172058a08851ac33c91.jpg We used Birch ply to make a table but not happy with the output. We will feel polish could have been better, any suggestions on what polish to use?

    • What did you use and what were you hoping the result would be?

    • Ben Campbell

      It’s an Open Desk Lean 2400. Design Specs are for Osmo Raw Polyx. If you sand to 320+ and apply two coats you’ll get a glass like finish. I’ve built many of these now with no problems. Also your end plugs aren’t hammered in properly and you have no front locking plugs on the bench top.

  • Line Dk

    Hi Mark

    Hope you can help because I need to get this right.

    I have just had some interesting shapes laser cut in 18mm
    Birch Plywood (which I haven’t used before). The pieces are to be used as indoor
    mosaic bases so I am of course very keen to avoid any later warp. I will be applying
    mosaic materials on one side using glue and adhesive.

    I usually prepare the mosaic base by applying thinned PVA to
    the surface before adding the mosaic pieces but is this the right approach when
    using Birch plywood? – I am concerned about the protection against warping while
    still being able to bind the materials to the surface. ALSO what type of sealer/paint
    would you suggest for me to use on the remaining sides and the back of the mosaic
    piece (birch wood) to protect against warping?

    Thanks

    • By applying a mosaic to one side, yes, you are introducing an imbalance. As your mosaic side dries, it’ll most likely pull the sheet and cup. Test one, see what happens.

      What to do about it if it does warp depends on several more factors.
      First, what’s the over all size?
      Are the mosaics going to hang? Get affixed to a frame? Free stand? Something else?
      You might be able to put a brace on the back side to counter act the warping. Or put the artwork in a frame.

      • Line Dk

        Hi Mark.

        I know from experience that other backing materials can warp somewhat when applying mosaic and surely birch plywood will too but less I hope given its layering. My work is hanging and from an artistic point of view I really want to avoid framing if at all possible. Small work is no issue, I have tested enough to know that it is the size and shape that matters – the mosaic side will be “sealed” by the mosaic itself so the question is – what sealing agent that would counteract this “the best” on the opposite side of the plywood? I know for sure I will need some kind of sealer just not which to go for. Any suggestions would be very welcome.

        Thanks Line

        • Hmmm….. the best sealer for this? Hard to say. I’d start with the easiest, fastest and simplest, which I think would be aerosol paint. Or aerosol clear lacquer if you prefer to see the wood with a clear finish. They dry fast and don’t require a lot of clean up or rags, etc.

          • Line Dk

            Thanks 😉

  • Max

    Hi,

    I’m building a dining table using baltich birch ply. I was planning on using a water based polyurethane to finish it so I can maintain as much of the natural color as possible. Will this be strong enough finish for a dining table or should I go with the gel you recommend instead? How much will the gel yellow the wood vs water?

    Thanks,

    • The water based finish I used on my kitchen table didn’t last long, so I’m not a fan of water based coatings on tables you’re going to use every day.

      As a side tip, while a water based finish doesn’t cast a yellowish hue, but it will allow UV light to age the wood. Eventually your project will take on an amber color. It just happens slower than if you used an oil based polyurethane.

      I’ve had surprisingly good longer term “color-locking” results by using dewaxed shellac as a sealer between the raw wood and the finish top coat, even polyurethane. Dewaxed shellac is crystal clear and imparts very, very little color and really does a nice job keeping light woods light.

      Sand your project, seal with with dewaxed shellac, then apply a good strong top coat. You can buy canned dewaxed shellac, it’s called “SealCoat” by Zinsser.
      Watch this video from 5:00 mins – 8:30 mins to see how I apply it as a sealer.
      http://www.woodworkerssource.com/blog/woodworking-projects/finishing-a-standing-height-desk-part-1-modern-black-base-with-weathered-gray-accents/

      • Max

        Thanks for the great information Mark!

        I have a pattern (1/8″ grooves) routed into the surface of the table that I’d like to fill with some sort of inlay. Do you have any suggestions or tutorials for anything like that? I’m looking at using a white epoxy, but was hoping to find something easier.

        • I don’t have any tutorials, but I’m sure there’s elevendy billion on youtube.
          Any reason you wouldn’t use a wood strip?
          Epoxy isn’t so bad, actually. What ever you use will need to be cleaned and leveled with the rest of the piece, which is really quite fast with a handheld block plane.
          A cool thing about epoxy is you can lay down painter’s tape so that it covers your inlay area (and more). Cut the inlay right through the tape. Apply the epoxy, let it cure. Peel the tape off and most of the clean up work will be done. Just a thought.

  • Ivan Lewis-Coker

    Hi.

    I’m looking to get hold of some plywood in which all the veneers are of the same type of wood.

    This is simply because I make game bats and damage is often sustained because the balls used can dent the wood. Under normal circumstances, with single ply wood, you’d simply sand the defect down, and since the wood is all of one colour, the colouring remains uniform.

    However, with plywood, sanding through the plies exposes the various layers which are of differing colours, making the repair unattractive to the eye.

    To my (largely inexperienced!) mind, there should be no reason why a large sheet of plywood can’t be made from plies of the same wood (excepting, of course, reduced strength; but if a hardwood is used, surely this would compensate for the reduced durability) if aesthetics are required as well as strength.

    Apologies if I sound ignorant of key factors, but I haven’t been doing this for very long, and so am likely unaware of many things that a more experienced wood worker would know.

    Any advice/information would be greatly appreciated!

    TIA,

    ivan

    • Matt Neher

      Couple reasons, primary one being cost. Plywood is an attractive product (from a cost benifit standpoint) because you are paying high dollar for a small part of the item (the veneer) the bulk is cheaper material reducing cost.

      2nd, you have to understand the construction of plywood and it’s purpose to realize why your request doesn’t work. Each layer (or ply) is turned 90 degrees from the previous to give it dimensional stability (strength in the flat plane of the sheet itself, not perpendicular to the plane of the sheet. In fact, plywood had significantly reduced strength perpendicular to the face then a piece of solid lumber. In other words, if you are going to make something to hit something, you should be using solid stock. But going back to plywood, with the cores turned 90 degrees as soon as you sand through one core the grain turns making sanding repairs unattractive. Further complicating things is if the project is stained. Every ply is glued together, as soon as you sand through one you *will* expose glue which will not take stain (overly simplified and not 100% true, but accurate enough for this discussion).

      3rd would be weight. I can’t imagine trying to lift a 4x8x3/4 sheet of in all essence solid maple. I could go run numbers but i bet it would increase the weight of the sheet 75 to 100%

      In short, go make your product out of solid stock.

      • Ivan, Baltic birch is a ply product in which all the plies *are* the same wood.

        • Ivan Lewis-Coker

          Indeed, but the plies are still at right angles to one another, so I’d imagine if you needed to sand it, you’d still notice the plies beneath (albeit they wouldn’t show as obviously as normal plywood…)

      • Ivan Lewis-Coker

        Am indeed doing so, as I’ve now managed to source some hardwood which is appropriate for my needs… :o)

        Thanks for the detailed info, though; all part of the learning curve…!

    • I don’t understand the problem you’re trying to solve? What’s the problem with solid wood? What advantage are you hoping to get by using a ply product instead? Just trying to understand.

      • Ivan Lewis-Coker

        It’s a) cheaper and b) trees don’t generally come in the sizes that plywood comes in! (;o))

        … As it happens though, that last is now a moot point… In fact, the entire post is moot, as I’ve now managed to source some suitably large hardwood… :oD

  • Maha Bazzi

    I bought some baltic birch plywood from you and I would like to stain it in walnut but I’ve never worked with wood and I have no idea what type of stain to use, oil, water? If i use oil do I use oil based protective finish? Any help would be appreciated. Is water-based stain better for this project if I work indoors?

  • Andrew

    hello, I am looking at using 1″ (25mm) birch plywood for dining table. Hoping to just have 4 metal corner legs (on the edge) and no frame structure underneath. I am wondering how big I can go without getting much flex in the table. Width will be about 3 ft wide…. table length 5ft (155cm)? Could I get 7ft? (215cm). Thanks

  • Caitlin Mckee

    Hello! Great article – quick question for you… what are your thoughts on using 1″ baltic birch for stair treads and risers? Thanks

    • Plywood stair treads are perfectly acceptable, if you’re wondering about strength or longevity. The difficult part, I think, is that it’s not easily found in a grade with the faces perfectly free of pin knots or color-matched patches. It’s more of a utility plywood therefore you’ll have additional waste if you want to work around the patches. There’s nothing wrong with it.

  • Rhea Guava Juice

    Hi! Great discussion! I have a question. We just purchased a board of Baltic birch to use for replacing kitchen cabinet doors and drawer facing. Our handyman cut them to size and now we need to apply the finish. We will paint the door fronts and backs and leave the edging exposed. What is the best protector against water, especially on cabinet doors under sink? And how do I get a nice finish like the one in your pic showing the polished curves edging (though I don’t intend to curve the edging). Thanks!

    • The finished edge in the picture you mention is sanded to 220 grit, worked through the grits. Starting with 120, 150, 180, 220. Then it’s top coated with 4 coats of aerosol lacquer.

      However aerosol lacquer is not the best choice if you need the finish to protect from water exposure long-term. It’s fine for occasional water splashes, etc. Truthfully, one of the best protectors against water is paint.

      But since you want the edges exposed, I’d simply point you to gel polyurethane and recommend you apply 4 to 6 coats.

      It’s a decent choice if you need it to be pretty easy to apply by hand and to build up a nice, attractive sheen while providing a better-than-average protection from water.

  • thejuniors

    I’m trying to sand the surface of my baltic birch plywood to use as a top for our dining room table. I started with 120 and went to 220. I’m having an issue of the wood feeling smooth, but as soon as I wipe the dust off it splinters and is rough again. I would appreciate any advice you can give.

    • I’ve seen this before. One way through it is after sanding to lay down a nice light coat of your finish. Or a sealer to give the wood fibers a little extra help. Sand again with 220, lightly. Repeat as necessary. But probably one or two passes like this should take care of it. Then continue with your finish.

  • nocowoodworker

    I am going to make drawer boxes with baltic birch and use half blind dovetails joinery. From a structural standpoint, does it matter which edge of the baltic birch I use to cut the dovetails (with the face grain versus across the face grain)? I know it would look better to join long grain to long grain but for my dimensions of drawer boxes I am going to have to use a lot more sheets and have a bunch of left over if I do it exclusively that way.

    • No, it wouldn’t matter. You’ll be alright mixing/matching like that. The inner plies are cross banded anyway (each layer’s grain is perpendicular to its neighboring layer).

  • Craig Bainum

    Why is only Baltic Birch used in this type of plywood? Why not American Pine or Douglas Fir?

    • If you need the look of American pine or doug fir, but also want the characteristics of this kind of plywood (cross banded layers with exterior glue), you can simply use American Pine or Doug Fir veneer on your show faces.

  • Craig

    I’d like to bend a 2″ strip of 1/4″ Baltic birch to put a 24″ arch in a 60″ long strip. Can I wet or steam it? Or just bend in a few stages? It feels close to exploding when I get to 19″..

    • Two things:
      1). It’s worth wetting it and trying that. Steam might weaken the lamination in the plywood. Even though the adhesive has good exterior-resistant qualitie, steam might compromise it.
      2). Try using 1/8″ Baltic birch, stack two together to make 1/4″

  • Dust Collector

    I’m wondering if anyone has sourced birch ply with equal quality to the Baltic variety that originates in the US.

    • Craig

      Do you recommend any particular joint for corners of small boxes? I’m wanting to build 12″x 18″ x 3″ deep boxes. Will box joints work?

      • Box joints would be great! Back up the cuts to prevent tear out, though.

  • Rachel claydon

    What’s the best product to seal birch ply for indoor use?

    • I’m out of town until October 17. I will reply to your email then.

      Or you can reach customer service at 800-423-2450 or helpdesk@woodworkerssource.com
      Thanks for your patience.

      Mark Stephens

    • Hmm… easier asked than answered because each kind of finish does have its downsides.
      What’s the project? How would you like to apply it – spray, wipe, brush, etc? What kind of a sheen do you want? Does it need water protection? Other type of protection?

      Without knowing more, I tend to suggest one of two things:
      1). aerosol Deft lacquer
      2). gel polyurethane

      Both are very easy to apply, they dry fairly quickly, and they can take some abuse. Lacquer is faster than poly, but more susceptible to scratching. Poly requires more time between coats. Either can be made to be matte, satin, semi, or gloss.

      But for your project, there might be a better choice than those. What are you making?

      • Rachel Claydon

        Thanks for the response. I have made a large cupboard but with kids and dogs I want it to be wipe clean from marks ideally. It’s inside so not spray and like it to look natural so Matt finish….

        • I’m out of town until October 17. I will reply to your email then.

          Or you can reach customer service at 800-423-2450 or helpdesk@woodworkerssource.com
          Thanks for your patience.

          Mark Stephens

        • I see. It’s hard to go wrong with a gel polyurethane here. It’s so easy to use and make it look good, plus it’s quite a tough one once it’s cured. I’d probably recommend that. Do 3 coats, with some scuffing between coats with a synthetic finishing pad (aka synthetic steel wood) and after the last coat to give it a matte sheen.

  • Sylwester Prozowski

    Hi there,
    would 0.78 inch thickness be ok for 62 ich high bunk bed? Not 2 legs in the corner but full 22 x 33 sheet. Thank you for the anwser

  • Amit Bawa

    which ply will be the best for making module and for using it for high repititions

  • Preston Chung

    What would be a good wood finish to use for a longboard when using 13-ply baltic birch plywood?

    • The usual finishes for longboards will be fine on a Baltic birch longboard. The choices vary as much as the opinions, though! Spar urethane, wiping varnish, polyurethane, paint, etc.Different longboard builders have their reasons for their choices – none are wrong.

  • james young

    can I use 1/2 Baltic birch p/w sides along with 1/2 bottoms for pullout pantry drawers. the size is 22″ d eep and 26″wide

    • Perfectly acceptable, but a little unusual. 1/2″ bottoms are used on pull out drawers that’ll hold heavy things like pots or appliances. 1/4″ bottoms installed in dado grooves are plenty sufficient most of the time and will save you a few bucks. But otherwise there’s nothing wrong with 1/2″ bottoms.

  • Info Lgh

    Hi

    I want use baltic birch wbp grade in exterior cladding . Is it recommended

    • Not recommended without a protective coating if you want it to last as absolutely long as possible. Depends on your application . . . but most often the most reliable coating is paint.

      • Info Lgh

        Yes i will do the coatings on birch ply . I will use wood finish sirca company polish for exterior . But my question is that birch ply is strong enough to be exposed to direct sun , rain and weather changes for long life use (i will use coatings to protect it).

  • Merchant Garnett

    I am an importer of plywood that is used in the cabinet manufacturing industry. We only bring in the highest of quality material. I have a large volume of material that was originally sold to a customer of mine, but they are not going through the material as fast as they/we would like. This has created a bottleneck situation at the port/warehouse. Anyone know who may use the following material?

    WHITE
    BIRCH C2 CARB CERT UV2S 18MM 48.5” X 72.5”

    WHITE
    BIRCH C2 CARB CERT UV2S 18MM 48.5” X 96.5”

    WHITE
    BIRCH C2 PLAT CARB CERT UV1S 5.2MM 4’ X 8’

    WHITE
    MAPLE B/B CARB P2 18MM 48.5” X 96.5”

    WHITE
    MAPLE/UV WHITE BIRCH B CARB P2 CERT 18MM 48.5” X 72.5”

    WHITE
    MAPLE/UV WHITE BIRCH B CARB P2 CERT 18MM 48.5” X 96.5”

  • selliott

    would you recommend using baltic birch plywood for outdoor furniture construction?

    • Sure thing. Still need to seal and finish it to get some longevity of your furniture. While the adhesive in the plys is water resistant, it won’t last forever without some protection.

  • Thy Nguyen

    hi, please give me your thickness 12mm birch plywood’ price CIF to HCM port, Viet Nam
    grade bb/bb, bb/cc. cc/cc
    email: info.phuangia@gmail.com

    Thanks.

  • 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.

    • 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.

        • 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.

            • 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

            • Bloughmee

              PMFJI – I honestly don’t think you’ll ever get that stain completely out. Your real options are 0) Live with it. Maybe tint some clear finish and hide it a little, but basically chaulk it up to family 1) Replace it (wasteful IMO and a lot of work but will get rid of the stain). 2) Paint it (but use a high quality stain-killing primer or the dark stains will wind up right back through your paint- and I don’t care what kind of paint you use – even epoxy paints will bleed mildew stains 3) Laminate over it. The last option might be a good one – use either HPL (Formica or similar) or veneer real birch veneer over the stained area — re-finish and you’re back in business. If done carefully a wood veneer could be done almost invisibly. Ultimately these screw-ups make for good family memories and are sometimes best left as reminders 😉

  • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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?

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