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Plywood rant

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I hate what has become to “common” plywood, and I’m on a serious rant. There, you’ve been warned.

We’ve discussed here a number of times the decline in quality of many, many things, including plywood. In my continuing cabinet project, I’ve been working with plywood a lot lately, and I can’t begin to tell you just how awful it is.

There’s better plywood to be had – for a price – but for the shop cabinets I’m building I’m using standard, common off-the-rack stuff from the local Big Box store. The stuff with Made In China proudly labeled on each piece. To begin with, finding a sheet that’s relatively flat and not twisted like a tortilla isn’t easy. Then there are the edge (and, presumably, internal) voids that are everywhere. There are even surface voids with a bit of filler that’s been smeared across them that require sanding.

But the main thing is just how incredibly thin the veneer is. It’s a marvel they’ve even figured out a way to even handle veneer that thin, much less work with it – it must be like trying to veneer with Saran Wrap. And it might as well be Saran Wrap, because it’s almost as transparent. I can literally see the grain of the substrates underneath the veneer. I went to sand off a very light pencil mark on one sheet, and started to sand completely through the veneer before getting the pencil off.

And then there are the splinters. Plywood has always been a source of splinters, but this new stuff gives me dozens of them. Big splinters, little splinters, medium splinters, you name it. And they don’t just come from the edges, either, but all over the surface. Ugh.

Now, don’t start blaming the Chinese manufacturers for any of this, because it’s simply not their fault. They make things to a company’s specs, whether it’s crummy plywood or a crummy table saw, so they’re just delivering what the company ordered. Blame has to be placed where it’s due: the U.S. company who gave them the specs. Lots of U.S. companies are holding their foreign manufacturers to very high standards and specs; others, not so much. The fault is theirs.

OK, I feel a little better now. Rant off.

Till next time,


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