Birch ply alternative?

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Rich C

Established Member
Joined
22 Aug 2019
Messages
458
Reaction score
87
Location
Manchester
I'm planning to make a painted bookcase, I was planning to use bb/bb birch ply but with the way prices are now in considering alternatives.

Any thoughts on a wood or material that is at least as stiff and takes paint well? Maybe some other grade of ply or a cheap hardwood? Beech and poplar seem pretty reasonable.
 

thetyreman

Established Member
Joined
4 Mar 2016
Messages
3,721
Reaction score
812
Location
North West
poplar ply, like birch there are different grades, it can look as good as B/BB birch ply if you get the right type.
 

DBC

Established Member
Joined
6 Mar 2015
Messages
183
Reaction score
279
Location
Essex
If it is for paint quality what about just regular hardwood ply and lip the edges. It paints really well and its only about £40 a sheet.
 

jonn

Established Member
Joined
22 May 2015
Messages
87
Reaction score
80
Location
Norway
I'm planning to make a painted bookcase, I was planning to use bb/bb birch ply but with the way prices are now in considering alternatives.

Any thoughts on a wood or material that is at least as stiff and takes paint well? Maybe some other grade of ply or a cheap hardwood? Beech and poplar seem pretty reasonable.
Why not use MDF if you're painting the shelf anyway? Don't know the price difference between birch plywood (overkill for a bookshelf) and MDF in UK, but here in Norway it is such that other than for marine use or model airplanes, birch ply is not even considered.
Noticed that you can get marine ply from Alibaba @$25 per sheet with $65 freight. Only slight drawback is that you have to buy 500 sheets.
 

blackteaonesugar

Established Member
Joined
2 Oct 2020
Messages
94
Reaction score
404
Location
uk
What sort of span are the shelves?
Mdf with hardwood lippings around 50mm.
Stiffens it up good.
 
Last edited:

gog64

Established Member
Joined
19 May 2018
Messages
281
Reaction score
174
Location
herefordshire
I bought a job lot of poplar ply a few years ago from a coffin maker with excess stock. Very nice stuff, very flat, no voids and has stayed reasonably flat in use (just as good as birch.IMO). It was from a Spanish manufacturer if I remember correctly. I liked it so much that I priced up more of the same from my local merchant. Not cheap! I doubt if it’s any cheaper than birch ply? I googled and apparently it’s in demand for camper vans and the like where light weight is prized. There were only a couple of negatives. The surface is soft and marks easily and it’s very absorbent, so your finishing needs to take this into account.

IME “regular” hardwood ply is very variable, some sheets are ok, others you can get voids and areas of delaminating. Having said that I’ve made a fair few things from cheap Chinese hardwood ply that have turned out okay. I made a skittle alley that’s held up just fine over several years use and that’s had a hard life!
 

Rich C

Established Member
Joined
22 Aug 2019
Messages
458
Reaction score
87
Location
Manchester
Shelf span is about 800mm, aiming for 200mm depth. There are current shelves in mfc that I'm replacing as they have sagged badly hence wanting to use ply or timber.
 

eribaMotters

Established Member
Joined
12 Feb 2010
Messages
584
Reaction score
251
Location
Formby, Merseyside
Well I've learnt something again. Later this year I've got to start fitting out our new bungalow with the built in furniture. As in the past I and was going to use painted poplar frameworks along with painted MR MDF and varnished birch ply. Looks like I'll have to think again as the poplar ply would appear to be cheaper, lighter [so easier to manhandle] and take a good paint finish.

Colin
 

Oakay

Established Member
Joined
11 Oct 2021
Messages
106
Reaction score
58
Location
Aylesbury
Well I've learnt something again. Later this year I've got to start fitting out our new bungalow with the built in furniture. As in the past I and was going to use painted poplar frameworks along with painted MR MDF and varnished birch ply. Looks like I'll have to think again as the poplar ply would appear to be cheaper, lighter [so easier to manhandle] and take a good paint finish.

Colin
Or make them from solid poplar. For load bearing, you can't beat long grain throughout. There is or at least used to be a type of plywood called drawer-side plywood, made from gaboon, a bit like sapele, but it was expensive. Ideal for drawers as all plys laid in the same direction. The same made with poplar would be a great addition to our industry but I am not aware that it is a standard product. But generally bookcases need thicker sheet than drawers anyway.
 

Oakay

Established Member
Joined
11 Oct 2021
Messages
106
Reaction score
58
Location
Aylesbury
I bought a job lot of poplar ply a few years ago from a coffin maker with excess stock. Very nice stuff, very flat, no voids and has stayed reasonably flat in use (just as good as birch.IMO). It was from a Spanish manufacturer if I remember correctly. I liked it so much that I priced up more of the same from my local merchant. Not cheap! I doubt if it’s any cheaper than birch ply? I googled and apparently it’s in demand for camper vans and the like where light weight is prized. There were only a couple of negatives. The surface is soft and marks easily and it’s very absorbent, so your finishing needs to take this into account.

IME “regular” hardwood ply is very variable, some sheets are ok, others you can get voids and areas of delaminating. Having said that I’ve made a fair few things from cheap Chinese hardwood ply that have turned out okay. I made a skittle alley that’s held up just fine over several years use and that’s had a hard life!
Cheap plywood from China, as is often found in DIY stores and builders merchants often looks good on the surface due to better quality veneers on the faces than in the cores, but beware, those outer faces can be tissue-paper thin and can be sanded through very easily by mistake.
 

eribaMotters

Established Member
Joined
12 Feb 2010
Messages
584
Reaction score
251
Location
Formby, Merseyside
Oakey, this is what I'll be doing again:-
7-1600.jpg
kitchen diner - 3-1600.jpg
bed 1e-1600.jpg
f-1600.jpg


Colin
 

blackteaonesugar

Established Member
Joined
2 Oct 2020
Messages
94
Reaction score
404
Location
uk
Shelf span is about 800mm, aiming for 200mm depth. There are current shelves in mfc that I'm replacing as they have sagged badly hence wanting to use ply or timber.

I'd have no issues there with using mdf, BUT, I would definitely add a wide lipping, say 50mm biscuit jointed onto the fronts. That would give you a strong shelf.
You can also then add lighting behind the shelf lips which is always nice.
 

BrandonB

Established Member
Joined
12 Feb 2021
Messages
36
Reaction score
11
Location
Bristol
I have an install coming up very similar to what is described above. It will be a bookcase with a shelf span of 1000mm on adjustable pegs (hafele pegs and inserts). Shelves will be 22mm MRMDF medite with a 35mm x 22mm lipping domio'd to the front. I think this should be fine and provide enough support. What do you think?


Worst case if I feel like it's not enough I will route a metal flat bar into the back of the shelf or I can always add a peg in the middle of the shelf into the back panel, which ideally I don't want to do.

It's all to be spray painted, I feel like using any plywood wouldn't match texture wise with the other components as it will all be majority MRMDF.
 

robgul

Barry Bucknell is my hero
Joined
13 Feb 2020
Messages
838
Reaction score
512
Location
Stratford-upon-Avon
I have an install coming up very similar to what is described above. It will be a bookcase with a shelf span of 1000mm on adjustable pegs (hafele pegs and inserts). Shelves will be 22mm MRMDF medite with a 35mm x 22mm lipping domio'd to the front. I think this should be fine and provide enough support. What do you think?


Worst case if I feel like it's not enough I will route a metal flat bar into the back of the shelf or I can always add a peg in the middle of the shelf into the back panel, which ideally I don't want to do.

It's all to be spray painted, I feel like using any plywood wouldn't match texture wise with the other components as it will all be majority MRMDF.
While you're lipping the front edge I'd lip the back edge of the shelves as well - quick and simple to give added stability
 

peter-harrison

Established Member
Joined
25 Jan 2018
Messages
275
Reaction score
105
Location
Cambridge
How does it compare in terms of strength?
It isn't as strong or a rigid- if I'm using it for shelves over a certain length I'll put a solid wood lipping to stiffen it up. It's more dent-able too. However, it's a lot lighter which is a big deal if the bit of furniture is going up some stairs! It is also reputed to be flatter than birch and I have mostly found that to be true.
 

eribaMotters

Established Member
Joined
12 Feb 2010
Messages
584
Reaction score
251
Location
Formby, Merseyside
I have an install coming up very similar to what is described above. It will be a bookcase with a shelf span of 1000mm on adjustable pegs (hafele pegs and inserts). Shelves will be 22mm MRMDF medite with a 35mm x 22mm lipping domio'd to the front. I think this should be fine and provide enough support. What do you think?
Brandon, I have to admit I gave up years ago using the inserts. I drill a 6.3mm hole and lightly csk the edge before painting or varnishing. I then tap in place where needed the Banjo type shelf supports. In both MR MDF and Birch plywood I've found this works well and the edge of the hole does not get damaged or worn if the support needs to be moved.
I came to this decision when I had to re-paint in a different colour a bookcase I'd made many years earlier and used the inserts.

Colin
 
Top