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Plywood desk - what about the edges?

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fobos8

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Hi guys

I need to make a work desk for the missus. I already have an old frame so it's just the top I need. She's quite happy to see the edge laminations.

If I use 18mm Malayan are the laminations likely to stay intact or should I be looking at marine grade? Thinking to finish with OSMO or maybe varnish if that would protect the edges better.

Cheers, Andrew
 

Gordon Tarling

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I've found that plywood edges, even rounded over, tend to be a bit 'rough' however they are finished. You could fill all the edges with something like car body filler, smooth it all down and then paint it. However, if you're wanting the natural wood look, I think I'd use a thin strip of edge banding in a nice contrasting wood and glue/pin it on.
 

owen

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If you want exposed edges on plywood you would be best off with a good quality birch ply
 

robgul

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If you want exposed edges on plywood you would be best off with a good quality birch ply
Agreed - this table was made with 18mm birch ply - complete sheet for the visible surface (obviously) - and then a frame underneath about 20cm wide butted to the edge to give the visual of thickness. Edges left visible with just a light sand (one or two very small voids in the laminations filled with natural wood filler) - whole table finished with an OSMO oil.

table4.jpg
 

Cabinetman

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It is possible to get a reasonable finish even on far Eastern plywood edges, it can be planed and any voids filled and just finished with water-based polyurethane varnish which I would also recommend for the top, rubdown on the edges quite hard the first two coats on the edges, and just de nib between coats on the top, three coats overall should do it. I think if I was doing it rather than just rounding it I would slope the edge back up towards the top this would make it much nicer to work on and the edge of plywood can look quite nice. Ian
 

fobos8

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Agreed - this table was made with 18mm birch ply - complete sheet for the visible surface (obviously) - and then a frame underneath about 20cm wide butted to the edge to give the visual of thickness. Edges left visible with just a light sand (one or two very small voids in the laminations filled with natural wood filler) - whole table finished with an OSMO oil.

View attachment 110418
Look really good, I just wonder if a film finish like a varnish might help keep the laminations together over time?
 

Cabinetman

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Look really good, I just wonder if a film finish like a varnish might help keep the laminations together over time?
The plywood will only delaminate if it gets fairly wet over a period of time, you don’t need to worry about that if it’s indoors at all. Ian
 

TheTiddles

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Varnish on birch ply edges works well, remember to round the transition to/from the edge
 

thetyreman

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good quality poplar plywood can look just as good and is cheaper than birch ply, but I'd avoid the cheap chinease ply, lathamstimber have B/BB grade, it won't be cheap but it'll look good.
 

fobos8

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Thanks guys - my local supplier doesn't have any birch ply, but has marine. Would that work as well?
 

TRITON

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You can get router cutters that create a slot, and a matching cutter to shape a wooden lipping. Pioc - Left cutter prepares the ply or mdf edge, the right is for the lipping stock. You can also biscuit lipping directly to the ply edge, then carefully plane it flush.
cm95551011.jpg
 

sometimewoodworker

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Thanks guys - my local supplier doesn't have any birch ply, but has marine. Would that work as well?
There are almost an infinite number of different kinds of plywood, from cheap to eye watering expensive. In general if buying from a reputable supplier price is an excellent guide. cheap is almost always bad, expensive is always better. But do you actually want a teak plywood that has been made with all veneers also of teak and the top veneers that are actually millimetres thick rather than microns thin. If you want it it’s available (I actually have some) but you will be paying very much more than anything else, I paid about 6 times more than an equal sized good quality board and about 10 times more than a cheap one, and I live in the country where it is produced.

Good quality plywood will not delaminate, the glue is normally a heat activated one. Cheap plywood will delaminate because they had to cut corners to make it cheap, these will include, less glue, less pressure in the curing press, less time in the press, less heat in the press etc.

to answer your question first is the “marine” plywood expensive? If yes has he got any that has been cut, I ask because if there are voids or overlaps you will almost never see them in a full sheet.
if the answer to both is yes it’s probably an OK choice.
if the answer to the first is yes but no to the second then ask about voids and overlaps, if he’s a reputable dealer he will tell you and replace a sheet if it’s not the quality he claims and not good enough for you.

FWIW I would add a second strip, probably between 60mm to 100mm wide round the edges as IMO it looks better like this
970DADC1-3F5A-4620-8F64-A1D4D854DF52.jpeg
 
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Cabinetman

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There are almost an infinite number of different kinds of plywood, from cheap to eye watering expensive. In general if buying from a reputable supplier price is an excellent guide. cheap is almost always bad, expensive is always better. But do you actually want a teak plywood that has been made with all veneers also of teak and the top veneers that are actually millimetres thick rather than microns thin. If you want it it’s available (I actually have some) but you will be paying very much more than anything else, I paid about 6 times more than an equal sized good quality board and about 10 times more than a cheap one, and I live in the country where it is produced.

Good quality plywood will not delaminate, the glue is normally a heat activated one. Cheap plywood will delaminate because they had to cut corners to make it cheap, these will include, less glue, less pressure in the curing press, less time in the press, less heat in the press etc.

to answer your question first is the “marine” plywood expensive? If yes has he got any that has been cut, I ask because if there are voids or overlaps you will almost never see them in a full sheet.
if the answer to both is yes it’s probably an OK choice.
if the answer to the first is yes but no to the second then ask about voids and overlaps, if he’s a reputable dealer he will tell you and replace a sheet if it’s not the quality he claims and not good enough for you.

FWIW I would add a second strip, probably about 100mm wide round the edges as IMO it looks better
A lot of what you say is good common sense Jerome, just say I’ve never ever bought anything more expensive than cheap Chinese and I’ve never had any delaminate. In fact I’ve never ever have had any sort of a problem with it except when I used it for a trailer base but that was my silly fault. lol.
I’ve just worked out what you meant about the hundred mil, I E double up the thickness on the outside edges. Yes.
To the OP, marine plywood is expensive and for a desktop unnecessary in my opinion, purely depends what sort of finish you want and how much you’re prepared to pay. Ian
 

sometimewoodworker

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A lot of what you say is good common sense Jerome, just say I’ve never ever bought anything more expensive than cheap Chinese and I’ve never had any delaminate. In fact I’ve never ever have had any sort of a problem with it except when I used it for a trailer base but that was my silly fault. lol.
I’ve just worked out what you meant about the hundred mil, I E double up the thickness on the outside edges. Yes.
I’ve probably answered your question with the picture above, but yes.
With the cheap Chinese ply my guess is that you didn’t get really cheap ply, here you can pay about £10 for a full sheet of 20mm ply and the temperature can get to well over 45C in the unconditioned indoor spaces so deamination isn’t difficult
 

sometimewoodworker

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Crikey, Well with conditions like that that would explain it!
It certainly explains why I almost never wear anything but fipflops, shorts and a head sweatband in the workshop and have 3 x 215cm ceiling fans on most of the time.

It’s really enjoyable when we get the cold season and we get daytime temperatures as low as 20C possible for as long as 3 weeks.
 

recipio

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All the far eastern plywoods have a cheap veneer on them, usually Luan. They are badly made with voids and uneven ply layers. One problem with the surface veneer is that you will sand through it in the blink of an eye.They are only suitable for shelves in the garage IMO.
Birch ply is a far superior product and has a thicker outer veneer so with care, an orbital sander can be used to finish to 240 grit. Finish with acrylic varnish to avoid that 'honey - yellow' look from solvent products. I appreciate you might not like a 'blonde' finish and then you are into something like marine ply . You can just glue on a hardwood edge but personally I would expose the beauty of the ply layers.
 

sometimewoodworker

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All the far eastern plywoods have a cheap veneer on them, usually Luan. They are badly made with voids and uneven ply layers.
That is a hugely inaccurate generalised statement. It applies to cheap plywood so pay more, get better quality.

Maybe the plywood you buy is like that but that just means that you need to find a better supplier and start paying more for plywood
4EA4D950-20BA-4D53-B817-6E2085E9D471.jpeg

Here is an example of Far Eastern plywood that proves my point.
 

recipio

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That is a hugely inaccurate generalised statement. It applies to cheap plywood so pay more, get better quality.

Maybe the plywood you buy is like that but that just means that you need to find a better supplier and start paying more for plywood View attachment 110495
Here is an example of Far Eastern plywood that proves my point.
Ha Ha,
well, I don't live in the Far East but have to rely on what I find locally. I can find only two types of ply, the pink Luan veneered type and Baltic Birch ply. The Luan ply from the High St retailers is absolute rubbish being warped and full of voids. I would rather use OSB board to be honest. If there is good ply made in the ' Pacific Rim' I'm afraid I can't find it.
 

sometimewoodworker

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Ha Ha,
well, I don't live in the Far East but have to rely on what I find locally. I can find only two types of ply, the pink Luan veneered type and Baltic Birch ply. The Luan ply from the High St retailers is absolute rubbish being warped and full of voids. I would rather use OSB board to be honest. If there is good ply made in the ' Pacific Rim' I'm afraid I can't find it.
The problem is that you are not looking in the correct places and seem assume that High St retailers are a place to buy good plywood, they are the stores pushing the wholesale price so far down that you get the rubbish quality almost certainly from China

To get reasonable to high qualities of plywood you need to go to a wood yard. Or make friends with a company that is buying for their own use and see if they will sell you a sheet or 2 of their stock.
@petermillard shows what a good wood yard looks like in his tour.

I do live in the Far East but the local places have the same stuff you are buying though it’s usually a little bit better. I have to go to a good wood yard to get quality and have a 550km one way drive to get the really high quality.

to understand more about the subject listen to Shannon Rogers though talking about the USA supply chain most of his information applies equally to the U.K.



 
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