There are a lot of ways that you could use a piece of plywood. Most of the time, you’ll just find them being used to mass-produce furniture or construction components. However, due to their strength and versatility, plywood is becoming more and more popular as a building material for DIY enthusiasts. That said, plywood is not the be-all end-all wonderwood, and as DIY woodworkers, we lack much of the precision machinery often used in factories where plywood is cut and processed in bulk. In this blog post, I will show you a couple of tips about how to best work with plywood and avoid some of the common problems one might face.
First order of the day is to learn how to optimize your build, this ranges from knowing the panel you’re working with inside out and how to get the most out of them. This is crucial as it reduces wastage, especially when you’re working with an expensive plywood panel. My recommendation would be to use cutting optimization softwares to plan your build properly. Programs such as Opticut, Maxcut and Cut Rite all allow you to optimize all your cuts and get the most out of every board.
Unlike particleboards or MDF, plywood retains the wood distinctive grain after manufacture. A factor that you need to take into consideration, since cutting against grain direction will cause plywood boards to tear out. There are a variety of ways to remedy this, one would be to plan out your cuts using the aforementioned softwares. When cutting, you should always have the less desired side of the board face upward. This ensures that the edge splinters you often get never show up on the better looking side. Should you need both faces of the panel to look spot less, masking tape is a useful tool to keep the board nice and clean.
No piece of plywood would be perfect without a nice surface. One should do their best to avoid some of the common pitfalls when sanding, which range from scratch marks, to sanding through layers and creating tears. Avoiding this will rely heavily on your ability or the tools at your disposal. Sanding by hands is doable, but if you’re someone with little woodworking experience like me, chances are the finished product won’t look very nice. If you’re set on using tools, then there are currently a lot of options. Basic sanders like random orbit sanders do a fine job while also having the ability to suck up wood particles. Though useful, they are rather pricey. Fret not, though, as a cheaper (and more primitive) option does exist. Sanding stick is simply a piece of wood with sanding paper stuck on it. While simple, they are immensely useful, able to get into nooks and cranny that you can’t normally reach with your hands or machine sanders.
Getting into woodworking as a newbie can be overwhelming, I hope this article was informative enough that you can use it as a starting point. Woodworking with plywood can be easy, but only if you have enough knowledge to work it well. Remember to always plan out your build, sand and cut carefully to avoid any tears or splits and you will be just fine.