Working with Plywood

The notion that furniture made out of plywood is inferior or cheap is not correct. A lot of beautifully crafted furniture has been made from plywood particularly those cladded with wonderful, exotic veneers. Plywood furniture made properly can be extremely strong and very long lasting. Unlike wood, seasonal movement in plywood is negligible because it is made up of alternative layers of wood with the grain of each layer running at right angles to the previous one. This opposing grain pattern of the layers stabilises the material and prevents movement.

The other great advantage of plywood is that many projects do not require elaborate joinery and do not justify the effort required to mill and size wood. Plywood is utilitarian, easy to assemble and can take a fair amount of load. This is why wardrobes, closets, shelves and kitchen cabinets are usually made of plywood. Plywood is also a great choice for structural work like partitions, boxes and so on. Good quality plywood can be very strong and was used to build the famous Mosquito bomber during World War II.

My closet made of half inch sheets of plywood and roughly painted over
The problem is not with plywood per se but with the kind available in India. Plywood can be broadly divided into two types: structural and furniture grade. Most of the plywood made and sold in India is of the structural type with faced with very poor quality veneer. This kind of plywood is fine for partitions, insides of built in furniture, false ceilings and so on but far from ideal for furniture, which requires good quality veneer cover. In Europe and the United States, very good quality furniture grade plywood is available of various types depending on the quality of the veneer, its pattern and whether one or both sides are veneered. The best quality would have veneer on both sides and the grain pattern of the veneer would be even across the board. Various kinds of wood too can be used to veneer good quality plywood.

In India structural plywood is graded according to the quality of the adhesive used and the wood used. The cheapest quality is supposedly not termite resistant whereas some, more expensive ones are termite and wood borer resistant. One grade called marine ply is supposed to have good resistance against moisture and is meant for use in high humidity areas such as bathrooms and outdoors.

In India too some companies produce furniture grade plywood and the choice of veneer is usually artificial teak applied on one side of the plywood. The use of natural veneers on plywood is rare because of the high costs involved but it is necessary to find plywood veneered with fine layers of natural wood if one is to make high quality furniture. Artificial veneers are however more than adequate for most uses. A number of Indian companies make artificial veneers for cladding plywood. These veneers are available in a wide range of imitation wood and are about an eighth of an inch thick. These can easily be glued onto plywood and finished beautifully.

Advantages of Plywood:
Surface requires no preparation
Easily cut to size
Strong material, can take a lot of load
Relatively Cheap
Can be put together with screws and/or PVA glue

Disadvantages:
Can warp, sag and bow, impossible to correct
Poor surface needs to be veneered or covered in some fashion
Veneer tends to peel off after some years if not looked after
Cannot make regular joints like dovetails or mortise and tenons

Listed below are some of my observations on the use of plywood:

Cutting

While plywood cuts easily with a handsaw or power saw, the veneer can splinter along the cut and spoil the piece. If it is good quality veneer, then this splintering would be irreparable and the piece would have to be discarded. There are many ways to prevent splintering; perhaps the most preferable way would be to use a good quality hand saw for the job. Splintering is not very pronounced when rip cutting, that is cutting along the grain, but can be severe while cross cutting. A good quality cross cutting saw would be one solution but sawing without chip out requires skill and a top notch saw.
Splintered edges (Source: curbly.com)
Power tool users (circular saw and table saw) users would be advised to use an appropriate blade with more teeth (80 or more would be preferable). Various companies make circular blades specially for cutting plywood and my experience with these has been good. An appropriate blade makes all the difference whereas the 30 to 40 teeth blade supplied with power saws usually make a mess when it comes to cross cutting plywood. These regular blades are meant to cut hard wood and not plywood, MDF and so on.

Some specialised plywood cutting table saws come with two blades in a row - a small one for making a shallow initial cut on the plywood and then an 80 to 100 teeth blade for completing the cut. This leaves a professional splinter free cut every time.

Another  way to emulate this two-blade system on a table saw would be to first make a low scoring cut and then, keeping the fence as it is, raise the blade and make the full cut. This also virtually eliminates chip out; the key however is an appropriate blade.

Also, when cutting with a table saw, it is better to have the veneer or good side above the table and use a zero insert fence to avoid splintering. Taping the cut line with masking tape also helps.

Severe chip-out in plywood caused by a regular circular saw blade
Moderate chip-out in this piece of plywood; a better blade was used in this case
A clean cut and that too across the grain; this kind of cut is possible only with an appropriate blade meant for cutting plywood and particle board
End of a plywood board cut cleanly with an appropriate blade on the table saw; good cuts are critical for putting together projects accurately


Joining

Plywood pieces are best joined with coarse thread screws; plain butt joints with glue will not hold at all. If glue is to be used, then the veneer should be removed - by routing a dado for instance. Avoid using cross dowels and other fasteners meant for knock down particle board and plywood furniture; over time these come loose and have to be re-tightened.

Generally use one to one and a half inch screws for most jobs and drill a pilot hole. Rubbing the screw against wax prior to insertion helps prevent the wood from splitting. Some people advocate the use of drywall screws that have the thread running right up to the head for use in plywood for a better grip. I use these types of screws - they are easily available in stainless steel. However, be warned that drywall screws are weaker than regular wood screws. A new kind of fastener called "Confirmat screws" is being used in the US for plywood and particle board applications. I have never used this and cannot comment on it.
Regular wood screw. Thread begins at the end of the shank.


Drywall screw: Thinner than wood screw and thread begins at top. One advantage is the consistent shaft size, unlike a regular wood screw where the shank is tapered.
Confirmat Screws: Used in production shops. These require special drill bits and additional equipment to set properly.
Biscuit jointing is another option and is used a lot in the furniture industry but this requires an expensive biscuit jointer and some training.

Wooden dowels too could be used for joints that will not be subject to much load.

Joints that will take a lot of load, especially lateral load or pressure, could be reinforced with a brace or bracket.

Another problem arises when joining plywood where the external side cannot be drilled or have screw heads showing. In such cases, the screws should be inserted from inside. Pocket screws are used to attach right angle pieces from the interior.

Cladding

Structural plywood needs to be covered with some form of veneer (artificial or natural) or a good coat of paint to hide the screw holes, unseemly surface and the edges. Veneers come in many types and forms; the best are natural wood veneers as they can be finished beautifully and often produce great works when used judiciously or as marquetry. The worst is Formica used to make really tacky furniture.

Edges are covered either with iron on edge bands or with strips of natural wood. This can be quite a pain and take a lot of time sizing, gluing and trimming. Commercially available banding is easier to use and can be glued on using a normal electric iron. However, every veneer would require a matching banding or else the project will look artificial and weird. There is a good article on this topic in the DIY Network website (url: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-build-with-plywood-using-edge-banding-and-dowel-joinery/index.html)


A plywood box without any cladding makes an unseemly sight. Note the screw holes and the splintered back panel.
The same box clad with veneer
Same box stained and finished with shellac


Because of the difficulty in joining plywood in the traditional way, often some portions of a plywood project are made with natural wood. Kitchen cabinets for instance use plywood to make the cases and natural wood to make the shutters. Making shutters out of plywood is difficult because the typical mortise and tenon joint cannot be used and neither can the frame and panel method. Drawer fronts in plywood projects also tend to be made of solid wood for looks and to cover the edges.


Finishing

There are two ways to finish plywood: polishing or painting. Obviously only good quality veneered plywood or those clad with veneer can be polished. But this is the best method of finishing as it will produce pieces that can vie with the best of solid wood furniture.

Painting requires more effort especially if structural plywood is used. The surface of readily available plywood in India tends to be rough and grainy and will not produce a smooth surface through paint alone (unless of course many coats of paint are applied). The surface has to be prepared by first filling screws holes, dents etc. with some kind of wood filler (Asian Paints produces a grey coloured variety that hardens well); then a coat of primer has to be applied. After this some kind of a sealer or surface coat has to be applied to cover the grain. The easiest is to make a mixture of chalk powder, water and a little white paint or primer and thinly coat the wood - the process is similar to wall putty applied by painters to smooth cement walls. Some varieties of paste wood fillers are also available but I am not familiar with these products. Once the chalk layer has dried it should be sanded down with 220 grit sandpaper. Another coat of primer could be applied or the surface painted. About four coats of thinned paint would be necessary for a really good finish.

There are many other methods for surfacing plywood but they are complex and require sprays, drying chambers and so on and make sense only for large scale applications.

Indranil Banerjie
9 November 2012

Comments

  1. Very nice post indranil
    I have used the grey asian paint filler. I think this is a putty for metal. It is difficult to sand out after it dries. Chalk with emulsion paint sands to a very smooth finish. Would you put primer first or the putty first. Some carptenter told me to go with primer then putty. Could you confirm this?

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  2. Vinay: yes, you could be right about the Asian Paints filler. It dries very very hard but the trick is to use to fill deep dents and screw holes and smooth it with a piece of steel before it hardens. Unlike putty this filler does not crack or shrink with time.
    As for putty, you are right, the primer goes first as it is also a binder, then the putty layer.

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  3. Hi, I've just completed a shoe rack made out of packaging wood. My first full fledged project so I did not want to buy virgin wood or plywood. It worked out well and am thinking of painting it now, so was in fact considering the AP filler. An hardware owner I am familiar with suggested i use wax as that is traditionally what is used, but i dont if pain will stick on it.

    Furthermore, if i use a primer and then putty, should i then use another coat of primer after the putty. Of if i use the AP filler and then use a sheet sander to smoothen the surface and then apply a primer.

    Any advice.

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  4. Very informative and useful.I am really confused bt the number of brands available and how to check the quality before finalizing the brand.Can you give some tips for quality check or the name of trusted brands.Thanks

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  5. To Prince: There are so many brands of plywood available in the Indian market these days that it is difficult to choose one over the other. I also suspect there is some amount of false branding. The best way to choose plywood is to check the piece itself. First, check the edges to see if they are cut clean and the layers do not have gaps in them; worn edges are a sure sign of poor quality plywood. I also tend to check how much a plywood board sags and the quality of the veneer. Warped or bowed pieces should be shunned. You will have to inspect individual pieces carefully and eventually come to trust a particular plywood seller and brand. Best of luck!

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  6. To Moses: Avoid wax to fill anything before paint is applied. I would first try to fill the holes best I can - with automotive filler, sawdust-wood glue and so on - sand the filling flush; next apply a coat of putty layer as explained in the comments above, then apply two coats of primer and after that dries, three to four thinnish coats of paint (allow the paint to dry properly between coats). Hope that works for you. Do send us pictures of your shoe rack once its done.

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  7. Indranil, do you happen to know the best use for 'ply-board' as opposed to 'plywood'? i was looking for a stronger option for cabinet carcass and mattress support for bed. not sure if the ply-board is stronger than plywood. it does feel heavier than plywood but i doubt it will have better resistance to warping. any experience with ply-board?

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  8. To Criminal: I have used ply board for the top of my improvised workbench. I stuck two pieces of ply board and then covered it with sunmica. It is a flat, stable surface and incredibly strong. The great thing about ply board is that unlike plywood it does not sag or bow. It is basically long strips of wood sandwiched between two pieces of veneer. The pieces inside the board tend to have gaps in them and can be problematic at times but it is strong stuff. Nowadays I have seen ply board tagged as marine grade which are even stronger and straighter than regular ply board. Ply board would be good for table tops, sides and so on where it is essential that there is no sagging, bending and so on.But ply board would have to be laminated or veneered or else it will look like hell.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Indranil, thanks for answering my query and sharing your invaluable experience.

    I tried reading about ply-boards on other sites but didn't find reliable info. Then it occurred to me that you might have an answer.

    Keep up the good work!

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  10. This blog is Great..

    I have struggled to make a few small wood projects, but I mostly used Ply-Board or Block-Board as they say. It was a struggle to get the screw correct as there were many gaps.. I have done a Shoe Rack (door pivoted at the bottom), a chair for my daughter and an unfinished book shelf. I have covered the shoe rack with veneer. I want to do the same on my book shelf. I have made a glass door on the front.. Hope I can share some photos..

    I saw the Dremel Clamps and I was looking for this for sometime.. I want to buy one.. thanks..

    Your finish on the wood is just awesome, Indranil... Overall, I am just happy that I found you guys so that I can get some help..

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  11. Thanks Joe for making my day! I am glad you find the blog useful.
    One tip on getting the screws inserted correctly: clamp both the pieces securely so that they do not move at all while you are driving the screws in. I will post a blog this month on various clamping options.
    Also would love to see your photos - please upload them to rapidshare.com or filefactory.com and share the link.

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  12. Very nice article. I want to understand the various options of polishing plywood from price/performance or cost/benefit point of view. I understand that there are three options - hand polish, hand polish plus melamine coating and hand polish plus pu coating. None of the polishers I spoke to recommend hand polish. I am working with birch plywood.

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  13. Indian: Doing a cost-benefit analysis of various polishing options would depend entirely on the scope of work, quality of plywood and other factors. For the hobbyist woodworker hand polishing is often the only option; clearly for a factory or large scale production settings the economics would be entirely different.
    I am intrigued to hear you use Birch plywood! I would be very interested to learn where you source it from.
    If it is good quality Birch plywood, you should have no problem finishing it. Stain the surface, apply a coat of Shellac (by hand or spray) and then apply melamine or PU as you wish. Melamine, in my opinion, looks more articial than PU. Even PU unless rubbed down after 4/5 layers have been applied looks plasticky and shiny. A lot of factory made furniture in India looks very tacky because of thick PU or Melamine coating. But if that is what customers want, who am I to say anything!

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  14. Anonymous26 June, 2013

    Thanks for your help!
    I tried making a small side table using Greenply brand plywood. I bought their marine grade plywood, however I am having problems with water damage.
    The salesperson says that my AC is causing humidity and that leads to damage.
    Can you suggest some solution?

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  15. Anonymous: Surprised that your table is suffering water damage. It certainly cannot be the ac because that de-himidifes - unless you have the table where there is water dripping on it. A very strange problem indeed! Maybe the plywood itself was not indeed Marine grade.

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  16. Marine ply are made for construction purpose they are supposed to provide flat surface while you pour concreat during roof building .. These are for single use only ....do not confuse between water proof ply and marine ply a true marine ply is rough and the face would not be as smooth as a waterproof or commercial plywood ... Just wanted to add my comment .. Diptesh

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  17. Very informative...
    I have done ply paneling in my office and i would like to paint it rather using laminate or veneer. Plus i need a Matt finish for it with no grains of the ply visible. Is it possible with "Primer-Putty-Paint method"...??

    Another thing is..I have used MDF WAVE BOARD paneling on one wall..I need glossy finish for that..Can the "Oil Primer-Oil Paint" method go for that..??

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  18. Hi, can you please guide me with brands for playwood purchase. I'm looking for something durable and termite proof in the range of Rs. 70-80 per sq ft.

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  19. Anonymous: Difficult to talk about specific brands because much depands on the part of the country you live in. I usually buy century ply which is excellent stuff - costs me about Rs 90 a square feet for 19 mm ply.

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  20. Hi Indranil,

    Trying to work on a floor book rack (picking up a hobby)..planning to use MDF board for it (chestnut colour)....I don't even have a drill machine..planning to get one tomorrow...which one would you suggest? Bosch or Skil? waking up at night and thinking where to start from...:)...your blog will surely of great help...Can I post here if I get stuck?...thanks a lot,
    Dipanjan

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  21. Dipanjan: For a drill machine Bosch or Skil are both fine. Skil would be comewhat cheaper. Please feel free to ask any questions that tou might have; even if I can't answer all of them, perhaps our experts will. best of luck

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  22. Congratulations guys, quality information you have given!!!

    Plywood Manufacturer in India

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  23. Awesome information.

    Just want to ask you one thing; I am making a bed, modular kitchen and wardrobe from a local carpenter.

    He would be pasting sunmica on top of the plywood. Do you think this would be of good quality?

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  24. Pratik Shah: Pasting sunmica on plywood is a standard and time honoured technique for cabinet work. Only thing make sure he uses good quality, gap free plywood. Quality matters as poor quality stuff will sag, deteriorate faster than good quality stuff that can last years and years. Several companies make good quality plywood and among them are Greenply and Century. Best wishes

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  25. Hey...

    Why do you say so:

    "Avoid using cross dowels and other fasteners meant for knock down particle board and plywood furniture; over time these come loose and have to be re-tightened."

    I am planning to use MiniFix to make knock-down furniture. Is it a bad idea?

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  26. Also, do we get furniture grade plywood in India where it has some good quality wood grin on face?

    ReplyDelete
  27. SA Kumar: I personally have not had good experience with those kinds of fasteners but am not an expert. I prefer plain old pocket screws and glue which hold up well. As for good quality plywood, ask your local dealer for one side teak (OST).

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi,

    What is the best way to glue OST on plywood sheets? My carpenter uses fevicol to glue it and then nail it to keep it intact. Once it dries, he removes the nails. This leaves holes which needs to be filled by wood putty. Is there any other way to glue OST on plywood?

    Regards

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  29. SAKumar: OST refers to plywood or board that comes pre-veneered. I suppose you are referrring to teak veneer which is pretty thin. There are several ways to glue on veneer, the most efective being through a vacuum press. This might be beyond the scope of a home workshop. One alternative would be to use cauls; after aplying the fevicol and flattening the veneer with a rubber roller, cover the surface with butter paper or any other non-stick sheet, then lay another sheet of plywood over it and then press down with cauls.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi,
    My carpenter is using butter ply. Is the quality same as century ply?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most probably you are being taken for a ride.

      Delete
    2. Awesome stuff... thanks a ton..
      Any suggested way of achieving matte finish on plyboard with pu or melamine

      Delete
    3. Don't know about Melamine but you could get what is called a satin finish with PU. Your final look would also depend on surface treatment.

      Delete
  31. Thanks sir.. i will try to get pic of the finish i saw.. we can discuss..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Send the photos to indian.woodworker@gmail.com

      Delete
  32. hi, I m from kolkata, want to buy biscuits joiner. I m hobbyist not a professional.

    Can you tell from where I can buy and the price of it?

    Thanks & Regards,
    Nisith

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    Replies
    1. Nisith: Biscuit joiners are not used very much in India and I haven't come across one in any of the online or regular stores. Perhaps your best bet would be amazon.com.
      Good luck.

      Delete
  33. Hi wanna know if we can paint on sunmica as well .... I have a cupboard with orange colour sunmica on it .... want to change the look ... is there any polish available to change its color a little

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    Replies
    1. You could paint it but as far as I know it won't be a permanent job and will peel off after some time. Perhaps there are some specialist paints that will adhere permanently to sunmica.

      Delete
    2. Can u suggest some brands that will adhere permanently on sunmica? Which are available in india.. and techniques will be normal? I want to repaint my shoe rack into white and grey colour scheme.. changing mica is costing more.. so what would you suggest?

      Delete
    3. Neha, still can't say but try sanding the sunmica with 120 grit and then 180 grit sandpaper. Then apply one coat of wood primer and then your choice of paint. Let me know if it works. This is just a suggestion but worth trying.

      Delete
    4. Hi,
      I am facing a similar problem with my furniture. Have got a wrong shade of white on my TV cabinet. Planning to paint it. But it has glossy sunmica. Can you suggest a primer & paint I should use to get good result ? Kindly reply if anyone has tried painting on sunmica. Thanks.

      Delete
  34. Hi Indranil, first - thanks for a very informative blog. I have dabbled in a few small diy projects in the past but never had the courage to take a saw to wood till I read your blog. I was wondering if you could give me advice on how to get paint to adhere to laminated surfaces. I have kitchen cabinets that are covered with some really ugly formica. Changing them altogether is not an option right now. While there are specialist paint products available outside india, are there any paints available locally that can do the trick. Would really appreciate your help on this. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rads: Cannot give you a definite answer as I haven't tried painting laminate. But as an experiment you could try this: sand the surface with a low grit paper the best you can, then use one of the aeresol paints made by Rustoleum and a number of Japanese and local companies. I have found that these spray paints adhere better on most surfaces. Hopefully they will adhere to la,inates. Let us know how it worked out, if at all.

      Delete
    2. Hello Rads,
      Did painting on sunmica worked for you?
      I messed up my wardrobe using bad colored sunmica. .. so I am thinking if I can get it painted... waiting for your response!

      Delete
    3. Hi, this is just to outline my experience with painting on laminate.(Mine had a matt finish to begin with)
      I first cleaned the laminate with denatured alcohol, sanded it and wiped it down with a damp cloth. After leaving it to dry for an hour (God bless the hot Delhi weather) I tried spray painting one cabinet door in white with an aerosol can that I found online for under Rs.300. Rustoleum was working out to be too expensive for a double coat. While the paint did adhere to the laminate, the result was patchy, full of air bubbles and prone to a lot of scratches. So after cleaning and sanding another cabinet door I tried a semi gloss enamel manufactured by an Indian company with a normal paint brush. Surprisingly this yielded better results but was still susceptible to a lot of scratches which was a strict no no for me in the kitchen. I didn't want to be eating paint with my food.
      After hunting high and low for a primer made specifically for laminates...I threw down my weapons err..paint brushes. That's when a local carpenter came to the rescue and suggested that I stick veneer onto the laminate and use that as a base for painting. So that's exactly what I did. It seems that while we have adhesives that will bond to pretty much anything, finding a primer (like Zinsser) in India for painting laminates is impossible. Or may be I didn't search right. Anyway this is just my experience. Hope you have better luck.

      Delete
    4. Useful information and a jolly good idea from a carpenter. Generally laminates are not meant or suitable for painting over. Perhaps there are specialised products available in the West for this but of those I have no knowledge. What adhesive did you use to stick veneer over laminate?

      Delete
  35. Indranil, thanks for the article. Can you tell me a bit more on the chaulk power for sealer? Is it the same name referenced by the shops? (when I asked a few shops they were referring to POP or wall putty powder)

    Also if time permits, could you please tell us your procedure for polishing veneer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sajith: POP and wall putty are twop entirely different things. Clearly you are talking to the wrong kind of painters. Ask for Chalk mitti (if you are in north India); I don't know what that is called in the south. Otherwise you could try the acrylic wall putty made by Dulux. I tried it on plywood and it worked beautifully.
      Regards polishing veneer, it is the same as polishing regular wood. See my Shellac posts in the finishing section.

      Delete
  36. Hi, awesome blog.
    Can you please make a post for buying timber in India? Like what is available and how to select and what to pay etc. Working with plywood is a headache. Also what is countersinking bit called here? I asked a few hardware store and they don't know what it is. Is there any other way one can countersink on plywood?
    Thanks
    Ashwin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have some posts on wood, check out the materials section. That would give you some idea; prices, availability and quality vary enormously in different parts of the country which makes it difficult to give a comprehensive view of the subject.
      As for a counter sink bit, there is no local name as far as I know. Your best bet is to take a photograph and show it to your hardware shopkeepers.
      Use the edge of a chisel to twist out a bit of material around a pilot hole. Should work in plywood.

      Delete
  37. Some projects to share on the same subject http://carpentrydiy.blogspot.in/

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    Replies
    1. Athif, pretty good stuff! Congratulations and keep us posted.

      Delete
  38. Contractor got factory made panels (machine pressed) with amazing finish. The assembly was done ONLY using drywall screws for kitchen cabinet, wardrobes etc. No glue was used and all assembly finished within 3 days. Is my furniture assembly week?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not necessarily. If he has done his job well your kitchen and wardrobes should last for years.

      Delete
  39. This is easily the best article I have read so far on use of plywood and furniture trends in india

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  40. Can we see some you tube videos of Indians here in our cities explaining simple DIY on basics of carpentry and polishing oflywood? These would be extremely useful for the novice.

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  41. Hi indrani.. i want to know if i can stick photos on ply finished with sunmica on top?what material should i use otherwise if i want to make a photo collage with fevicol and mod podge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Neha, yes you can do mod podge on sunmica; you don't need fevicol if you have mod podge. By the way, the name is Indranil ;) with an "l" at the end. Best wishes.

      Delete
  42. So much of information in one place , We wanted to educate our customers and this will definitely do the help . Thanks nice post .

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  43. Hi Indranil, I have pasted laminate on 1/2 inch plywood, both sides......i thought it will save hassle of laminating the finished piece later.....but now am thinking if the regular fevicol SH glue the laminated boards......any advice.
    Best wishes for new year

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    Replies
    1. Kaps, I didn't follow your question. Please elaborate.

      Delete
  44. Hi Indranil i would really appreciate if you could help me ..see i recently fixed my wardrobes . the carpenter removed the old plywood and replaced them with OST sheets ... the problem now is i don't want to paste sunmica in it because ost sheets has natural grains and someone told me that if i varnish i will get the same finish as to how a sunmica looks ...plus the carpenter says it is a very big process to varnish ost sheets and it would take not less than 2 days t complete couple of wardrobes and it will cost me around 6-8k for varnishing .. could you suggest me how do i do it myself and what are all the materials required for a decent finish ,... Regards koushik

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    Replies
    1. OST or one side teak finishes very well. No easy fix to finishing, my friend. Read my articles on finishing. Easiest finish probably would be a light stain followed by some sort of polyurethane coating. best of luck.

      Delete
  45. Hi Indranil
    I am quite averse to Sunmica as a tasteful or graceful finishing concept. However, of late, I have seen builder supplied wardrobes in high end condominiums in Gurgaon. Outside has a very nice watery sheen, the inside stays the normal Sunmica Matt.

    Matt Sunmica is standard, nothing much to bother about. The outside sheen, in this case on slightly off white background, is what I want to get. My question is your recommendation of what lacquer or coating, how to prepare the coating mix and surface, and how to apply.
    If I could attach I would send you the picture of the surface sheen, so pleasantly watery. Your email id?
    Regards. Deepak

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deepak, difficult to say what kind of finish would be good on sunmica as I have no experience in this. The problem is of consistency and endurability. How long will a finish on sunmica last? I have no clue. But do send photos to indian.woodworker@gmail.com

      Delete
  46. Sorry missed out the last part of my question.
    Any do it yourself aerosol spray on Sunmica for the watery gloss?
    Thanx. Deepak

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi indranil,
    I am going to built a plywood cabinet for keeping my tools. As usual this is my first project and I messed up in cutting. I need filler material and material to cover screw holes. From above comments I get some idea of wood filler to use putty or chalk powder first. Will the regular wall putty will do, do I need to mix something with it. Your guidance will help to resolve below issues like
    1. Gap between boards
    2. Leveling small part
    3. Fill screw holes
    -- thanks
    --kingshuk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two options really (and don't use the stuff they use on plaster walls, I tried, the stuff peels off after some months): first is a mix of fine wood dust, fevicol and a little water (works very well for screw holes and slight gaps) or a commercial wood dent filler (check your local hardware store) of which many varieties are available depending on where you live.

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  48. How to select commercial wood. In Chennai it is available from 40 to 60Rs and branded one from 90 to 130. Is their any technique to find good commercial plywood. Or once bought normal Quality Plywood, how to make it stronger and lasts longer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't really change the character of plywood. You can beef up your design by using strips of real wood to cover imperfections and strengthen structure.

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  49. Anyone suggests precise cutting blade for circular saw, so that 2mm Edge banding can be done in factory. They don't accept circular saw cut boards for Edge banding due to straightness problem. How to choose cutting blade, so that it can be edge banded at factory easily.

    Also I notice you were using paints instead of Laminate, is there a reason. My mail id is siva.mymail@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try contacting Lietz India for high quality saw blades.
      I prefer paint to most plastic laminates - I also use wood veneer laminate. Reason: looks.

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  50. Finally i found a blog where it helps people like me who does Carpentry as hobby. I am planning to do interiors for my new apartment. I would like you to recommend whether Paint on plywood is good or laminates? Also if i choose laminate, without machine press, it would be hard to make it perfect? If i choose paint, can i use PU on top of my final coat of my desired paint color?

    ReplyDelete
  51. 1. Paint or laminate - its a personal choice. I don't much care for the laminates myself. Hate the fake plasticky look.
    2. Laminate can be fixed without machine press
    3. Yes you can apply PU over paint

    ReplyDelete
  52. Hi,

    Awesome post you have here, quite a bit of information, great going.

    I wanted to ask you if Duco painting on plywood is ok to do or should I first layer the plywood with thin MDF and then do the whole process of doing the duco. Will the MDF offer a better surface or is the plywood fine and the small gaps filled by primer? are the edges of the plywood an issue in getting a good finish with duco?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Abhay, no need to layer the plywood before painting. However, it is always advisable to cover the edges with thin strips of wood, otherwise you will have to fill in the gaps and ensure that you have put enough primer to smooth them. Also make sure you apply the paint-chalk mixture well after priming; sand lightly between applications and you should do fine. Best of luck,

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much. I am slowly working on a shelf. Also just wanted to check with you if the i can use this finish for my kitchen cabinets also instead of laminates? My contractor says laminates are the best options for kitchens so wanted to check with you on your opinion. Thank you

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    3. Our Indian kitchens are oily affairs and laminates are easy to clean. However, modern emulsions, including satin paints, can be cleaned quite well with a solution of diluted surf. My kitchen is 13 years old and has withstood the assualt of India oils and spices without the benefit of laminates.

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  53. Hi Indranil, Thanks for the great article. I have a door with door skin sunmica on it which looks dull. Is it possible to make it glossy by PU coating?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haven't tried that one - give it a shot but am not sure whether PU will bond well with sunmica but I really can't say. I did read about a spray that can be put over sunmica to increase adhesion of paint. Look for it online.

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  54. Guys planning to start carpentry as hobby. Planning to use plywood. Confused with lot of terminology like primer, putty, staining, filler etc.
    I basically want to get PU finish.
    Can some eloborate on steps and material with some sample branfs to do the same?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do a google search with "pu finish on plywood" - you will get many fine articles and youtube videos. As for brands try ICI and MRF from your local paint shop.

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  55. Cant find any practical solutions rather any unconventional solutions to reduce eliminate formaldehyde emissions from plywood.
    Would heating it(like with a room heater in a small room) for several days acceslerate the formaldehyde emmission and thus reducing it. Can't find on google if anyone tried this. ANd will it affect the plywood. Am planning to use MR grade/Commercial Ply.
    So wanted to know if this will also affect the glue strength and cause the plywood to peel off?
    Have you touched this subject? formaldehyde emissions are a cause of concern especially in smaller rooms with Window/Split AC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Formaldehyde and other chemicals in man made materials is a real concern. However, I don't think much has been written about how to deal with it in India. I don't know if a heater will help - though it will tend to dry out the wood. The plywood shouldn't peel. However, you should be able to measure the formaldehyde - before and after - to know if heating has worked. Best wishes with your experiments. Keep us informed.

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  56. Hello Mr. Indranil. I have a piece of plywood which is painted. Is it possible to stick sunmica on that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Remove the paint with paint stripper or by sanding and then stick sunmica.

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  57. Using block board for sliding wardrobe in kids bedroom.
    Once I fix laminate on it, is it possible to stick wallpaper, vinyl prints on laminate and change them easily as kids taste change?
    Any special glue to be used in such cases?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not very sure but once I checked about wallpaperand they said it could be pasted on a primed and painted surface. Best check with your local wallpaper supplier.

      Delete
  58. Sandip Chakraborty05 September, 2016

    Hi Indranil, Have seen ur posts in the blog ..they are wonderful... I am a political journalist based in Kolkata and will be benefitted if u give me tips about how best to polish Teak veneers ,. What will be a cost effective option with best shine like ashellac or lacquer ..Can I DIY on it .. or can Woodtech polyester frm Asian paints or Touchwood glossy be applied on it directly ...what will be the result... can I DIY it? (Two furnitures with teakveneer are ready without finish ... Polishing is still to be done... Both have teak veneers above them. 1) A shoe rack about 25 inch height (minus the stand) and 30 length and 18 inch depth ) 2 ) a kitchen Cabinet 38inch height 36 inch length and 18inch depth ) Last but mnot the least iam in ashoe string budget and fin crunch ..but have to do it due to a upcoming function at home ) Secondly my other furnitures are all teakwood with traditional Gala Polish , still shiny though are about 14 years old .. I want a similaririty in the surface ..ie means both the new ones should be nearly have same type of finsh .. no complain if the new ones are more glossy than the earlier ones.rather i would appreciate that ..(But aparity should be their as the gala type reddish brown colour of teakwood should be there.. Pls suggest the most economical and whether it can be a DIY .... generally I DIY all my electrical installations and even during my students years had DIY colours of huge Book cabinets at my home and had colouerd multiple wooden tables..many of then are still in use and are not coloured again with still substantiatrive shine on them.....But after so many years ..iam nearly 45 now... currently is at aloss ...about the most cost effective options and best finishes while being most economical... Pls also mention what the total costs will be if it can be DIY or if I polish it with a carpenter... But I want to be glossy with gala like finish in reddish brown ..PLs suggest ... (it will highly appreciable if u answer me quickly) ..Thanking you in anticipation... Sandip C

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two focused questions in point form would be good. Thanks.

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  59. Made a dining table with ply. Have 19mm ply on top and failry ensured structure does not allow it to bend even while standing on it.
    Wnt to have 2 800x800mm vetrified tiles stuck on it.
    Any advice on how to go about it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ensuring a very flat surface is the only challenge. You could use small shims to ensure each tile is flat and alignesd to the next. You could use an epoxy adhesive such as Araldite to fix the tiles to the plywood top.

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  60. Can i use asian paints wall putty for filling the plywood ? As chalk is inaccessible in this area so the painters suggested to use wall putty and say that they hv been using this method for years. What would be the consequences ? Please do tell...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wall putty is meant for adhering to plaster not wood. Avoid it. Dulux has a water based putty which is meant for wood; try that.

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  61. I have a plywood box, want to apply putty. In Hyderabad carpenters use some power and few ingredients to make putty. Want to know the ingredients to make putty for plywood. Please help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best to buy wood filler made by a good company such as Dulux. Why waste time and money to make a readily available product?

      Delete
  62. I've completed the plywood work at my home with lots of beautiful beadings...
    my question is after this should i go for polishing or only primer coat inside the shelves is enough?
    Will the colour of OST sheet will fade if i didn't go for polish?
    Will it get attack of termites if it didn't get polished?
    Is polishing the wood work is only for good looking or does it has any other uses?
    Kindly advice....

    ReplyDelete
  63. Replies:
    1. Enough for what?
    2. Only UV resistant polish will prevent fading else a piece that gets full sun will gradually fade if it has been stained. Wood also changes colour over time and exposure to sun and elements.
    3. Polish is not anti-termite
    4. Polish forms a thin protective coating as well but effectiveness depends on the kind of finish.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Sir, Greetings of the day. Thank you for all the information. I need little advice, I am replacing my door locking mechanism with a cylindrical lock. the old lock's hole is 7 cm deep and 5 cm long. I have to fix the new lock in the same place, so first i am thinking to fill the empty hole with chopped wood pieces drenched in fevicol, hammered as tight as possible. after it dries cut a new hole and fix the new lock. the door is plywood door (prefabricated), 3 cm thick. Sir, will it be strong ? Mohan, Vizag davy541@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a tough question. Your solution should work but I am not sure it would be strong enough. Perhaps using some epoxy adhesive rather than fevicol might be more advisable. But I cannot say for sure. Best give it a try and check with a hammer to see how hard the plug is. Best of luck.

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  65. Hi Indranil,
    A very informative article for someone like me who wants do a bit of DIY jobs. I do have one doubt about joining two pieces of ply at right angles. This requires a screw/nail to be driven INTO THE EDGE of one of the two pieces. I get the feeling that this will be a weak joint, given the fact that a piece of ply is a sandwich of a few thin slices of wood. If it was a regular wooden piece, it would be fine. But a ply cross-section is different. Can you please comment? I do realize I do not have much options though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are quite correct. Such joints are weak but work if you are making a case, using glue as well as screws and re-inforcing the structure with a back and some sort of bracing. Face frames also tend to firm up the structure and strengthen it enough for years of used. Else use pocket screws for better holding (see Project - Quick Bookshelf with Pocket-Hole Screws).

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  66. Sir should we use any termite control, like termite oils on low cost plywood. If so should we apply that as first before primer/paint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it is a built-in apply anti-termite treatement, esle leave it be.

      Delete
  67. Hi, Thank you for the post. It is awesome as finding stuff relevant to India is really difficult. So I am doing my first DIY project and making a wine rack. I am using extra plywood which I have lying around as I don;t want to splurge on my first project. I want to ask you what kind of sealer and polisher can I use. Can you suggest me some brands which I can buy. It is a normal rough plywood as shown in your pictures. I want to give it a nice honey oak look. What process should I follow regarding the primer, painting, buffing, etc. and which products should I buy? I am using a 3/4" plywood and need to know what kind of screws should I use for the joints. At few places, I need to drill for 2" just to get to the joint. Is it advisable to do so, If not can I screw diagonally, will it hold on? SHould I also use wood glue along with it, if yes which brand?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plywood in my humble opinion is btter painted than polished unless it is of very very good grade (beech ply and veneered ply). Painting and screwing methods have been described in various posts in my blog. Please search for them. Best wishes.

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  68. help me out if my bubbles are forming in my vineer is it because of the poor quality of the product or is it because of wrong technique used in fixing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could be either. You have to patiently and tediously rub down the veneer to prevent bubbles/air gaps. It is not an easy process.

      Delete

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