When you veneer, you actually glue a thin sheet or layer of wood to another piece of wood or material. Plywood is nothing more than a more complex method of veneering wood. It alternately stacks and glues three or more thin layers with the wood grain at 90 degrees to each other. The construction industry uses softwood plywood for structural jobs.
Wood was at a premium in ancient Egypt. Archeologists discovered that the Egyptians made use of the more expensive trees brought from other areas by creating veneers over wood of more readily available wood. The craft of veneering made the items not just beautiful but fit for Kings. Veneered plywood furniture made during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took the veneered plywood to a new level of beauty when new tools made the creation of veneering more precise.
Patterns on the oak veneer plywood vary according to the cutting method. A plain sliced cut has "V" shapes in the grain. This is a cathedral pattern. Rift cut wood, where they slice the log at a 15-degree angle to the radius, has a parallel, straight grain pattern and few "flakes." If you don't care whether there are flakes in the pattern, then get a quarter sliced veneer. These also have extremely straight grain, but more flecking. When the log is rotary cut, it means that the log is soaked and then peeled as it turns. It creates varied patterns but produces larger sheets of veneer.
Oak veneer plywood is an economical way to use the hardwood, which is far more valuable. One 2-inch slice makes 40 veneer strips. Because the interior material often isn't as dense and therefore not as heavy as the wood for the veneer, it makes the use of oak veneer plywood a sound choice for furniture.
The method of layering grains at 90-degree angles makes the oak veneered plywood uniformly strong since wood has forty-five times the strength along the grain. It also eliminates a lot of shrinking, warping or swelling. Wood tends to do these across the grain. With the layers alternating, it happens in all directions at once. The layering of the wood eliminates wood splitting, since wood splits across the grain. Because of these factors, oak veneered plywood is an excellent choice for many projects. The oak veneered plywood comes in larger sheets than standard plywood.
Most standard oak veneered plywood comes in 4-by-8 foot sheets. There are also sheets that are 12 feet long. Normally the thickness of the oak veneered plywood is between 1/8 and 3/4 inch. The sheet used for cabinet door panels, wall panels, bookcases or cabinets tend to be thinner. Use the thicker panels where strength is important, such as shelving, the outer carcass of a cabinet or doors.
There are various cores for oak veneer plywood. Particleboard is one core. MFD forms the core for another. Here, the medium-density fiberboard sandwiches between two layers of oak veneer. A composite core is much the same. The difference is that there's wood at the center, a layer of MFD or particleboard on each side and then the oak veneer on the outside. Solid core is wood strips with the outside the oak veneer.
Many people think of oak veneer plywood as old fashioned. During World War II, wood was scarce and so were craftsmen. The adhesive used for veneering didn't have the holding power that it has today. After about 20 years or exposure to the elements, the furniture showed did not look very good anymore.
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