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Thread: Columbia Forest Products plywood quality

  1. #1

    Columbia Forest Products plywood quality

    Hi, I'm designing floor-to-ceiling (8'), wall-to-wall (12') cabinets for a back room in my house, plus a Murphy bed cabinet on the side. The cabinets will be mostly for storing gear (rock climbing, camping, sewing), so they are more practical than beautiful, but I still want to make them high-quality and good looking. I'm considering using plywood from Columbia Forest Products (Purebond), specifically the Adirondack Birch veneer from their Appalachian Traditions line (https://www.columbiaforestproducts.c...an-traditions/) with their Europly core (https://www.columbiaforestproducts.c.../europly-plus/). My plan is to made the drawers and face frames with the Europly core and leave the edges exposed, and build the carcass with the more standard MPX (veneer core) plywood (https://www.columbiaforestproducts.com/product/mpx/). I've read every forum post I saw here about buying Purebond plywood from Home Depot, and there were quite a few mixed reviews on it. It seems like the Columbia plywood that Home Depot sells might be the bottom of the barrel for Columbia. I am sourcing the material through a local sheet goods and hardwood distributor in Albuquerque (NOT through Home Depot), and they are buying it from Columbia's mills on the east coast directly and shipping via rail. I have a quote for A1 plywood, opposed to the C3 that Home Depot sells. So I don't think I should be getting the poor quality plywood found at Home Depot. That said, I am about to purchase $2000 of plywood, sight unseen, with a no-return policy. So, I wanted to see if anyone here has had any experience with Columbia plywood, purchased through an actual cabinet supply place, opposed to Home Depot.

    Thanks in advance for any advice or comments!
    Elizabeth

  2. #2
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    Buying your sheet goods from an actual Plywood Supplier is always a good idea and many only serve up "domestic" product that is higher quality than mass-market home centers offer, even of the same brand. Since I started buying that way, I have only ever had one sheet that wasn't acceptable and they cheerfully replaced it at no charge. And yea, I only buy A1 or similar grade at this point.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
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    I think that's a good plan. I've only used the MPX plywood. It was much better than anything you can buy at the big box stores, but still not w/o a defect or two in the dozen sheets I bought. And it sure wasn't cheap. I've transitioned to veneered MDF for most all non structural applications now; the thickness tolerance is better and the surface is consistently flat.

    John

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Buying your sheet goods from an actual Plywood Supplier is always a good idea...
    This.

    Also lumber core is better for door panels, to minimize the chance of warping. Other than that, I don't care for the look of:
    https://www.columbiaforestproducts.c...an-traditions/
    Prefer the look of premium Baltic Birch ply:

    81ebgDJwu9L._SX425_.jpg
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  5. #5
    i can't speak to what you get at home depot.

    that said, i use columbia almost exclusively for the high-end casework i make - specifically the prefinished maple, VC. i buy from plywood suppliers, and have been very happy with columbia products. FWIW, i'm paying ~$70 a sheet (delivered) for UV2 maple.

    the last kitchen+ was 42 sheets of prefinished... so i feel your pain on a large, expensive plywood pile. personally, i wouldn't trust that home depot's sourcing is equivalent to that of a high-end commercial plywood supplier.

    good luck!

    -- dz

  6. #6
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    Really hard to imagine the only way to get quality plywood is to have it shipped in from the east coast! Have you tried contacting local custom cabinet shops and buying from them? If they are big enough, they buy their plywood in units. Then you get the benefit of seeing it. Also beware of those full height boxes. Many hobbyists build their first boxes like that, and then can pivot or get them into position since they didn't measure across the corners for height.

  7. I don't have the experience of many here, but I've used a bunch of plywood and haven't found the cheaper stuff from a plywood supplier any better or worse than what comes from Home Depot. What I can say about Columbia is that I had some trouble with their poplar plywood from Home Depot and they were great to work with on it. They reached out to me and very quickly resolved my problems. I can't say enough about their customer service and interest in finding the root cause of the problem. I will buy their products over others just because of how good they are in customer service.

  8. #8
    While I've never used it, I would expect the Europly to be very good. The problem with the cheap Purebond is due to the low quality core.

    The Europly appears to be Baltic Birch core with hardwood face veneers.

    Another option would be Appleply, which is basically the same thing.
    Gerry

    JointCAM

  9. #9
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    Piggybacking on Gerry's comment, I don't use plywood very often, but when I do I use ApplePly. I've yet to find a better quality and more environmentally friendly plywood, although I've never used EuroPly. If you can get it locally, I imagine you'll pay around the same price as what you'll pay for the stuff you're about to order.

  10. #10
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    A couple thoughts....

    First, I don't buy ply from Home Depot as I buy wholesale, but I do check it every so often. My thought is that since they buy for what...2000+ stores, they're probably buying train loads at a time, and also likely buying whatever is decent that they can get a good markup on. The reason I say that is it doesn't seem to me they have the same consistent product from month to month, year to year. Seems like its a different product depending on when I go. Curious if others notice this as well or if its just my local stores? So you could end up with a good quality product....or not.

    Second, shipping from the East Coast does seem like a very expensive way to obtain what you need. I agree with checking in with some of your local small cabinet shops. They're buying wholesale and if you find one willing, should be able to get what you need for a more reasonable cost. I personally wouldn't buy that much sight unseen unless I really knew what I was going to receive.

    Lastly for now, I've found Columbia pretty good in the past. Last few years though I've been using a lot more Garnica for veneer core as it's really consistent and very good quality. Given the choice I'd go with Garnica as its a safer bet, but it comes down to what you have access to. The one exception is when I need really large flat parts, then I switch to a classic core product. It has a veneer core with layers of hardboard just under each face. It makes for a really flat and clean panel, but it does come at a price as its significantly more pricey than plain old veneer core.

    anyway just my thoughts for what they're worth, good luck!
    JeffD

  11. #11
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    Columbia Pure bond is good stuff, been using it at work for years, have had the very rare occasional issue with core delamitation on part of a sheet, nothing major, have seen that with every brand except garnica. Don't think you'll have any issues. The columbia pure bond my HD stocks isn't stored well, has NO grade stamps as if it hasn't been graded, and looks worse than the worst C-3 I've seen at work, looks like a truck load of sub shop grade seconds. I've had entire sheets basically fall apart, had major veneer delaminations post finishing with WB finishes on what looked like good sheets, had incredible amount of movement when cutting into strips, and occasionally I get a decent one! So use that with some caution. I'd gladly pay $20 more per sheet for decent plywood at the big box, guess I'm not their market?
    "A good miter set up is like yoga pants: it makes everyone's butts look good." Prashun Patel

  12. #12
    Thanks everyone for the quick and abundant responses. It sounds like Columbia is a good way to go, if I order through my local plywood supplier. Hearing all of your feedback makes me more confident moving forward! I do agree that having it shipped from the east coast seems silly, but I got to this point through a circuitous route. The plywood supplier here doesn't allow walk-in customers to go in the warehouse to look at the products, so you have to know what you want ahead of time and order it at the counter. Given that I'm a newbie, the only way I could find to get familiar with the vast world of plywood options was the great internet. I found Columbia's website, got samples of all their cores and Appalachian Traditions veneers and liked what I saw, and then went back to the plywood supplier to order. All that said, the prices I was quoted were really reasonable - $52 for 3/4" Europly 4x8', $42 for 3/4" MPX or Classic Core 4x8'. The plywood distributor collects special orders from the area over a month-long period, and then puts in one request, so shipping is not directly passed down to the individual customers. The trade-off is that there is only one delivery a month, but I am fine waiting.

    About Appleply, I also looked into that. There is one local distributor (a different company than the one who sells Columbia), but they only have one veneer (a maple) in stock, and they don't do special orders with different veneers. Also, the prices were a fair amount more expensive than the Columbia stuff. And as far as I can tell, ApplyPly and Columbia's EuroPly are basically the same Baltic-Birch-style core, with many thin void-free layers.

    I hadn't thought to talk to local custom cabinet makers - that's a good idea! I figured they wouldn't want to talk to someone who didn't want their actual cabinet-building services, but it sounds like buying plywood from them is common or at least not unheard of. I think for this project, I'll stick with the Columbia stuff I have spected out and quoted, but I'll keep that in mind for future projects. I'll also keep Garnica in mind - hadn't heard of them before (but like I said, I'm brand new to this).

  13. #13
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    Elizabeth...when you speak with your local plywood supplier, ask them what seems to be the best quality "at the moment" for the brands they carry, rather than specifying a brand initially. They are going to know what's good and what's been less than satisfying to their customers lately.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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