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Thread: Baltic Birch - sourcing and preferred dimensions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Leawood, KS

    Baltic Birch - sourcing and preferred dimensions

    My hardwoods dealer is far enough away that it's not convenient to drive on a regular basis. I plan on buying some Baltic Birch to have on hand as projects come up (mostly shop projects). They sell 5x5 for about $60 ($2.40/sq foot) and 4x8 for $93 ($2.89/sq ft).

    I was thinking the 4x8 would be better dimensions, but not sure it's worth a 20% premium over the 5x5. What dimensions do you find most useful? I don't have specific projects to map cutlists against yet.

    Also, Menards carries 3/4 BB in 4x8 for $70 ($2.19/sq ft) available for order, ship-to-store. Since it's not stocked in-store, I can't inspect to check out quality. They also sell regular birch, so I am confident it really is Baltic birch. Does anyone have recent experience with Menards BB? Most of the discussion I've found is pretty dated.

    Thank you,

  2. #2
    My dealer only stocks 5x5 in 1/2". Its really nice stuff. I read somewhere (probably here), that "real" baltic birch is 5x5. But Ii cant compare them myself because I havent found 4x8 in stock anywhere.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Toronto Ontario
    Hi, I buy it in the 5 foot size because I find a lot of cabinets are just under 30" in size............Regards, Rod.

  4. #4
    I've bought the Menard Birch 4x8 sheets for both 3/4" and 1/4". In both cases the wood was of extremely nice quality, with no voids or patches on either face. I could not tell the difference between it and the 5x5 Baltic birch I bought from another supplier. I realize this is not quite what you're asking, but I think that the Menards Birch is probably fine. YMMV.

    EDIT: It's been a few years, so I'm not sure exactly what I bought from Menards, but it appears my local store stocks the 1/4" as true Baltic Birch, and the 3/4" as a veneered hardwood plywood.
    Last edited by Andrew More; 07-16-2019 at 8:42 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Historically, most true Baltic Birch plywood (and its relatives) was supplied in the nominal 5'x5' size in the US. While the true Baltic Birch product is also produced in nominal 4'x8' (remember, everything is actually metric) and is not stocked as frequently, you have to be careful with nominal 4'x8' versions, often called "multi-ply" because they may or may not be the same quality in my experience and may come from other sources. A good sheet goods that primarily supports cabinetmakers, often the best place to buy this kind of thing as well as other plywood. They do generally sell to individual woodworkers and many deliver. Their selection is a lot better than the box stores for both quality and variety. Small orders may have an up-charge or small order fee, but even so, it can be worth it. I buy from Industrial Plywood in Reading PA which services my area along with several other vendors. Delivery is free but there is a $15 charge for an order less than $300...bupkus when you are buying even a few sheets of good material. Almost everything they sell is North American sourced/produced (exceptions being true Baltic, of course) and the one time I got a sheet that was less than satisfying, they replaced it on the following delivery day for my area.

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

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    San Francisco, CA
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    .. (remember, everything is actually metric)..
    True, but from my supplier, the 5x5 is precisely 60"x60" within 10 thousandths, and the 4x8 is similarly precise. That'd be 152mm by 152 mm, and 1219 mm by 2438 mm. I think the stuff is cut at the mill specifically for export to the US. The thickness, however, is clearly metric -- 6 mm, 12 mm, and 18 mm. They say that the 4x8 comes from Latvia or Finland, and the 5x5 comes from either of those or Russia.

  7. The 5x5 are actually 1.5 m square--a common size for sheet goods in Europe. There are two suppliers here I have bought birch ply from--one selling the European stuff and one selling the typical 4x8 sheets. The European stuff has a different texture (it's almost kind of "fuzzy") and does not have any chip when cutting. I also think it is stiffer. The American stuff has a slightly more brittle outer ply and I have to use a very fine blade to cut it without chipping. The American stuff finishes smoother and requires less sanding. When I did my kitchen cabinets I used a combination of the two and cannot tell the difference in the finished product. Around here the birch ply at the home improvement chain stores is garbage and barely cheaper than the good stuff at the hardwood stores.

  8. #8
    I find there tends to be less waste from the 5 x 5 sheets for cabinets. You usually don't need anything longer than 60" and the 60" dimension give you more cutting options for sides and drawers.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Okotoks AB
    Here's the story I got from a local supplier that carries Baltic Birch in both sizes. The 5x5 is originally milled as 5 x 10 & then the sheets are cut in half for ease of handling for the export market. The 4 x 8 sheets do not originate from the same place as the 5 x 5, are made with the same thickness of veneers, but the adhesive used is more water resistant and also more abrasive on tools.

  10. #10
    I ordered the BBply from menards as I needed a lot. The quality was very good. no complaints
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Leawood, KS
    Thanks all, there's been some really good insight shared here. It sounds like the people that have bought BB from Menard's have had good luck. Also that 5x5 tends to be more functional for most people's needs.

    Really appreciate all the wisdom that's been shared.

  12. #12
    I have ordered true BB from Lowes, believe it or not. If i remember right, it came from Indiannapolis. Their commercial sales can order it in if they want to. At least here in Louisville
    Last edited by william walton; 07-17-2019 at 12:25 AM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Minot, ND
    Have gotten 4x8 sheets of 1/4”, 1/2”, & 3/4”, all from Menards and have been satisfied with each. Keep in mind that you’ll pay an additional handling charge when Menards does the “ship to store”. They typically carry the 1/4” in-stock, while they do the “ship to store” on the others.

    I try try to buy in 5’ by 5’ sizes though as it is cheaper, and available, in stock, through a local supplier. They also carry some of the 4’ by 8’, but charge a premium price for it.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Wayland, MA
    I've never seen Baltic birch in 4x8 around here. We get ApplePly and similar no-name north and south American products in 4x8. The Appleply is the most expensive and seems to be of the highest overall quality, followed by the BB in 1.5 m square sheets. The SA stuff is a mixed bag, sometimes fine, sometimes it curls up like potato chips. I don't buy it any more despite it being a lot cheaper; not worth the aggravation of a bad batch.

  15. #15
    I can't afford it

    So I buy the A or B grade Russian stuff which seems just as good to me.

    What I'm saying is there are other grades of cabinet plywood that are equal in quality to the expensive stuff.

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