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Thread: Building custom desk, shelves, and bed frame/drawers. What plywood to get?

  1. #1

    Building custom desk, shelves, and bed frame/drawers. What plywood to get?

    Hello everyone! I am “renovating” my room and building a custom desk, shelves and a bed frame. I don’t have the exact measurements but it will be around 4 standard sheets(4×8). The desk is somewhere around 7×2.5ft, then there is a second smaller desk around 4×2. There are 5 shelves, then the bed frame. The bed frame will primarily be 2×4s but will have two pull out drawers that have plywood faces along with a headboard and end panel. It is a Twin XL so not huge(the room is very small, going for a cozy design)


    I am shooting for Oak plywood and will be wrapping everything in oak boards. I have a plywood dealer near me that last time I asked had domestic oak plywood for around $80/sheet. Then I have the big box stores(Lowes/Home Depot) and they have oak plywood for around $55/sheet.


    Would the domestic stuff be worth it in this case? Is oak even the best way to go? I am staining everything with a fairly dark stain. Probably a slightly lighter espresso.

  2. #2
    I think the general consensus is to avoid big box plywood for other than utility use, so if budget permits the plywood dealer will likely have better material. Poor quality plywood often has voids in the interior and poorer quality/appearance outer plies, as well as thinner outer plies that are very easy to sand through.

    I have used a lot of oak plywood and it's a perfectly reasonable choice for your project as long as you don't mind the large open pores. Unless you use a pore filler, you won't get a glass smooth surface, but most folks don't expect such from oak. Oak takes stain very well, better than, say, maple, so is appropriate with your dark stain in mind. Oak ply does demand sharp, quality saw blades to avoid tearout on cross-ply cuts. There are quite a few tricks that can be used to minimize the tearout. Good luck with your project!
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  3. #3
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    100% worth buying the domestic stock from the real plywood dealer! You want quality for furniture. 'Borg sheet stock, while less expensive to acquire, is more expensive in the long run when you add in the frustration from inconsistency, extra voids, etc. IMHO.
    --

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

  4. #4
    I don't think it's safe to assume the plywood at the plywood dealer is higher quality. It may be but it may not be. It is safe to assume that the surface veneer of the big box plywood will be rotary cut - peeled off the log. That doesn't looks like boards but if it doesn't bother you it could be used. The inner plys of the big box could be softwood or poplar. Poplar is generally preferred.

    Unless the rotary veneer is a non-starter I would try to look at both before deciding. Best not to assume. I have certainly purchased plywood at a big box with poplar inner plys. The plywood dealer should offer sawn face veneer that looks like boards and they should know the number of inner plys and the wood used. More plys are desirable.

    I believe a good plywood dealer will offer better plywood than the big box stores but they may also offer things that are comparable.

  5. #5
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    What does "wrapping everything in oak boards" means? Even the 2x4s? Some of the big box stores sell domestic and imported. Some domestic sold there can be culls and lower grade. You might not get two sheets the same thickness. But it's good for a budget job. Imported used to mean extremely high formaldehyde levels in the adhesive, but I think that's gone.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dwight View Post
    I don't think it's safe to assume the plywood at the plywood dealer is higher quality. It may be but it may not be.
    While that's certainly true, a plywood dealer's customer base is largely going to be professionals who expect quality product because things come back and bite them when it isn't. The stuff I get from Industrial Plywood out of Reading PA is noticeably better than anything I can buy locally for sure. And they stand by the product and are clear about where it was sourced, too. It will always be "buyer beware" no matter what the source, but the chances of getting better stuff is higher from a specialty supplier, IMHO.
    --

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

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dwight View Post
    I don't think it's safe to assume the plywood at the plywood dealer is higher quality.
    I think that's a perfectly safe assumption. Just like I expect a Ruth Chris steak to always be better than a Sizzler steak. The economics of the situation dictate that the borgs are always going to be buying whatever is at the bottom of the barrel. So no matter how bad your local wholesalers product might be, Lowes's is going to be a step down.

  8. #8
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    The selection of sheet stock at Home Despot seems to vary by store and even time of year. The one near my house Upstate in Catskill stocks domestic 3/4” B-2 Colombia Purebond in maple, birch and oak. Certainly higher quality stuff than the domestic birch at the overpriced lumber yard near me.

  9. #9
    Thanks everyone for the info. It is seriously appreciated. I will be going to my local plywood dealer for the plywood, however I will ask for some more info on it.

    As for the wrapping in oak boards, I just mean as trim on the raw plywood edges. Like the edge of the desk and the edges on the shelves.

    Thanks again. I will be back if I have anymore questions!

  10. #10
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    Billy, trimming out edges with solid stock is a nice way to finish something. Do note that if you are wrapping around corners, etc., that best results will be with that edging being thin because it minimizes wood movement concerns. Big, fat edging wraps bring movement into play.
    --

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

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Billy, trimming out edges with solid stock is a nice way to finish something. Do note that if you are wrapping around corners, etc., that best results will be with that edging being thin because it minimizes wood movement concerns. Big, fat edging wraps bring movement into play.

    I did not think about the wood movement. What size would you use?

    I will definitely post pictures of the finished product when all is said and done.

  12. #12
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    How you size the banding depends upon the design of the project and whether or not you plan on applying an edge treatment (routing a profile) or not. Obviously, a plain edge can be very thin. Something with a profile needs to be thick enough to accommodate that profile without knocking into the sheet goods.
    --

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

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    How you size the banding depends upon the design of the project and whether or not you plan on applying an edge treatment (routing a profile) or not. Obviously, a plain edge can be very thin. Something with a profile needs to be thick enough to accommodate that profile without knocking into the sheet goods.
    I still have to decide for sure but I am thinking it will just be a plain edge, no profile. I am going for a very simple design, nothing special, just clean.

    On the same subject, is there a widely recommended 10" table saw blade for plywood? I have quite a few but most are pretty worn out and I am not normally being so careful. I don't need anything absolutely spectacular but I thought I'd ask before just going to Home Depot for one. I also assume I'll want a blade for ripping the oak boards for trim too.

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