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Thread: 3/4" 13-ply birch plywood vs carbide tipped shaper bit

  1. #1

    3/4" 13-ply birch plywood vs carbide tipped shaper bit

    I am working on a hardwood floor installation with a requirement that the boards are ~12" wide. To achieve this at a reasonable price, I have decided to rip baltic birch plywood. I would like to use tongue and groove and have found a cutter for my 3-hp shaper that might work (Amana Tool - SC453 2-Piece Carbide Tipped 3-Wing Stile & Rail Flooring with Nail Slot 2-5). Am I crazy for thinking this might work or will the baltic birch promply destroy the cutter? Or vise versa, the cutter will splinter the plywood to a point that T&G will not be use able?

    Thanks for your input.


  2. #2
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    While the glue lines in BB are murder on steel edges, they don't seem to bother carbide much. You might get a tad more tear out with a carbide cutter, but you don't really have a choice because a HSS cutter will be dulled after shaping about 10 lineal feet of BB

  3. #3
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    You ask a great question relative to processing the material...but you also need to ask yourself if you are using the right material. BB plywood, as nice as it is, still has a very thin veneer layer on top and that doesn't bode well for a flooring application, IMHO. So while there's a chance of things like splintering while milling T&G, there's a major chance of splintering and damage just from using the floor after installation. Most of the wood floors I've seen that are wide-board use material like white pine. My whole 4200 sq ft house is wide pine, for example, including some floors areas that date to the 1750s. You may be able to find wide oak that's suitable for floors through special order. Or find an engineered flooring product that has the look you want with a durable surface that will last.
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  4. #4
    Jim I agree with you, but I remember a hunting camp I visited that had unfinished pine T/G plywood floors they never put any flooring over. It was >20 years old and I was surprised at how well it looked.

    Oak veneer ply might be a better choice?

  5. #5
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    There's an advantage even to "soft" pine flooring over plywood in that any minor damage from use doesn't reveal another layer under it like plywood would, pardon the expression. Our wide pine has some bumps and bruises, but even the old, old surfaces in the stone portion of our home look great considering! Other than engineered flooring designed for the purpose, I'd not use veneer plywood for this application. But perhaps I'm just too cautious...

    Interestingly, I used really inexpensive nominal 12" white pine boards for two floor renovation projects in our home in recent years...not even T&G as the rooms are small and I'm not really setup to do that. The small gaps are, um...rustic...
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 01-21-2021 at 10:59 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Engel View Post
    Oak veneer ply might be a better choice?
    Terrible choice. That veneer will be well under 1/32" thick and will not withstand any sort of wear & abuse. The core of most hardwood veneer ply is softwood & will dent easily. BB plywood will make better flooring than regular SPF plywood, but it is still a poor choice if looks matter. The veneer splinters easily at the edges and is often full of tiny checks that are the result of the peeling process.

  7. #7
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    The OP probably knows his client a lot better than any of us do, but in my experience, a job spec that calls for ~12" hardwood flooring means that you either have clients with sacks of cash, in which case they're probably not going to be terribly excited about 3/4" BB for their floor OR you have clients that are uneducated about the costs (and associated problems) of wide solid board flooring and are hoping for a beautiful, durable and stable floor for cheap because they saw it on HGTV or something like that. Honestly, I'd recommend some kind of engineered hardwood planks for a job like this. I'd strongly recommend something prefinished as well for durability. One good sanding on that BB floor and you could easily go through that first veneer layer. Most of my customers knew EXACTLY what kind of wood and color they wanted their floor to be.

  8. #8
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    You are talking about feeding a flooring job with plywood? Am I reading this correctly?
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  9. #9
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    Something I forgot to add about the grain pattern. Baltic Birch is made from rotary cut veneer, which is never attractive and for the most part, looks nothing like solid wood. Birch doesn't have a lot of contrast to the grain, like oak, but it will definitely show.

  10. #10
    Don't take the job if the only solution is plywood. Try to sell the customer some built-ins or whatever based on the good advice you give them re flooring. I just did a callback today and it reminded me that I should give saying no a bigger voice when dealing with clients. You really don't want to answer the phone a year later and hear how the client's dog (child, wife, lawyer) just got a huge splinter in their foot from YOUR floor.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Seng View Post
    The OP probably knows his client a lot better than any of us do, but in my experience, a job spec that calls for ~12" hardwood flooring means that you either have clients with sacks of cash, in which case they're probably not going to be terribly excited about 3/4" BB for their floor OR you have clients that are uneducated about the costs (and associated problems) of wide solid board flooring and are hoping for a beautiful, durable and stable floor for cheap because they saw it on HGTV or something like that.
    Dave, I envy your tact. I'll leave it at that. As you say, only the OP knows his customer and their circumstances.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
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