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Better-Looking Projects

By: Woodsmith staff
Building with hardwood plywood is a great way to get large panels without spending a lot. Here are some tips on creating top-notch projects.

Hardwood plywood sheets have a “good” front face and often a less-attractive back face. Usually, the difference is pretty stark. For most projects, this isn’t a big deal since the back is buried inside or hidden behind doors. But you may have projects where both faces will be visible, like the cabinet you see here. The question is, which side of the project gets the “ugly” face? Thankfully, there’s an easy solution — make your own plywood with two good faces. You can see how I glued two pieces of thinner plywood back to back to make the panels. To do this, spread a thin, even layer of glue to prevent voids and bubbles. Then clamp the panels between several layers of MDF to apply even clamping pressure.

One of the reasons I like using plywood is it lets me avoid problems I might have when working with solid wood. For example, the drawer faces in the chest shown here are wrapped with strips of bead molding. A solid-wood drawer front would open the molding joints as it expands and contracts with humidity changes. Instead, I decided to make the fronts out of 12" plywood. But finding good-quality mahogany plywood can be a real challenge. This time, I took a different approach. I started with a base of Baltic birch plywood. Next, I applied a layer of veneer. Best of all, I could spend a bit more on high-quality veneer to match the hardwood I used on the rest of the project.

Another place where plywood comes in handy is for drawer bottoms. Unlike solid wood, a 14" plywood bottom can be glued into the drawer front, back, and sides. So it contributes to the overall strength of the drawer. But if the drawers are large or will hold heavy items, the thin material can sag or even break. To beef up the drawer bottoms, I cut an “auxiliary” bottom and glue it to the underside of the drawer bottom. This makes the bottom nearly 12" thick.

Published: April 9, 2015
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