BALTIC BIRCH PLYWOOD: What is it? Why is it better?

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Baltic Birch Plywood is a plywood built using a specific method. It comes from Russia and the nearby Baltic states.

Baltic Birch plywood is generally regarded as being of higher quality than standard birch plywood. It is made entirely from birch plies, and unlike regular plywood it has no softwood or filler plies in the center.

Also the plies themselves are thinner, allowing for more plies for a given thickness and they are a uniform 1.5mm thick. This gives it much greater stiffness and stability.

Additionally the outer ply (face veneer) is also 1.5mm thick. Which is about double that of regular hardwood plywood. (Typically walnut, maple, birch, and oak plywood have outer veneer layers that are only 1/30” or 1/32” which is about 3/4mm).

Baltic Birch is glued up with a waterproof glue, which can make it useful in damp situations.

Baltic Birch is superior in screw holding. Which is critical in woodworking. In traditional plywood there are many voids. If a screw penetrates a void, there is no holding strength where the threads meet no wood. And even if it doesn’t hit a void, the core of traditional ply is usually softwood. This doesn’t give nearly the strength of a screw holding in hardwood, which is what Baltic Birch is, since every layer is made of the same hardwood birch.

Joinery is also stronger and better looking in Baltic Birch. Being void free, joints don’t break apart when cutting dovetails or finger joints. And rabbets & dados are better too with no chance of de-lamination. Plus it provides for a very unique & clean look.

Baltic Birch is also significantly stronger. Since there are no voids, there is a consistent layer of glue and every square inch of material from top to bottom is fully bonded. It also has more dimensional stability. In many traditional plywoods there are 5-7 layers for a 3/4” sheet, whereas the same thickness of Baltic Birch has 13 layers. Since it has more layers, and the grain directions alternate it is even less likely to shrink or expand.

However, Baltic Birch also has drawbacks. It typically costs more than regular plywood. And in many locations it is only available in 5’ x 5’ sizes, or a smaller derivative of that. The reason for this is that it’s the preferred size for European cabinetry. (Although some places do have 4’x8’ sheets available). It is typically not sold in big box home improvement stores, which means it isn’t as widely available. Usually it must be bought at a hardwood dealer or woodworking specialty place.

For the woodworker, Baltic Birch can be a fantastic asset. It is an excellent and affordable product for drawer boxes. It holds together tightly with screws even in small pieces without falling apart. And it has great strength & durability for the many jigs and fixtures that the woodworker needs.


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