Home Depot Plywood Quality

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There's no point to this message, other than I need to vent somewhere... :)
I'm building a new entertainment center and just bought three sheets of 3/4" birch plywood and one sheet of 1/2" birch plywood from my local Home Depot. This has to be some of the worst plywood I have ever purchased!
I didn't notice it till I got home and unloaded, but the faces of the sheet had numerous blemishes and patches (both sides). I should have looked it over better at the store, BEFORE I started cutting. :) Thankfully, I managed to cut around the major blemishes, or hide them in places where they can't be seen. Unfortunately, this left me a little short, so now I need to pick up a quarter sheet to build the last two shelves.
The plywood is also riddled with numerous voids. I don't think I have made a cut yet that hasn't had pieces of the core falling out.
Even the grain pattern of the sheets is less than attractive. I'm not sure what kind of birch trees they got the wood from, but this stuff is ugly! :)
Perhaps worst of all, the surface veneers are extremely thin and fragile. It appears to be thinner than a sheet of paper. I bought brand new saw blades for making this project, and the chipout is absolutely horrible. I also sanded a couple of pieces yesterday, and can sand through the veneer in less than 20 seconds with 100 grit paper. Now my project is almost finished, and I'm almost scared to sand it for fear of sanding through the veneer and exposing the core.
Worst of all, I paid $40 a sheet for this stuff at Home Depot, and then saw MUCH better quality lumber at Lowes (where I normally get my plywood) for only $30 a sheet.
The plywood sucks, but a lot of the fault obviously lies with me. I made the mistake of shopping on a weekend, when the rest of the DIY crowd was crowding into the store. I thought the convenience of having my wife and daughter there to help load the cart would be nice. But, in my attempt to get in and out of the store, I didn't inspect the sheets closely enough.
Anyway, I'm almost finished with my entertainment center and am happy with the way it is turning out. Despite the poor quality lumber, I have managed to hide the worst blemishes. If I can pull off sanding the project next week without destroying it, there's still a chance it might turn out OK.
Live and learn...
Anthony
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Learning to look at what you are buying is a good practice.
BUT when the plywood becomes delaminated or pieces start falling out I Take It Back. Sure it is cut but the piece is defective, how would you know if you had not cut it?
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Leon,

Yeah, I usually inspect the lumber I buy with much greater detail, but I guess I was busy looking at my lady and talking with her instead. :)

Good point, but it's all hindsight now. Assuming I don't destroy the project when I start sanding, it will all work out in the end.
Anthony
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You really need to be extra careful when sanding. I finished up some tables for the VFW (utility type tables) and this was the material that was in their budget.
I have never seen face veneer that thin. I don't think you could spray it on any thinner. I sanded right through that stuff due to some little bumps in the underlying substrate. Luckily, the face of the pieces weren't all that interesting, so with some finish on the top it didn't matter.
I used to buy the "China ply" at HD and it was a decent product. No matter whose plywood it is, it won't be the baltic/russian/cabinet ply stuff with no voids at all in the layers of wood, so that wasn't a big thing.
But the faces on the stuff I bought last week were really bad. The veneer splintered really badly, some of the pieces were covered with footballs (plugs), and the pink glue they used to press the plies together stunk like something was burning.
So for me that stuff has not been relegated to utility/paint grade material.
I fear that if I go to my hardwood supplier though, his $60 a sheet birch won't be that much better.
Robert
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Yep, sounds like the same stuff! :)

That's the part I'm worried about. It shouldn't take much sanding on the large flat areas, it's near the edges where the trim meets the plywood that I'm most concerned. That and anywhere I need to fill a nail hole or something.

The majority of my entertainment center will usually have "stuff" on it, the top is higher than most people will see, and most of the front is solid wood. So, maybe there's hope... :)

I've purchased birch ply at HD and Lowes for years and never had a problem. I guess that's why I didn't give it much thought when I bought it. Now I know better.

Interesting, I noticed that smell when I was making some cuts, but didn't see any signs of burning on the wood.
Anthony
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Nothing burned, it just smelled like it. That was the confusing part. I am sure the Chinaply is bound by something made from boiled animals and food remnants.
Just as a tip, if you are going to edge this stuff, put your edging up a little where you can, covering the edge plus a little and then sand by hand to get down to the whisper of veneer.
Robert
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Robert,

Because of the blemishes in my full sheets, I had to run down and pick up another 1/4 sheet of 3/4" plywood today. I didn't want to spring for a full sheet, and Lowes was out of the precut panels, so it was back to Home Depot.
I was a lot more careful this time, making sure there were no blemishes on either surface, and confidently carried my panel up and paid for it.
Unfortunately, when I got home I realized the grain didn't quite look right. Now granted, I'm not all that familiar with wood species, but this looks more like oak than birch. I double-checked the label, it says birch, but it sure doesn't look like the usual stuff.
Of course, once again, I didn't catch on until I had cut the panel down to the size of my shelves. Geez, I can't win... I got so busy looking at the "quality" of the wood, I completely forgot to even check if it was the right "type" of wood. Maybe I should just go sit down for a while. :)
Anyway, when I was cutting this panel, it smelled like... Well.... Urine. Kind of disgusting actually.
Anthony
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HerHusband wrote:

If I recall your local to me (Vancouver area).....have you ever tried Shurway(on St. Johns rd)?.....they have quite a selection of hardwood ply (lots), hardwood lumber and other interesting odds and ends. Prices seem competitive and even sometimes low. I haven't bought full sheets lately but last fall they had stacks of 2ft by 4ft birch panels (less than $8.00 ea) that worked great for a few small projects.....Rod
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Rod,

I'm out in the Camas area, so they're not exactly "local", but the last time I went to Shurway (over in Portland about 15-20 years ago) they were mostly a salvage operation. I didn't realize they were carrying new stuff now. Thanks for the recommendation.
Anthony
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Indeed, they often have good deals on odd lots plus have a very good selection of regular stuff. My only complaint is that they are not open on Sundays. I also haunt Mr. Plywood in NE Portland.
Bob the Tomato

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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

That rather depends upon the grade he is selling. Each face of plywood is graded just as are other wood materials and you get what you pay for. All plywood face veneers are skimpy now, have been for a long time. The days of 1/24 are long gone, welcome 1/42 and skinnier.
Another consideration is how the face veneer has been cut...most economical method and therefore the most common (nearly universay at DIY stores) is rotary. Generally unatractive. There are also flat cut and quartered, book or slip matched in either.
--

dadiOH
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RE: Subject
If you want to drool, check these guys out:
<www.aitwood.com>
They are local for me, but they do ship.
Saw some stuff on the dock headed to Kiwi land the other day.
Lew
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I had a similar experience, but the real problem was in finishing it. The oak veneer I got was so thin that the pores opened to the adhesive surface underneath. The stain would not take on the adhesive, so I had a poor stain job. I ended up having to use Mohawk's Blendal sticks to correct it.
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Thanks for posting. Now I know where not to buy plywood. I bought some from Menards. I had to go through the stack before I found 4 acceptable sheets.

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Don't be too smug until you've sawed it. I bought about 20 sheets of 1/2" ---haha, 7/16" from Menards and at least half the sheets had SEVERE delamination INSIDE where you couldn't see it without sawing!!!
Their A7 (or is it A9?) siding wasn't any better.
When I complained, they said "that's the way it is", but did give me part of the money back. Of course that doesn't make up for the 50 mile round trips and the extra labor. I thought they'd at least tell me that they'd get back to the mfr and see that it didn't happen again.
Pete Stanaitis ----------------------------------------------------
Dave wrote:

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The Aruca (sp?) at Lowes is decent as far as splintering and has few voids and it is cheaper than the Birch. Never tried staining it.
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All the more reason to use solid wood instead of plywood.
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You bet. At about $5.5 a bf for clear birch here, that would make the material cost around $450 when you include sales tax and a tiny bit of waste. Makes great sense.
Then of course, you get to do the monster layup. I don't know if you have ever glued up a really wide,long section of wood, but it can be really hard to control well once you get past about 16" when doing larger lengths. Plus with the crappy, poorly dried and conditioned product we are sold today, my personal experience is that a really large glue up is more of an adventure than an exercise in skill.
But - think of all the extra time in the shop doing glue ups! Extra shop time for a much more difficult project, 5 times the price for material... what's not to like?
Robert
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It's hard to beat the cost and stability of plywood, and solid wood has it's own share of issues. Warping, cupping, splitting, etc. I did buy a lot of solid wood for trim, drawer fronts, etc. and it's not picture perfect either.
Of course, then there's the issue of gluing up panels and the labor (and goofs) involved with that.
Anthony
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I buy solid wood and hardwoodplywoods at www.creativewoodworksusa.com Birch is only $1.95 per foot and plywoods are around $35.They will ship and it isn't as expensive as I thought it would be for shipping.
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