What happened to plywood quality?

I recently built a bar in my basement using some 3/4" oak ply that had been sitting in my garage for the past ten years or so (I originally bought it for some bookcases that, somehow, never got built). As I recall, I paid $45 at one of the big box stores - probably Builder's Square. The price was higher that normal at the time because the industry was in the midst of one of its occasional lumber 'shortages'. It cleaned up nicely and looks great. I needed to build a back bar to go with it and bought another sheet of 3/4" oak ply, this time for $39 from Menard's (a much more 'normal' price). The grain was MUCH nicer on this one, and viewed from the edge, the nine plies (vs seven on the old one) appeared to be perfect - almost as if they were made by a machine! (ok, they *were* made by a machine, but I think you know what I mean). I've never seen plywood with such perfect plies. I anxiously started working with this piece and it quickly became obvious why the older piece was the better of the two. The veneer on the new piece was like paper. It was wood, but it had the thickness of a sheet of paper. Fortunately, it was smoother than the old piece, so it didn't need much sanding, but I was still very disappointed.
Is this normal? Is this how mass-market plywood is done these days? Assuming I finish it correctly, will this present durability problems? Where can I get something more like the old stuff without spending upwards of $100/sheet?
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Mike Hartigan wrote:

Not sure about your area, but the specialty plywood dealers around here have far superior product. The price difference isn't that great and the better material is worth it. The good places are like candy stores. Fondling sheets of QS English oak and other exotics is a fun way to spend an hour.
R
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"Mike Hartigan" wrote in message

Along with corporate greed, where quality is a thing of the past and customer service is a touch tone phone menu, hardwoods are no longer as plentiful and thus plywood veneer is thinner to keep the cost down and the profits up.

Biggest danger is damaging the thinner veneer, oversanding it, dinging it, etc, AND there indeed can be finishing issues because the glue used to laminate the plywood may have penetrated the thinner veneer, so the old stuff may look actually look different with the same finish applied.
That is something it would be a good idea to test before you start a project.
Not to mention thickness differences from batch to batch in even the modern plywood.

Even if you pay the higher price you will still likely get a much thinner veneer than was available when you bought the original. When I do a project that requires plywood these days I buy all the product at once, and from the _same_ stack at the lumber yard.
That said, my grandfather probably had to do the same thing, but for different reasons, so things haven't changed that much.
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Mister conspiracy raises his ugly and irrational head. It's actually a bit of "good enough" engineering designed to keep the price affordable in a market where the foreigners are willing to pay premium price for veneer logs because their lower labor cost and higher demand factors will allow them to make a profit even with higher material cost.
Since the veneer is for looking, you just don't want to cut through it. They do a better job of sanding now, and with flush-cut router bits and edge trim sets available, along with the superior glues that don't delaminate like the old ones, it's not really much of a factor.
With hand tools and a less-capable hand there is less room for error now than when machine veneers were still 1/24th. Not to mention the days when veneers were hand-sawn and much thicker. Result of increased demand, lower supply, and higher costs. Wood takes time to grow, and a lot what's currently available can't be cut, but must be hugged, so I don't see a return to the old practices anytime soon, even in the premium market.
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Now you say the cheaper stuff is a more "normal" price, then you complain about the quality of it. Putting ten years of inflation into persective, would you be willing to pay a lot more money to get the old quality?
The problem is that we all want things to look nice but are not willing to pay a nice price for it. Looks over substance has been a trend for some time now in all aspects of consumerism.

I don't think you can. That old sheet, adjusted for inflation, is in the $100 category today.
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http://www.westegg.com/inflation / Not quite......$45.00 in 1996 would be approx. $53.92 in 2006
Rod
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Rod & Betty Jo wrote:
> Not quite......$45.00 in 1996 would be approx. $53.92 in 2006
In the early 90's, 1/2" CDX was $7/sheet.
Checked the price lately?
Lew
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The issue addressed was the actual inflation rate over the 10 years not that commodity prices might go up and sometimes even back down...... Rod
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I know that everyone who has worked with plywood sheet goods for any length of time has noticed the gradual thinning of the outer veneers. There is a limit, however, when the Chinese factory ships get the thickness down to one molecule. Joe G
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I recently bought 6 sheets of 3/4" Sapele Mahogany ply for a project I was comissioned to do. Lumber core, pretty thick veneer (as compard to Borg ply) and the sheets measured 48 1/2" x 96 1/2". About $100 a sheet. Nice stuff. Made by Norbord. Good ply can be had, just might take a little searching. Found these beauties at Packard Forest Products in Columbus, OH. They carry just about every sheet good known to man I think. Will definately be shopping there agian. --dave
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Mike Hartigan wrote:
> Where can I get something more like the old stuff without > spending upwards of $100/sheet?
Can't comment on price or availability in your area, but here is SoCal there are several plywood distributors who specialize in sheet goods.
It is priced by the square foot, they have minimum billing, and they pick out the material. (A full sheet covers the minimum)
When I need plywood, one of them gets my order.
Last time I was there, they were shipping an order of curved plywood to New Zealand.
You may have similar suppliers in your area.
Life is too short to put up with garbage plywood from the big box operations.
IMHO, material cost is only a modest part of the over all cost of a project.
I don't charge myself for my time; however, the "frustration fee" for being forced to salvage crappy materials is VERY LARGE.<grin>
Lew
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Lew, it's been quite a while, I'm just getting back to the group a little . . . .but I seem to recall(perhaps erroneously) that you make some of your projects from "dumpster diving" materials. Seems that would make the "frustration fee" waaaaaayyy up there.
Nahmie
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Nahmie wrote:
> Lew, it's been quite a while, I'm just getting back to the group a > little . . . .but I seem to recall(perhaps erroneously) that you make > some of your projects from "dumpster diving" materials. Seems that > would make the "frustration fee" waaaaaayyy up there.
You must have me confused with someone else.
I am sometimes able to save small pieces of CDX plywood to serve as a core material for fiberglass layups, but that is it.
Lew
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Regardless of how one feels about this evolution in the industry, one can't help but be awed by the accuracy that is maintained when slicing these logs so thinly. What sort of blades do they use for this? Are these veneers truly as flawless as they appear, or do they include invisible repairs? And if they have been repaired, how can I make similarly invisible repairs to my own work? I selected a particular 1/4" sheet that included some pin knots (or whatever they're called) that added a really nice visual touch. How does that *not* cause problems for the slicer? In light of this, I feel that what we're getting certainly has *some* redeeming qualities. If it just wasn't such a b*tch to sand!
Incidentally, here's a tip that many of you probably already know. When selecting 1/4" sheets to glue to a CDX backing, select those that are warped UP at the edges (in my experience, the 1/4" sheets are virtually all warped one way or the other). This way, you can use fasteners, or simply clamps, just at the edges, and the middle is, essentially, self clamping. Just set it with a block and mallet and you're done.
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At that price, and considering where you got it, it is surely some of the made in China crap that has been going around. Got a sheet of it a while back. 150 grit on a sanding block would easily cut through the vaneer and it would not hold a screw. The good stuff is not available at the Borg and is going to cost you.
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Good luck to you!
--
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Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf. lonestar. org
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