Smoothing plywood edges
August 25, 2017 2:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I create smooth, exposed edges on my plywood projects ? Specifics inside.

For quickie plywood projects, I've used veneer many times (the iron on edging) or hidden the ends with real wood and/or used trim pieces (from simple corner-round to fancier molding).

For a different look, I want to keep the edges exposed, so you can see the plys.

For example: my gym just put in a set of jump boxes, something like these. You can see the banding/plys of the plywood. They are flush-cut and smooth. Or my kitchen pull-out trash drawer has nice 1/2 sides, decoratively curved, rounded over, and very smooth, exposed edges.

What's the technique for that ? I get that it starts with a plywood blade (for smooth cuts) and uses higher grade plywood, but how do they finish the edges like that ? Is it just sanding and applying multiple coats of poly/shellac ? How do you prevent or fix tears/holes in the middle plys ?
posted by k5.user to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
That looks like pretty much anything I've ever made with baltic birch plywood. Didn't need anything special beyond a good blade for the table saw, just finish the edges like you would any end grain and its fine. I've never seen the middle plys tear with baltic birch and if you get the real thing there should not be any voids.
posted by N-stoff at 2:38 PM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you use Baltic birch plywood it should be essentially void free. I also like cutting the wood to overhang slightly at the joint, and then using a flush cut router bit with a bottom bearing to get a clean edge.
posted by doctord at 2:40 PM on August 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


Only thing I would add is to sort the baltic birch at the hardware store, depending on the grade it can have footballs, so make sure they're not in a critical area or that they lay such that you can cut around it. This doesn't relate to your edge question but I wanted to mention it because it doesn't cost anything to spend a minute paging through the sheets.
posted by ftm at 3:45 PM on August 25, 2017


Also, use a router with a roundover bit to take off all the sharp edges and corners.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 5:27 PM on August 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Baltic Birch should work well for you, but you can also consider FinPly, which has the same tight plys on the cut edge along with hard color films on the either face. It's more expensive than Baltic Birch but can give a great effect for the right application.
posted by stachemaster at 9:05 PM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


For my nicer projects w/ plywood I've used oak (or poplar) faced, and it always had gaps in the middle and edges needed veneer or other handling. I thought that type of plywood was the high-end, but it seems baltic birch is the next level upgrade ? Is it something you'll only find at a woodcraft or similar specialty shop ? (Lowes/home depot have "birch plywood", but it doesn't look like it's the same thing.)
posted by k5.user at 2:05 PM on August 26, 2017


Yeah, Lowe's won't have it. I need to go to out-of-the-way wood dealerships to get G2S VC (good two side, veneer core) Finnish Birch ply for laser cutters. It's expensive but lovely (and I console myself that at least it's not as expensive as aircraft grade).
posted by scruss at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2017


You can fill the voids in the edges with either a wood filler (some are stainable) or epoxy mixed with sawdust from the plywood. Fill the voids before the final sanding. It's not quite as nice looking as a full veneer plywood but it's a lot cheaper.
posted by Mitheral at 7:20 PM on August 26, 2017


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