Plywood Quality

I’m wondering if anyone has experience with different qualities of Grade A plywood. I purchased a sheet of 1/2" Birch plywood from Home Depot. As I cut into it (making some pockets) I’m finding numerous voids and “black” wood inside. This can also be seen on the edges. I also purchased a little piece of 9mm Birch Plywood at Michael’s. It seems to be much higher quality. No voids and less dark stuff. The Michael’s piece was more expensive per square foot, but then I was buying a small piece.

I was wondering what others’ experience has been? Does anyone recommend a source for high-quality plywood? Or an alternative?

If you have a marine supply store in the area they usually have a source(s) for quality plywood. Likely pricier than HD but you get what you pay for, IF you’re lucky,

If you look at the sides, the good stuff has several layers just under 1mm thick and they are all the same thickness. The HD stuff has thin veneers on 4-5 thick pine layers. The best stuff comes in 60"x60" sheets, commonly referred to as Baltic Birch. I have found it in local mom and pop shops, not in the big chains. I search for “hardwood” and “lumber” in google maps. And you can always call ahead and ask around. In Denver, there is actually one retailer (Paxton) that seems to feed the rest.

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Premcor plus might be interesting. Check this out.

I’ve special ordered some near-Baltic-Birch-like equivalent from, surprisingly, Menards in a 4’x8’ sheet ~3/4" thick (13-same-thickness-plys). Ordered three sheets for some cabinetry and it came wrapped/protected in some 1/2" OSB. IIRC it was about $75 a sheet about 3 years ago in West Michigan.

Plywood from lowes and home depot is only good for wrapping a dog house. Mostly.


Non-baltic birch, non-marine grade plywood is often rated by the quality of the external veneers, with little-to-no indication of internal structure. The “A grade” plywood you got was probably boasting about one really good face veneer (expected to be used as the front).


The big box stores aren’t a good source for the best plywood. Woodworking stores have smaller lots of it, like a Rockler store. You might have better luck going to a real lumber store or lumber dealer that advertises hardwood. They often have the real baltic birch plywood that doesn’t have the voids and glue fills. Find a small cabinet shop nearby and ask where they get the good stuff.

Good luck. This is especially an issue with lasers. CNCs can power through the glue fills and knots, but lasers hit them and suddenly there is a section that isn’t cut through.

Rockler and Woodcraft are big chains and they usually have good plywood. In my experience they small smaller pieces at relatively high prices, but they are a great way to dip a toe in. A 5’ sheet might be $60 at a lumber store and a 24"x30" (5x less area) would be $20ish. Those numbers are made up, but they are about what I remember.

Spending $20 on something you can fit in your car and play with as an experiment is easier than $60 for a sheet that you need a pickup or a circular saw for.

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Thanks everyone! I’m glad to know that there are better versions of Birch Plywood out there. I have found that I can buy “Baltic Birch” at a local Woodcraft store. Thus far I have not located the Premcore locally, but I’m still looking.

Again, Thanks for your help.

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Home Depot sells a product called “Purebond.” Won’t find it in stores but they can order it. Very close , if not better than Baltic. I’ve used it in woodworking. No voids and really flat. You can see it and order it also from the website.
Just another possibility.

For what it’s worth. Here is pure bond and baltic side by side. Purebond is 5 layers with two thin veneers versus 13 equal layers including thick faces

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I’m curious, is ‘baltic birch’ an actual trade name or just a description of the wood used? The pic looks very good and I’d like to know if ordering ‘baltic birch’ ensures that quality od product.

Good question that others may be able to answer more accurately. In my experience anything baltic birch should give you the ~1.3mm layers (18mm/13 layers) all of solid birch. There are some different grades, but I believe the has more to do with the face appearance than anything else.

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Thanks! Did you source yours at a Big Box place or a specialty lumber shop?

Local lumber shop in Austin.

Thanks, as much as I’d probably enjoy a trip to Austin it might be a bit far to go for plywood. :upside_down_face: Been watching the above video on Premcore and will see if there are any somewhat local retailers.

I am pretty confident there is someone in almost any major city that sells baltic birch. I have a few choices of shops in Denver and we are not a huge metropolis.

Well, relative to coastal NC … :grinning:

When I search ‘baltic birch’ on my local Lowes store’s site it returns a number of different things listed as ‘birch plywood’ with no mention of number/thickness of plies, next time I’m up that way I’ll have to take a look. The only things labeled baltic that come up in the search are butcher block and finished products so I have the feeling the birch plywood isn’t going to be that nice stuff pictured by Bryan.

Make sure it is baltic or russian birch. The birch at the box stores are the ones like I showed on the left of the picture.