There are several notable plywood options, but very few can measure up to the Baltic birch. Several professionals regard Baltic birch to be of higher quality than most standard plywoods. It’s very versatile, and since it’s made entirely from birch piles, it has a very solid structure.
The recent hype around Baltic birch plywood has increased the interest of several people in the material. Understandably, several woodworkers recommend this unique plywood for different projects. It’s durable, has an unmatched aesthetic appeal and is quite easy to work with. Plus, it has several other benefits, which makes it an ideal choice for many woodworkers.
There are several reasons to love Baltic birch plywoods. It has a wide range of functionality, making it ideal for your designs. This post contains all the relevant information about why you should install Baltic birch plywood designs in your home. We’ll get to the benefits a little later in the article. But, first, let’s dig into a little bit of history about Baltic birch plywoods.
History and Origin of Baltic Birch Plywood
As you can already guess from its name, the Baltic birch is native to the Baltic sea region. The Baltic sea is located in the northeastern part of Europe. However, the Baltic birch trees mostly grow in Russia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia and most of the former USSR. As such, people sometimes call it the Russian Birch.
People initially used the Baltic birch plywood in cabinetry designs. However, due to its versatility, many woodworkers now apply it to a variety of other purposes and designs. The reinforced cores made by glueing several layers of veneer plies together give it a solid structure. Also, the waterproof glue adds to the integrity of the plywood, making it considerably strong and more moisture-resistant.
The character of Baltic Birch Plywood
The highest quality Baltic birch plywoods all have an attribute of uniformity. This quality is characterized by a sharp appearance on the surface and sides of the plywood. In addition, the plywood should have even layers without any gaps or voids in between them. One good way to tell the uniformity of the plywood is to look at the striped pattern on the side. The edges must have a uniform stripe pattern with all the panel layers closely glued together.
The consistency will also give the plywood a more robust yet, smart appearance. In addition, its thinner plies (1.5mm thick) allow for better stiffness and stability.
Uses of Baltic Birch Plywood
Having looked at the history and make of Baltic birch plywoods, let’s proceed to look at its uses. Generally speaking, you can use Baltic birch for pretty much any project which requires you to use plywoods. And speaking of projects that may require plywood, they’re numerous. You simply need to identify what you want to do and get the best plywood for it.
The quality of the Baltic birch plywood makes it a suitable material for many construction projects. Many people also use it in various remodelling and woodworking designs. And thanks to its versatility and robust nature, it presents several unmatched qualities for people who use it. These are attributes you’ll never get in other types of plywoods.
First off, Baltic birch plywood is perfect for woodwork involving joints. They’re also quite capable of holding nails and screws tightly, unlike many traditional plywoods. The void-free and uniform nature of the baltic birch gives it a superior screw holding ability. Most regular plywoods have voids. When a screw penetrates avoid, it often lacks holding strength at the points of contact between the thread and wood.
Naturally, it works excellently for assembling cabinets and furniture design. Due to its relative resistance to moisture, it can work really well for kitchen cabinets and furniture. You can also use it for bathroom counters and dining tables. Furthermore, its rigid core makes it a suitable material for creating shells of custom trailers, speaker boxes and even skateboards.
It’s also a suitable flooring option for your apartment. It’s strong enough to hold human and furniture weight. Nonetheless, you should consult professionals before you install Baltic birch plywood flooring.
The Baltic birch owes most of its unique perks to the toughness of its core and outer veneer. It’s strong enough to hold up significant weights and pressure. At the same time, it’s flexible enough to cut and craft into different shapes.
Related Article: Ultimate Guide to Baltic Birch Plywood
Baltic Birch Plywood Benefits
So, Baltic birch plywood can do a little more than your average traditional plywood. But is that all there’s to it? No, that’s just scratching the surface of why many woodworkers prefer it. So, let’s back up that assertion by looking at seven of the main merits of using Baltic birch plywood.
Higher Durability and Stability
The strength and solidness of the Baltic birch plywood is still its most prominent advantage. In fact, Baltic birch plywood owes most of its popularity and high demand to its sheer durability.
It features three or more layers of birch attached together with waterproof glue to form a single sheet of plywood. This construction gives it a reinforced core that’s a lot stronger than your average plywood. In addition, the cross-banded 1.5 mm, thick birch veneer layers give it exceptional stability and a more uniform surface.
All traditional plywoods tend to warp under the effect of stress and ageing. Bowing and caving are good examples of warping in traditional plywoods. Baltic birch plywood does a better job of managing stress and is not as susceptible to warping as the other types of plywood. However, this doesn’t mean the Baltic birch can’t deform after a very long period of usage.
The Baltic birch plywood does a fantastic job managing the pressure, stress and effects of ageing. So, while it may also be susceptible to warping, The odds of it bowing or caving are a lot lower than with your average plywood.
If you’re a woodworker, you’ll understand how tricky things can get when making joints with plywood. It’s pretty challenging to make a perfect joint with traditional plywoods. Their cores are not strong enough, and they also lack uniformity. In addition, the void spaces in the layers of conventional plywood always compromise their integrity. All these slight defects make them difficult to use in joints.
Safe to say, the Baltic birch is heads and shoulders above other traditional plywoods in terms of its applicability to making joints. Due to the strength and uniformity of its core, you can comfortably use it to create clean joints. The Baltic birch’s smooth surface also enables an even spread of the adhesive, which allows the edges to come together correctly.
You can easily create different types of joints with Baltic birch plywood. You can design interesting patterns such as dovetails, mitres, dadoes and rabbits with this material. If you then factor in the durability of the material, you’ll have beautiful joints that will last really long.
Bonus point; It’s the perfect material for projects that require polyurethane or lacquer coating.
One of the most notable features of the Baltic birch plywood is its smooth, rich sheen. The surface and the edges of the plywood are oil-smooth. The edges are fine enough that you can leave them exposed, and they’ll still look excellent. This will enable you to save time, effort and material that you’ll otherwise spend on trimming the edges.
You can also stain the plywood if you want a more versatile colour scheme. Ideally, you should use an oil-based pigmented stain with a stain controller to finish the plywoods. You can also use a wash coat of dewaxed shellac. This ensures a more even colour spread with the stain.
However, you can simply opt for a dye if you’re unable to get or use any of the stain materials mentioned above. Finishing the Baltic birch with a clear topcoat of polyurethane or lacquer is also an excellent idea. Although, we believe the original ambience of the unfinished birch plywood is appealing enough. So, there’s no urgent need to add a finish to it.
Thicker Veneer Dimensions
The outer ply of the Baltic birch has a thickness of 1.5mm, which is more than what you’ll get in regular hardwood. The traditional hardwood plywoods all have super thin veneer faces. Common cabinet-grade plywoods like oak and maple typically have face veneers with thicknesses of about 0.75mm.
With such flimsy width, it’s not surprising that cabinet grades plywoods are highly susceptible to damage. Baltic birch plywoods have outer layers that are nice and thick. Of course, there are several grades of Baltic birch available, and the grade affects the thickness of the veneers. The commonest grade is the BB/BB, which is also the second-highest grade. BB/BB means both face and back veneers are a single piece with no splices.
The thicker veneer also gives the material a smoother finish and makes it more suitable for furniture designs. Plus, the higher the grade you go for, the better your options with the material. Although you may have to pay a higher price, you’ll be getting good value for your money in terms of looks and strength.
Superior Screw Grip
Firm screw grip is a critical factor when choosing materials in woodworking. As we mentioned earlier, most traditional plywoods have voids between their layers. A screw will not have sufficient holding strength whenever it penetrates through a void in the layers of the plywood. This is because there’ll be nothing holding to its threads, and even if there’s no void, the softwood cores of traditional plywoods are not grippy enough.
Baltic birch is an excellent option for projects that’ll involve screws. Its core comprises twice as many layers as regular plywood, and the layers are glued together with a strong waterproof adhesive. Plus, the core is strictly made of birch ply instead of poplar or other cheap options. Coupled with the absence of voids in its layers and the thick external veneers, you can easily understand the source of its exceptional screw grip.
It’s Safe and Works Well With Paper Back Veneer
Baltic birch plywood seldomly has knots, and its edges are very smooth. In addition, birch plywood doesn’t crack or splinter. As such, it poses a minimal risk of injury to kids and pets. This makes it suitable for making children’s furniture and toys.
Also, you don’t have to walk away if you don’t like the external appearance of the birch. You can cover up the surface with any type of beautiful wood veneer you prefer. In other words, you can put any type of design on the plywood to suit your preferences. However, ensure to attach the veneer to both sides of the plywood to maintain its stability.
It’s Perfect for Laser Cutting and Engraving
Finding a type of plywood that has large enough sheets and a consistently dense thickness is difficult. But, unfortunately, those are the suitable types for cutting with a laser. Note that most complex and intricate designs, such as architectural models and carefully engraved artworks, are done with lasers. In other words, if you want to have some sentimental engraved knick-knacks in your apartment, you’ll need to get Baltic birch plywoods.
One thing that may cause a bit of concern when laser cutting the birch plywood is its structure. Particularly the ⅛’ and ¼’ thick Baltic plywood boards are prone to warping under the immense heat of the laser. This is because they’re too thin and can’t maintain their core integrity under pressure and heat.
Nonetheless, you can offset this undesirable effect by creating a frame that’ll press the panel flat while cutting. Sometimes, you may only need to tape the board down to a piece of medium-density fiberboard. But, overall, you simply need something to hold the board in place as you work on it with the laser.
Baltic Birch Grades
Woodworkers and experts generally grade plywoods based on the appearance of their face and back veneers. They don’t bother with the cores. Also, when grading, the woodworkers use a grading system that rates the smoothness and colour of external veneers. The face is the finer side of the plywood, while the back is the rougher end of the board. Let’s consider the common Baltic birch plywood grades.
The “B” indicates a single piece of veneer. So, in this case, B/BB signifies a single piece face and back veneer. The first single, “B,” means that the face veneer has a clear, light-uniform colour and is free of defects.
The double (BB) after the slash indicates that the back veneer can have 3-6 colour-matched patches. These colour patches will come no bigger than an egg and will have an oval shape. Plus, the inner cores will be solid birch single-piece veneers.
Quite similar to the first grade, this grade also features a single-piece veneer for both face and back. However, in this case, both face and back veneers allow for 3-6 colour-matched patches. The veneers may also have light mineral streaks and tight pin knots. The patches will again come no bigger than an egg and will have an oval shape. Likewise, inner cores remain solid single-piece veneers.
This grade of Baltic birch plywood has single-piece veneers on both the face and back. However, the “CP” indicates that the back veneer is a downgraded version of the “BB” grade veneer. The reason for this is to allow for sound knots and unlimited patches on the veneer without creating any open defects. This grade also has solid birch single-piece veneers for its cores.
Baltic birch plywood with this grade has a single-piece face and back veneer. However, both face and back veneers are downgraded “BB” grade veneers. The downgrade creates room for unlimited patches, unlimited sound knots and repaired splits. It also often has tight cracks, which is why most woodworkers use panels of this grade for laminating.
Woodworkers also commonly refer to this grade of Baltic birch plywood as the utility grade. It has poor surface quality, with several mineral streaks running down its face and back. The colouration is also inconsistent with large knots and very noticeable cracks. Plus, it has small voids, and, as a result, people mostly use it for structural purposes.
Baltic Birch Sizes
Most Baltic birch sheets come from the European cabinetry market, and the manufacturers often roll them out in 5’x5′ sheets. Converting the size to metric, you’ll have them in 1525mm x 1525mm. These dimensions don’t matter much in fine woodworking since you’ll still cut the pieces into the smaller sizes you need.
For the US and Canadian markets, the thickness is approximately ¾” to the nearest imperial value. It’s not precisely ¾” thick; it’s a little bit thinner at 18mm thickness. As such, you want to be careful when planning and cutting for joinery. Ensure to measure all the dimensions before cutting. Never assume a precise measurement for your joints.
Final Thoughts: How To Transition Between Two Different Wood Floors
Baltic birch plywood can be a fantastic asset in the hands of a woodworker. It’s an excellent and cost-effective solution for your cabinetry needs. There are also advantages to installing Baltic birch plywood flooring in your home. Although, one may argue that cheaper traditional plywoods are more practical. However, the Baltic birch plywood is unmatched in looks and functionality.
If that is not compelling enough, you can take a personal look into the quality of the material itself. Then, check out durable Baltic birch plywood planks from our online store at Three Trees Flooring for a more convincing answer. Aesthetics aside, we can guarantee whatever design you fabricate with Baltic birch plywoods will last long.