In a previous post, we explained how more important than the number of plies in a sheet of plywood, the quality and application of glue helps determine the quality. It would be nice if all you had to do was ask about the formula of glue being used, and voila! You would know if you would be getting the good stuff. However, it’s not that simple, either. Things like consistency and quality control in manufacturing aren’t as easy to determine or to quantify. Sorry; we’re just telling it like it is. What can you do to make sure you’re getting plywood that meets the standards of quality that you desire? It may not be formulaic, but it’s not impossible, either.
We’re guessing your idea of a perfect sheet of plywood isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky theoretical ideal. In fact, you’ve probably seen it before. What did it look like? Did it have a certain face appearance? What about its other characteristics — Was it remarkably flat? Was the core construction free from voids or patches, allowing the panel to mill just like solid wood? What else do you remember about your ideal sheet of plywood, the one you’re hoping to find again? Make a list, draw a picture, whatever it takes. Okay, now that you have your picture-perfect sheet of plywood in mind, dig a little deeper, and see if you can remember one more detail: What did you pay for it?
Take the Next Step
With your list in view, or even on paper, it’s time to talk to your lumber dealer. Forget whatever you’ve heard about negotiations, and be prepared to be up front with every detail, including price; you will get what you are willing to pay for. In fact, the mill can actually create exactly what you request: if you want an A1 Maple panel and want to spend just $50, they can do that. If you’re willing to spend $100, they can do that, too. But be aware that the $50 panel will not be the same as the $100 panel. The $50 panel will have to be missing something: face veneer quality, core construction, or glue quantity will be compromised.
Even though perspectives vary when it comes to what quality plywood is, the goal is to be able to communicate your own definition to a dealer, who can then find or craft exactly that — or point you in the direction of someone who can.
Become a Student
Perhaps your ideal sheet of plywood is something you have yet to actually find; if that’s the case, you can stand to benefit markedly from educating yourself about price differences. Visit your dealer, and take a tour of plywood. Ask questions about why one panel costs more than another one, which appears to be identical. Then go to another dealer and do the same thing. We’re guessing that your experience will corroborate what we’re asserting: plywood price differences tell a story that’s far more intricate and nuanced than mark-up or profit margins.