Life of Ply

28 . 12 . 12

POST UPDATE: As of 2015 we have been using a Spanish grown and produced plywood made from FSC certified poplar. It is lightweight and traceable, so perfect for what we need.


Plywood is clever stuff, at least we think so.  If you take a piece of plywood and a piece of lumber (“normal” wood) of the same species and the same size as the plywood, then the plywood will tend to be both stronger and more flexible.  Plywood is made by taking thin veneers of wood and sandwiching them together, with the grain direction of each layer lying perpendicular to that of the layers both above and below it.  Because the finished plywood has grain running in two different directions, and across multiple layers (diluting the negative impacts of any material imperfections such as knots), it is much stronger and more resistant to warping, splitting and cracking.  It’s a delicious wood sandwich.

You won’t see any plywood on our boards, but we do use it.  We use plywood in our surfboards.  The internal frame, the skeleton of each surfboard, is made from plywood which slots together like a big jigsaw puzzle, dictating the length, width, rocker and rail shape of each board as planks and rail strips are built up around it.  So the plywood’s there, but it’s hidden on the inside, providing strength and security from within.  For most of our surfboards we buy in large 8’x4′ sheets of fsc (forest stewardship council) certified, five-veneer, 6mm ply from which the stringer and internal ribs are all cut out.  Plywood always has an odd number of veneers so that both the front and back veneers have grain running in the same direction, so as to balance it and avoid warping.  The ribs are all nested really closely together to minimise the wastage when cut out, and when it’s all done we’re left with a stack of ribs ready to lightly sand smooth and assemble, and a large rectangle that looks a little like a large, wooden, drunken spider’s web.

There are an awful lot of things that use plywood, from our surfboards through to household items, furniture, construction casings, small boats and even aircraft.  It’s a really versatile material.  Plywood, we salute you!

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