There are many different types of engineered wood out there with different names which can be misleading. To be a little more specific these are some examples I currently use.

  • particle board
  • plywood
  • press board
  • chip board
  • MDF

I want to be sure that when I use these terms that I am actually using them correctly. I have even seen here at WW some people admittingly using the wrong terms.

I am not looking for how these are used or a comparison between. I just want to know what they can be called and what they look like. Characteristics are OK as long as they help in describing the board.

1 Answer 1


At least in North America I would consider these to be the more common encountered engineered wood products. Note: While some of the pictures are large this is be design so everyone ( Some people are better at seeing than others ) will be able to see the detail. There might be different regional names for these which I can add later assuming they are correct.


Alternate Names: Medium Density Fibreboard

Appearance: Uniform appearance and usually perfectly flat. Close inspection will show the small fibers that make up the boards composition. Typically brown but can come in other colours, like blue and red, to represent special properties.

Further Reading: Wikipedia article on MDF

Corner of MDF Boards

Image from CapriCoast


Alternate Names: Oriented Stand Board, Sterling Board, Aspenite, Pressboard1

Appearance: Non-Uniform pattern across all dimentions. Easiest way to tell is the face has the varying coloured(browns, oranges and reds) and shaped wood flakes.

Further Reading: Wikipedia article on OSB


Image from Wikipedia


Alternate Names: N/A

Appearance: The face of plywood will look very similar to that of flat-sawn wood. There will almost always be seen repeating pattern of knots and grain. The side will usually show the plies of similar height like stacked paper. It is likely that some plywoods will have those plies not perfectly parallel throughout the entire board.

Further Reading: Wikipedia article on Plywood


Image from Wikipedia

Particle Board

Alternate Names: Chipboard

Appearance: The face should be nice and flat but the easiest is to look at the sides where you will see the large (by comparison to something like MDF) wood chips. It is also expected to see hole from where chips were removed from the cutting process.

Further Reading: Wikipedia article on Particle Board

enter image description here


Alternate Names: High Density Fiberboard, Masonite (Brand Name)

Appearance: Very similar to MDF in appearance but is usually thinner stock. A specific brand of hardboard called Masonite has that hash appearance seen on one side in the picture. Normal hardboard has two clean flat faces.

Further Reading: Wikipedia article on hardboard


Image from Stinson Lumber


I don't normally like linking to Wikipedia but most of the good images came from there. Also manufacturer sites can be biased as well. The whole point of this was mostly the pictures anyways.

Notations from above:

  1. I'm pretty sure pressboard is a synonym for OSB but I won't stake my career on it.

  2. Hardboard was the only one I was fuzzy about. Perhaps its just MDF? It's like the backing you would see on bookcases and what not.

  • For the longest time I though OSB was called particle board and particle board was called press board. I was wrong.....
    – Matt
    May 22, 2015 at 18:55
  • 2
    I thought OSB was called chipboard. Based on a google image search, I'm not the only one.
    – Random832
    May 22, 2015 at 21:13

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