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I've seen The Wood Whisperer's video about some of the terms and such you see at a hardwood dealer, but it deals mostly with solid wood. There are some topics he doesn't touch on, like the various grades of plywood. I have the price list from my local hardwood dealer:

and there are several terms / abbreviations there: L/C, V/C, PS, RC, A-1, D-3, etc. Depending on the wood species, there's only 1 option to choose from (like Cherry), so if I want plywood with that veneer, I have to get that grade / quality / whatever, or go elsewhere. But, if I'm looking for e.g., Baltic Birch, I have 2 options (4B and 3B), or if I want regular Birch, I can choose B-2 V/C or A-1 L/C.

What do these terms / abbreviations mean, and when would I choose one over another? Are these standardized among hardwood dealers, or will they all have their own system?

plywood prices

  • Thanks for including a photo of the price sheet. Any chance of retaking it with more light and/or a higher-res camera, or scanning it? It's a bit fuzzy. – rob Sep 22 '16 at 23:06
  • @rob Uploaded a scan of the list, which should be much clearer – mmathis Sep 23 '16 at 0:17
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In addition to the grade, plywood can have different cores.

The following is taken from PaxtonWood.Com

Combination Core

There are two types of Combination Core construction. The first type consists of a center veneer core and a crossband veneer on both sides of the center with a layer of MDF, particleboard, or hardboard under the face and back veneer. The second type consists of an oriented strand board or wafer board center with a veneer crossband on both sides, under the face and back veneer. Combination Core can be used when the project calls for consistent flatness and good screw-hold ability, without the weight of a MDF or particleboard core.

Combination Core

Lumber Core

Lumber edge glued into a solid slab is considered Lumber Core. Lumber Core plywood is most often found in the construction of import panels, usually only 18mm thickness panels. Lumber Core plywood consists of a face & back veneer, then a layer of crossband veneer, with the edge glued lumber in the center. Lumber Core plywood should be used for the bending strength and screw-hold ability. The ability of Lumber Core plywood to bounce back makes it an excellent choice when constructing long or wide shelves in cabinets or closets.

Lumber Core

MDF Core

Medium Density Fiberboard Core has the most uniform thickness and consistency of any panel core. The face and back veneer are glued directly to the MDF Core without the need for a crossband veneer. The consistency in thickness and flatness makes MDF Core panels the preferred choice for 32mm construction.

MDF Core

Particleboard Core

Particleboard Core panels are constructed similar to MDF Core panels, with the face & back veneers glued directly to the core. Particleboard Core lays flat like MDF, but does not have the screw-hold strength of other cores. Particleboard Core is the least expensive of all core types.

Particleboard Core

Veneer Core

Veneer Core plywood consists of a center veneer and crossband veneers alternately layered on both sides of the center to the desired thickness producing an odd number of veneers for the core. The weight-bearing strength of Veneer Core plywood is excellent along with its bending strength and screw-hold ability. Veneer core panels are lighter in weight than any other core type.

enter image description here

In addition, the veneer on the panel can be cut one of two ways.

Plain Sliced

Plain slicing a log occurs when a log is only turned a few inches at a time when slicing it, versus a constant turn and peeling method used for Rotary Cut veneer. Plain Sliced veneer produces a cathedral grain pattern, similar to the pattern produced when plain sawn lumber is produced. Plain Sliced veneer is cut along the growth rings, producing the highest yield of any “slicing” method.

Rotary

Rotary is the process of peeling the entire long. Turning the log, while shaving the veneer as it turns produces Rotary Cut veneer. This process is the only cutting method that is capable of producing whole piece face veneers. Rotary cut will yield veneer with a broad grain pattern with no plain sliced or quartered appearance. Rotary cut veneers are used in the majority of panels produced in North America. This process yields the most veneer per log and is usually less expensive than sliced veneer.

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  • I asked them today, and this is the explanation they gave for core and veneer. The grades they use seem to be slightly different than those provided in keshlam's answer - the letter refers to the face, and the number the reverse. Lower is higher quality, although he said a B-2 is still "stain ready". For the Baltic birch, numbers and letters are reversed, and higher number is higher quality. – mmathis Sep 23 '16 at 23:13
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There are indeed standard definitions for plywood grades. Unfortunately different countries may use different standards. But the most common conventions, per Wikipedia, are:

A Face and back veneers practically free from all defects.

A/B Face veneers practically free from all defects. Reverse veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations.

A/BB Face as A but reverse side permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.

B Both side veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations.

B/BB Face veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations. Reverse side permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.

BB Both sides permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.

C/D For structural plywood, this grade means that the face has knots and defects filled in and the reverse may have some that are not filled. Neither face is an appearance grade, nor are they sanded smooth. This grade is often used for sheathing the surfaces of a building prior to being covered with another product like flooring, siding, concrete, or roofing materials.

WG Guaranteed well glued only. All broken knots plugged.

X Knots, knotholes, cracks, and all other defects permitted.

WBP Weather and Boil Proof used in Marine Ply. Designation replaced by EN 314-3. JPIC Standards

BB/CC Face as BB, back as CC. BB as very little knots of less than 1/4 inches, slight discoloration, no decay, split and wormholes mended skillfully, matched colors, no blister, no wrinkle. Common cost compromise for stuff that doesn't have to look like anything but softwood plywood.

However, the quoted table includes some additions and suffixes, and I'm not sure how to read those. You could ask the dealer to translate these...

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    @mmathis When you do get the information from the dealer, be sure to include it in your very own answer to your question :) – Ast Pace Sep 22 '16 at 22:27
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I will try to add onto what is already mentioned above. I work in the commercial millwork industry, and we still struggle with terminology from vendor to vendor, and within that, quality of each type, but what I'm listing below is pretty universal in the US, at least in the Southeast where I am.

L/C - Lumber Core (Hardwood single layer core, with thin veneer on both faces)

V/C - Veneer Core (this is what we know traditionally as plywood)

PS - Plain sliced, or Plainsawn (Referes to cut of the face, will feature prominent cathedrals, and there will be multiple "flitch" lines across the face of the sheet. Each flitch is a slice from the log, essentially.) enter image description here

RC - Rotary cut (or whole face veneer. This is sliced by spinning the log, and shaving off large pieces of veneer in one piece. Usually the cheapest cut you can get, and least desirable as well, but may be beneficial to avoid the flitch lines)

A-1 - A face - 1 Backer (This will be your best quality combination of faces)

D-3 - D face - 3 Backer (This will be a lower grade, but still acceptable for paint grade in most cases.)

A couple of other notes: Veneer core is going to offer greater strength, and durability in moisture over an MDF core, or Particleboard core. Veneer core will however be much less stable, and will warp more than a particleboard or mdf core. Baltic Birch tends to be the flattest and most stable of most veneer cores, due to the high number of layers.

In addition, when dealing with manufactured plywoods, or veneer cores, you will want to ask if it is a domestic or imported product. Domestic cores are going to be a higher quality product with less voids in most cases than their imported counter parts. You may hear some lower grade plywoods of referred to as "China Birch" which is usually actually a poplar, and a very poor quality product for finished products.

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  • Thanks, I just added them in. I'm still getting used to how things work here. Appreciate you looking out. – Jacob Edmond Sep 26 '16 at 19:24
  • Welcome, and keep up the good posts! I didn't know about lumber-core until one of the magazines pointed out that we could construct our own panels that way. – keshlam Sep 26 '16 at 19:27

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