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I found somebody selling sheets of 3/4" cabinet grade A birch maple plywood for $35.00 a sheet on Craigslist. I'm a newbie woodworker, so I could use some advice.

So far I'm mostly prototyping with softwood plywood and such, and I'd originally planned to travel 300 miles round trip to Tampa to get some Baltic birch plywood for $45 a
1/2" sheet or $69 a 3/4" sheet.

I don't know much about birch maple plywood, but this seems like a deal to me. The seller has more than I need, but has a 4 sheet minimum. It looks like it may have been sitting a while. Any idea of how this plywood would compare to the Baltic birch that most people recommend? I've read that there's both soft and hard maple and that hard maple was harder than Birch.

I was originally planning on using mostly 1/2" plywood for weight and thickness savings, but at this price for 3/4" I'm thinking it would be better and more forgiving for a newbie like me. Is there anything I should look for in selecting these sheets? Thanks.
 

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Ah, now we enter the hardwood plywood vortex. I used to have a cabinet shop. Baltic birch is different not so much because of the wood itself but the construction of the plywood. It has more plies (layers) in the layup than conventional hardwood plywood. And fewer voids in the core. Which makes for a slightly stronger product overall and a more attractive edge if the edges are exposed and clear finished. But for most things you would do for a van build, the regular hardwood plywood will be everything you need it to be. Face veneer species makes very little difference in hardwood plywood, except that in the fancier species - like walnut and so on - the face veneers get even thinner than the face veneers on the common stuff - birch, maple, oak, etc.. The cores are all the same except when you are dealing with specialized core stuff - as in MDF core, lumber core (if any of that is still available), and the various hybrid cores that have a couple plies of MDF along with veneer plies. Maple or birch are used pretty much interchangeably for paint grade cabinetry, depending on current price. Maple gets used more for clear finished cabinet interiors because it is nicer looking when clear finished. It is a bear to stain, though - tends to take stain very unevenly.
If you buy sheets from anything other than a lumberyard, look them over carefully for damage, signs that they may have been wet at some point, and stains or discoloration. If the person has stored them properly then they should be good as new; but if not there are many problems, from moisture damage to bowing, that you could have to deal with. some of those issues my not matter to you, like discoloration or stains if you plan to paint the stuff, and in that case the damage could be in your favor if you can talk the seller down because of it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, I may get the four sheet minimum and call it a day.

I have a few components longer than 5 feet that would benefit from 8' x 4' sheets v.s. the 5' x 5' sheets that are supposedly typical for BB. I've seen online that Menards sells BB in 8' x 4' sheets, but the nearest one is nearly 800 miles away. :(
 

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Affirmation? You got it from me. I’d buy it given the cautions jumpster gave you. BTW cross cutting the veneer on any of these plywoods requires a very fine blade. I like name brand 80 tooth 10” blades sold as "smooth cross cuts.”
I often apply old style painter's tape along the cross veneer lines I plan to cut to avoid chipping.
 

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FWIW most lumber yards carry chinese import 3/4" birch plywood for around $35. Even HD sells radiata pine plywood for $35 which holds paint well.
 

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Ah, now we enter the hardwood plywood vortex. I used to have a cabinet shop. Baltic birch is different not so much because of the wood itself but the construction of the plywood. It has more plies (layers) in the layup than conventional hardwood plywood. And fewer voids in the core. Which makes for a slightly stronger product overall and a more attractive edge if the edges are exposed and clear finished. But for most things you would do for a van build, the regular hardwood plywood will be everything you need it to be. Face veneer species makes very little difference in hardwood plywood, except that in the fancier species - like walnut and so on - the face veneers get even thinner than the face veneers on the common stuff - birch, maple, oak, etc.. The cores are all the same except when you are dealing with specialized core stuff - as in MDF core, lumber core (if any of that is still available), and the various hybrid cores that have a couple plies of MDF along with veneer plies. Maple or birch are used pretty much interchangeably for paint grade cabinetry, depending on current price. Maple gets used more for clear finished cabinet interiors because it is nicer looking when clear finished. It is a bear to stain, though - tends to take stain very unevenly.
If you buy sheets from anything other than a lumberyard, look them over carefully for damage, signs that they may have been wet at some point, and stains or discoloration. If the person has stored them properly then they should be good as new; but if not there are many problems, from moisture damage to bowing, that you could have to deal with. some of those issues my not matter to you, like discoloration or stains if you plan to paint the stuff, and in that case the damage could be in your favor if you can talk the seller down because of it.
awesome advice. I've been wondering the same myself.
 

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Affirmation? You got it from me. I’d buy it given the cautions jumpster gave you. BTW cross cutting the veneer on any of these plywoods requires a very fine blade. I like name brand 80 tooth 10” blades sold as "smooth cross cuts.”
I often apply old style painter's tape along the cross veneer lines I plan to cut to avoid chipping.
Okay so I bought a new circular saw blade to cut 3/4" birch ply that I bought much $$$ from Lowe's ... horrible trouble cutting across the width of a 4'x8'...binding, kick back, all manner of horrible things. I think this must be the cross cutting of the veneer that you are referring to? I used a blade that said it was specifically for ply, and I supported the board. I'm thinking from what you're saying I need to go back and get another blade with even more teeth. Is it the tooth issue that's causing all the binding and kick back? I never imagined that birch ply would be harder to cut than the regular stuff. :eek:
 

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If you want good cross cuts on the ply, it should really be cut on a crosscut saw, or a table saw with the correct blade. There are a few hand saws that can make the cut like a fein with a straight guide, but this would be a difficult cut to make freehand with high quality.
 

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I just cut up a piece of ¾" oak ply (from Lowe’s) . No problems at all and I just used whatever old blade happen to be in my skillsaw. While a sharp, fine blade is best the real key is proper support of the plywood while cutting it. You usually need 3 sawhorses to do it right unless you have a helper.
 

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I just cut up a piece of ¾" oak ply (from Lowe’s) . No problems at all and I just used whatever old blade happen to be in my skillsaw. While a sharp, fine blade is best the real key is proper support of the plywood while cutting it. You usually need 3 sawhorses to do it right unless you have a helper.
@keeponvaning Eh, I don't understand why I'm having so much trouble with it :crying: Never had before. Maybe I should go back to my old blade - better haul it out of the trash.
 

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Although a new fine tooth blade is far better the saw you are using also can make a big difference. Battery powered saws just don't have as much torque as a ac powered model. If you've tried making sure the wood itself is not binding on the blade because of how it's sitting on the sawhorse (or whatever you are cutting it on) you can always try to insert a thin shim into the saw kerf to spread it apart on the long side (8') but that usually doesn't work too well on the short side (4') crosscutting plywood.
 

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If working solo it's best to have a piece of sacrifical plywood or rigid foam or something underneath to allow you to cut through the ply but have it supported. A long straight edge and some clamps can be used in a pinch but a track saw would be my choice.

For rough ripping a chalkline and a nice old skil77 wormdrive makes easy work.
 

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Set the depth of cut to just a 1/4” deeper than the sheet. Since modern carbide toothed blades are so inexpensive and even 60 and 80 tooth ones come as thin kerf versions I use them. The blade cannot be allowed to heat up as it will then go in odd directions despite your best efforts.
KOV- I have an older model 18 volt Ridgid saw that cuts about as good as a corded saw. I do have a pair of full sized batteries for it not the half batteries you get with the drill kit since you will need to change them at noon if you are using it a lot. I don’t know if the newer saws are as good.
Picture from eBay not my pristine looking one with my new fine toothed blade!

 

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Discussion Starter #15
I have been surprised at how much I've used my corded circular saw despite acquiring my Bosch table saw from CL. I've been debating getting a decent cordless like RD's for this reason.

I've iterated through various means of supporting larger sheets. My first attempt was with some extra steel wire shelves I had lying around. These always seem to come with one or more shelves than can be used effectively. It wasn't intentional, but one shelf became sacrificial while I was preparing for an inbound hurricane.

I can attest that a generic carbide woodworking blade can cut through steel, so I'm hopeful birch maple ply will not be a problem.
 

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My favorite table for cutting up sheetgoods is 2” foam insulation. I keep a few pieces around for this. I set the blade to go just 1/16” deeper than the plywood I am cutting. Never have a problem if the whole thing is well supported, like on the driveway. And I always use a strain edge clamped down for a guide. Makes cutting sheet goods so accurate. And I cut with the face side down flat on the foam, never push the saw, just feed it. Practice! Birch or maple, the veneer is so thin it doesn’t matter. Unless the plywood is wet.
 

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An old carpenter's setup for cutting ply involves a couple 2x4's about 8 feet long and few more about 4 feet long, half-lap joints and you've got a nice solid grid to lay your sheets on and anything you cut is supported nicely. Don't cut the half-laps too tight, and do not fasten them together - that way it's easy to take apart and stow away when not in use.
 

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