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Basic techniques used when working with plywood
Oct 29, 2004

There are certain basics to follow when working with plywood.

Always store plywood panels off the floor in a cool, dry place for several weeks.  Lay the panels flat on two-by-fours or stack them on edge on two-by-fours and brace them as they lean against a wall at a slight angle. 

If you are working with hardwood plywood and experience low tolerance to formaldehyde gas emissions, use panels bonded with inner glue. 

Sawing

Use a power saw with a carbide-tipped or special plywood blade since plywood’s glue quickly dulls a steel blade. 

Avoid splintering the surface by positioning the panel face up when sawing by hand or table saw. Adjust a table saw so that the blade clears the face ply by a quarter inch. When using a circular or sabre saw, lay the panel face down and make sure its well supported.  

Wear a sanding respirator and work in a well-ventilated area. 

Sanding

Be careful when using a power sander on hardwood plywood since you can easily sand right through the face ply.  Never use a belt sander. 

Fastening 

Nails or screws won’t hold the edges of then plywood, but you can centre screws in edges three-quarters of an inch or thicker if you first drill pilot holes. 

Space nails at four-inch intervals for maximum strength in face plywood. 

Remove nails by pulling them out straight — not at an angle since this can cause splintering. 

Edge treatment

Fill gaps in the panel edges with wood putty, and protect and improve their appearance with adhesive backed veneer, wood strips, moulding or paint. 

Grain direction

 When using construction plywood for sheathing, make sure the panel grain runs horizontally, perpendicular to the studs; in flooring, perpendicular to the joists.  In this way, you get the greatest strength from the panel. 

 To further guarantee maximum strength in flooring, bridge the joists with two-by-fours to nail the panel on all four sides. 

Finishing 

Plywood’s distinctive grain can be enhanced by applying a semi-transparent oil-base stain.  Prior to staining, treat all edges with a sealant. 

If you want to paint plywood, first apply a primer and seal the edges.