From how much does plywood weigh, to whether plywood warps when it gets wet, to how to edgeband plywood, to how is plywood graded, and a lot more, we’ve written about plywood in many past articles. We’ve also used our fair share of plywood in many projects in our shop.
Cabinet boxes, desks for the kids, shelving, workbenches, and more are plywood projects we’ve pursued and enjoyed. It’s easy to source, as all local lumber yards keep a ready supply of various types of plywood, as do the large DIY stores. Our table saw does a good job of ripping it into the right dimensions for your projects. Our power tools find it easy to screw and nail into without splitting.
The various grades give us price point options to make a good fit for our intended uses. Buying the right grade also gives us finish options, whether paint or stain. In short, we work with plywood a lot, and we like it as a project material.
We know Baltic birch plywood, both solid and top layer grades, and have worked with each before. It’s a high-quality hardwood used in the manufacture of plywood, and it takes a great stain. Birch plywood is a premium type, and birch edgeband gives it a wonderful professional appearance when ironed on. If that sounds funny, check out our piece on its use to finish off a plywood project mentioned earlier.
Today we have a plywood type you may not have heard of or perhaps never worked with, and we think you might learn a new thing or two. First, let’s get past the basics and then hone in on sande plywood.
What is Plywood?
No mystery here, as we know plywood. It’s a manufactured real wood product made from thin layers, or veneers, of wood that are glued together. During the manufacturing process, each layer is rotated 90 degrees from the previous one. The grains are rotated, and that rotation provides extra strength in all directions with each sheet.
That rotation, and the strength in the finished product it creates, will prevent splitting when it is nailed and also reduce any expansion and contraction caused by changing environmental conditions.
Plywood glue holds each ply to the previous one, and the plies add up. It’s real wood, of course, and the glue and the rotating plies give it great strength. Sheets are usually 4’ x 8’ in size, although there are specialty sizes for special jobs like cabinet making, and half- and quarter-sheets can also be purchased.
The cost of plywood (again, real wood) is reduced somewhat by using softwoods for the core plies and a top ply of Baltic Birch to give it an appearance of greater value and more beauty in presentation. It is possible to purchase all birch plywood, too, although that will up the price by quite a bit.
If truly strong plywood is needed for a project, this is a good choice to make. But, if the project can get away with just the birch on top for all to see, perhaps on a workbench or even a table, that will give the sheet the added strength and levelness of torsion box construction, then a core of softwood, and a top layer of birch, will work very well for you. The price will be more affordable, too.
Another Type of Plywood – How About Sande Plywood?
Birch plywood is not the only one with a high-quality top ply.
Another is sande plywood. As far as pronunciation goes, some say s-AH-n-d-eh, and some say san-dee, but either way, it refers to a specific species of wood that is imported to the United States from the region between Ecuador and Columbia in South America and from the ocean side of Costa Rica. It is brought to the States specifically to be used in the manufacture of plywood.
About Sande Wood and Plywood
Also known as “mulberry wood,” it is prized for its uniform appearance. Both its sapwood and heartwood (the outer ring of wood and the center of the tree, respectively) are of a consistent color throughout the tree. Whether yellowish or light brown, the color is mostly uniform, and those neutral shades lend themselves well to staining.
For those of you who are curious, its technical name is brosimum utile, a plant native to southern Central America and northern South America, stretching from Brazil/Ecuador to Costa Rica, where it can be found in the rain forest.
Sometimes having a wide grain, and sometimes a tighter grain, you will want to check each sheet of sande plywood before you make a purchase to be sure to have similar grain appearance if that will be important to your project. But, either way, it takes a stain of most any shade well. Its density is similar to red oak and is considered as durable, also.
Its use is not limited to the manufacture of plywood, though. It is also used in making particleboard and fiberboard, as well as in making furniture and molding. The bark of the tree is also used in the making of cloth, boat sails, and blankets.
However, its most common use is in the making, not just of plywood, but specifically in the making of marine-grade plywood.
Sande Plywood As Marine Grade Plywood
In our piece on plywood types, we mentioned marine-grade plywood. We noted that this may be a misnomer of a sort because it does not mean the plywood is used exclusively for the use in building boats.
Rather, that designation refers to the way in which it is manufactured, which makes it a good choice for outside use where it will be exposed to elements that will introduce water.
In fact, marine-grade plywood is not waterproof. It is, however, a high-quality hardwood plywood that is made with waterproof glue. Beyond that, though, it is manufactured differently.
Whereas core plies in regular plywood will often have voids and knot holes that can’t be seen until you cut into a sheet, marine-grade plywood is of many thinner plies that have no such voids or knot holes. Those voids and knot holes can allow water to seep into an entire ply and eventually cause rot and decay.
Beyond that, marine-grade plywood is generally not treated with any chemicals, so it is not entirely rot-resistant. However, it is of the highest quality plywood of the most high-grade construction.
This makes it quite suitable for interior uses for projects such as furniture and cabinets (bathroom and kitchen) and can be a good choice even for paneling or wainscoting. On the outside of your home, it can be a good choice for such projects as decking, benches, and garden features like birdhouses.
Because of its ability to stand up to moisture and water, sande plywood can also be a good choice for the areas of your house where those two enemies of wood will be ever-present – the kitchen and the bathroom. If you’re building a new vanity for your bathroom or new cabinets for the kitchen, sande plywood will take good care of you. It’s not going to allow water in (no voids or knot holes, and water-proof glue holding the veneers together), and those uses will be protected.
As stated earlier, takes stain and paint well and can be counted on as a durable wood product for use in those areas. Your cabinets and that vanity can be made beautiful in their finishing and serve you well.
Sande Plywood vs. Birch Plywood
While all of this might seem to be suggesting that they are interchangeable, that isn’t necessarily the case. While aesthetically, they are similar – beautiful when finished, whether stained or painted – and have similar grain and overall color, there are differences. Yes, they can also both be used in making furniture and cabinets, but again, there are differences.
It becomes apparent when you compare them based on the standard plywood rating system. While birch plywood is rated to be able to withstand exposure to the elements for a limited period of time, sande plywood can withstand exposure to water all the time.
You’d use birch plywood for a purpose that might expose it to the elements for a short period of time – like when using it in construction for sidewalls, or even subflooring (although its a bit too expensive for this purpose), where there will be a little bit of exposure until the house is roof tight and siding has been added. But, too much exposure will weaken the glue that holds standard plywood together is not waterproof and will eventually weaken.
Therein is a major difference: the glue used in marine-grade plywood is waterproof. Secondly, marine-grade plywood has no empty spots in its core, not any knot holes. Water resistance is the greatest difference.
There is also a cost difference worth considering. While birch plywood is expensive, so is sande plywood. If you shop well and carefully, you can minimize that difference, but do expect to pay more for sande plywood. The core is without empty spaces, and the glue is waterproof, so you must expect to pay more.
It comes down to the intended use of the plywood. If you need greater water resistance, sande plywood is the better choice.
We couldn’t find a video directly on point about sande plywood, but we did find a video that still might be helpful about purchasing plywood. The opinions are the videographer’s and not necessarily ours, but it’s always helpful to consider other opinions.
Sande plywood has its place as a valued marine-grade plywood for uses where moisture and water could be expected to be present. Keep it in mind for that purpose for your next project.