What is Baltic Birch Plywood?

Posted by Jaclyn Baldwin on

Baltic Birch Plywood, also known in the industry as Russian birch, originates from trees sourced in the Baltic Sea region, and is produced most commonly in Russia and Finland. 

It is available in many thicknesses, as well as in different grades, with B/BB and BB/BB among the most popular for lasering and furniture making. 

Baltic Birch is graded with letter designations for the face/back side of a panel, ranging from A (best quality) to C (utility grade). 

At MakerStock, we stock B/BB and BB/BB grade Baltic. 

B: Typically uniform light color, with no plugs/patches (football shaped oval patches about the size of an egg). Color variations and limited pin knots acceptable.

BB: Typically uniform in color, but can have more variation and pin knots, with limited plugs/patches allowed. 

These grades apply only to the face of the material.  Whether you are working with B/BB or BB/BB grade Baltic, the core of the material is the same. And this is an important distinction between most plywoods and Baltic Birch: Baltic Birch Plywood is constructed of alternating grain, all birch, veneer plies, and is void free. These layers/plies are all the same thickness.

With most traditional plywood, you can feel the moment your screw hits a void. There is nothing for the thread to bite into. Naturally that compromises the holding strength of your piece. When you are building something for strength you want to know that it will withstand the weight or stress it might endure. Imagine hanging a TV mount right into the drywall without hitting a stud. The holding strength is minimal, and the outcome, inevitable. 

In addition, the alternating grain plies leave you with a distinctive, exposed edge after cutting. Many makers choose to leave the edge exposed as it is so attractive. 

These great characteristics are also present in UV and Phenolic finish Baltic Birch Plywood. All that we love about Baltic Birch plywood remains with these items, but have distinctive finishes that set them apart. 

UV, or ultra violet cured finish, is typically a transparent, glossy, smooth finish. The finish is available on one (1S) or both (2S) sides of the sheet, and available on most grades of Baltic Birch Plywood. You can even find some mills that will add pigments for more color, or adjust the level of glossiness on the finish. 

UV Baltic is a great option when you are looking to save time on a project. With it’s smooth glossy finish, it comes to you ready to be cut, shaped or set in place. Perfect for desks, shelves and kitchen cabinets. 

Phenolic plywood has a phenol resin finish on both sides. While it can be found in many colors, MakerStock only stocks espresso at this time. The phenol gives the plywood a super smooth and glossy finish, making it ideal for surfaces where ease of movement is desired. It is commonly used in woodshops for router tables, fences, jigs, extensions, as well as in concrete forms.  

With UV and Phenolic Baltic Birch, you can machine, laser and cut like you would with normal Baltic Birch Plywood, and use all of your standard woodworking tools. With phenolic plywood, since it is valued for its unique finish, it is not advisable to sand or apply any adhesives to the phenolic resin.  

There's a place for every type of Baltic Birch Plywood and we look forward to bringing even more finishes and options to you soon!

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