What is Ply Wood?

The term ‘ply wood refers’ to engineered boards of wood, that are manufactured by gluing multiple very thin sheets (veneers) of wood together. Each adjacent layer is rotated, often by 90 or 45 degrees, so the grain of the wood runs in different directions. This adds strength, reduces shrinkage and expansion, and greatly reduces the chance of the wood splitting when it is screwed through. The number of layers used depends on the final thickness of the board, and it is commonly available from suppliers in the UK in sizes ranging from 3.6 to 25 mm thick. A standard full size board is then 1220 wide by 2440 mm long. Smaller boards are available pre-cut and larger, thicker, and thinner boards can be bought, although generally take a bit more searching for.

The veneers of wood are cut from using a rotary lathe. This machine turns logs against a long very sharp blade that peels the wood in one continuous, or semi continuous roll. This technique of ‘peeling’ logs was invented by a guy called Immanuel Nobel in the mid 18 hundreds. One major positive factor for processing lumber in this way is how efficiently it uses up the wood from the tree, compared to milling it into planks.

All sorts of different types of wood are used to make ply. The choice people make depends on the requirements of the project the wood is to be used for, for example, if it’s for furniture, or a buildings structural construction, and whether its going to be used on the interior or exterior of a building. Sometimes the final outside layer of the wood will be an expensive, slow growing hardwood, such as walnut, cherry or oak. This is a very cost effective way to produce a fine finish for furniture or doors.

Once the veneers have been cut, they are dried and then glue is spread over the sheets. They are then layered and then pressed together while the glue dries. The types of glue used, once again vary, depending on the use of the plywood. Often for exterior used the glue is phenol-formaldehyde based and for interior use it is urea-formaldehyde based. One concern in using plywood is the potential off gassing of the glues chemicals long after production, and the possible health concerns that may arise because of this. Many manufacturers now use a low formaldehyde emitting glue, and some are experimenting with producing plywood using soy based glue. Large suppliers stock plywood that comes with an emissions rating, much like a paint’s Volatile Organic Chemical’s (VOC’s) rating. In my opinion this is something to be aware of.

In the plywood production process, once the sheets have been pressed and the glue has dried, the rough edges of the boards are cut away as they are trimmed to size, and then they are graded and packed, ready to be sent out to the wholesalers.

Plywood is produced all over the world from Finland to India and is classed as an environmentally sustainable building material. Certainly, if the manufacturers are using 100% traceable wood from responsibly managed forests, this section of the production is sustainable. As for the glues used, I will research further, and discuss in another blog post as this is extensive subject in itself and worthy of careful consideration.

There is no doubt that ply wood is a highly versatile building material with multiple uses, that simplifies many woodworking projects, compared to making the same thing from solid wood. If it is used correctly, that is; the right type for the job is selected, it is worked with care and finished suitably, it can be used to produce splendid items that should last for many, many years.

A New Stage for Mr Brown’s Pig

Mr Brown’s Pig is the performance name of Chris Brown, a committed storyteller, puppeteer and musician. He has been an inspiration to me for many years now, and I was delighted when he asked me to remake the framework and playboard of his puppet stage.

The dimensions and hinged folding design were to remain the same so that he could continue to use it in the same manner as the previous one, but he wanted it to be constructed sturdily enough to last the next twenty years. As he transports it by strapping it to the roof rack of his car, it is clearly subjected to a fair amount of wear and tear, and this durability requirement needed suitable consideration.

It was my opinion that the original stage had become rickety because the wooden frame had only been butt jointed and screwed together, and there was a lack of sufficient bracing. Also, I noticed that the hinges that allowed it to fold up were not particularly robust.

The answer was straight forward; cut decent sized mitred braces to support every right angle join, and to cut a shallow mortice and tenon for every joint, before gluing and screwing them from the reverse side into place.

I sourced some lovely brass hinges, which although were slightly too wide, were easy enough to trim to size with an angle grinder.

The playboard on the original stage was made from laminated MDF which  unsurprisingly was looking pretty tatty. I chose to use a piece of locally grown hemlock. I let it sit in my workshop for a month or so and then cut it to size, planed it smooth and rounded the edges with a router. We wanted to darken it as much as possible so it’s finished with a dark oak coloured wax.

The result is a robust frame and shiny playboard that should stand the test of time, and allow Mr Brown’s Pig to continue performing his excellent puppet shows for many years to come.

Tula’s Flames

Tula and I had great time today spray painting this yellow army onto the red wall in her bedroom.

We had designed the idea ages ago but we’ve only just got the respirators we need to spray indoors. I say we, Tula did the designing, I just assisted the artistic process. 

Tula Iis very pleased with the result and so she should be, and very importantly, I’m very pleased to be able to say that the filters in the gas masks did an excellent job of filtering out the nasty propelant gases we would otherwise be breathing in. A flaming success and headache free.

Ladybird Lampshade.

It had got to that point when our bathroom ceiling needed a lick of paint, so while I was at it I jazzed up the previously cream and rather dusty lampshade.

I sprayed it blue, cut a lady bird stencil and sprayed that on and then added a bit of greenery with some acrylic paint and a brush. Maybe I’ll add a few flowers too.

I wonder what else I can rejuvenate around the house?

Ashley Down Primary School Wall; Painting Complete.

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I’ve just finished painting this long picture. It’s so long it took 2 panoramic photos on my phone to get it all in. It’s been a big old job, with a massive learning curve, but I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity.

Interdependence

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This picture, painted at Ashley Down Primary School, represents the ability to stand alone when necessary. For me a musician rocking it with the help of a looper clearly sums up this personal quality.

I love painting murals!

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This picture shows the stage I was at when I downed tools and finished work for the day yesterday, and therefore what I return to work on this morning. It’s another sunny day here in Bristol, I feel blessed, and I’m enjoying this project immensely. I’m learning so much and the hard work really feels worth it.
Treasure every moment!