The most asked questions have to do with plywood.
· You must use ‘good’ plywood if you expect your boat to last.
· Exterior grade plywood IS NOT good plywood
· Good plywood is expensive
· Good plywood is hard to find.
The quality of US made plywood has fallen to the point I will not use it anymore. Sadly the only good plywood I can find is imported. While it it is not cheap the quality is vastly superior to US plywood.
EXTERIOR PLYWOOD: Don’t waste you money! The exterior grade plywood varies wildly in quality but it was not made for marine use. There are always voids (holes) inside that you can not see. The faces are rough. The glue used is not waterproof. It warps badly. Need I go on?
The best plywood I have used is Baltic Birch. It is made in Russia from Birch harvested in Baltic region. It has multiple thins plys of birch, not some filler material, making it very strong. The face it not a thin veneer, each layer is the same thickness. It is very high quality plywood.
Baltic Birch typically comes in 5’ square sheets instead of 4’ x 8’. I have heard that it is made in 4’ x 8’ sheets but I have never seen it. It is not the same thing as Birch plywood that is sold in most home improvement stores, so don’t be fooled! If it is US made IS NOT Baltic Birch.
MDO is another good choice. It is made for outdoor signs, so it is very weather resistant. I believe it is US made and the one exception to rule of quality.
Marine plywood is not what it used to be. US made ‘marine’ plywood is typically made from Douglas Fir and the quality has degraded to the point it is not worth buying. It splinter badly when you cut it, there are voids in the center and it wants it not that strong. On my most heavily used boat I have seen two frames start to fail. The plywood doesn’t break but just degrades becomes flexible till it finally fails. I used it for a long time but I now refuse to use it
Yes you can buy cheap plywood and slather it in epoxy to seal it, but all you have is a pig with lipstick, it’s still just cheap plywood. Buy the good stuff and save the epoxy for something that really needs it. My boats don’t need epoxy.
PRICE: Good plywood is expensive. Expect to pay 50 to 100 dollars for a sheet of plywood. Yes that is a lot of money but keep it in perspective. As of 2013 you can build most of my boats for around $350 for a nicely equipped boat. So what if you plywood cost $100? Look at the total cost of the boat, not the cost of one item.
SOURCES: You will not find good plywood at Lowes and Home Depot. You will probably not find it at the local lumberyard. You will have to search to find it and you may have trouble finding a source. Your best bet is to find who the cabinet shops buy from. Most people assume these are wholesalers but they are really just a dealer that deals with specialty shops. I have never had a problem buying from one nor needed a Tax ID number.
Sign companies use MDO for outdoor signs sp it may be easier to find than Baltic Birch. Check with local sign companies or sign supply companies in your area.
There are several companies around the country that will ship plywood it to you but because of the size it has to go by truck and shipping costs can be as much as a single sheet of plywood.