Baltic Birch Plywood
We are often asked if Baltic Birch is our most commonly used plywood. We can confidently say yes! Primarily used for woodworking, it has recently also become a staple in the world of laser cutting and wood crafting. We’re going to do a brief overview of the qualities of Baltic Birch; after that, we’ll look at the grading standards that are used for it, and what they mean for consumers. Here at KJP we only carry BB/BB as it has proven to be the most popular and desirable grade.
Baltic Birch is often assumed as a wood species from Latvia. A good guess, given the name, but Baltic Birch is something a bit different.
What is Baltic Birch and where is it from?
Baltic Birch is made entirely of - you guessed it - Birch trees. Baltic Birch is a plywood product from the Baltic states: more specifically, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
What makes Baltic Birch so durable?
The face, back, and core are entirely constructed from Birch. The plywood is made up of an odd number of layers, each of which are about 1 mm thick. These layers are cross-banded - that means the grain of one layer runs perpendicular to the grain of the next.
Two additional advantages of Baltic Birch is the lack of voids in the core, and the consistency of thickness calibration.
Due to the nature of its construction, Baltic Birch is an incredibly durable product - it’s strong, stable, tough, and heavy. That makes it ideal for a number of woodworking projects.
How many plies are in Baltic Birch?
Each thickness has a different quantity of plies. With a strong face veneer of 1.38mm, here is a breakdown of the interior plies in our BB/BB grade Baltic Birch plywood.
3mm - 3 plies
6mm - 5 plies
9mm - 7 plies
12mm - 9 plies
18mm - 13 plies
What sizes of Baltic Birch are available at KJP Select Hardwoods?
We offer 4’ x 8’ and 5’ x 5’ sizes for our local customers here in Ottawa (Canada). We include 2 free cuts for every sheet, with additional cuts available if required. For customers throughout North America, we offer an extensive selection of smaller sizes. From packages of 12” x 12”, to 24” circles: if it can fit in a box we can ship it to you. We are often able to accommodate custom sizes so we encourage our customers to reach out. Visit our Baltic Birch section to view our available sizes.
Is Baltic Birch expensive?
This is a relative question. Building a desk with Baltic Birch is less expensive than building a desk with solid Walnut lumber. Constructing a bookshelf with Baltic Birch would be more expensive than using construction grade plywood from a big box store. Consider what you are building and the quality you require. Baltic Birch is often a popular choice for kitchen cabinets, jigs, scroll sawing and laser cutting.
Is Birch plywood the same thing as Baltic Birch plywood?
No - Birch plywood is constructed with a top/bottom layer of Birch veneer and either an MDF or veneer core. Although the top and bottom faces may be more pleasing aesthetically, it does not begin to compare with strength. Each have their purpose in the world of woodworking.
Baltic Birch and the Laser Cutting Industry
With the availability of consumer grade laser cutters, Baltic Birch is the top choice material. With popular brands such as GlowForge, anyone with an empty corner in their house can now own one of these incredible machines. With a quick email to coordinate details, we can easily pre-cut sheets to fit your laser bed, allowing you more time to spend creating. Popular items created on a laser cutter with Baltic Birch are maps, puzzles, coasters, signs, nursery decor, and home decor.
Woodcrafting with Baltic Birch Circles
You can’t scroll Pinterest for more than a minute and not see a beautiful handmade piece of art made from a Baltic Birch circle. Resin artists will apply multiple shades of blue epoxy and using a heat gun, manipulate white paste to create the effect of beach waves. Mixed media artists use alcohol inks to create stunning masterpieces on the foundation of a simple plywood circle. They will seal their artwork with clear epoxy for lasting protection. Here at KJP we also carry the epoxy and pigment required for these unique projects. Read more about them here.
A scroll saw artist used to be thought of as someone's grandfather, however in recent years this hobby has become very popular for young female entrepreneurs. Using different thicknesses of Baltic Birch to create depth, name signs and home decor are quickly populating handmade e-commerce websites such as Etsy.
Now let’s move on to grading, which was initially established by Russia, way back when they were still the Soviet Union.
Baltic Birch grading
Now that you know what Baltic Birch is, we can look at how it’s graded. Here at KJP Select Hardwoods, we only stock BB/BB. In our almost two decades of business, this is the most popular requested grade. A quick note on grading: the grades are always given in Face/Back format. The face will always be the highest grade of the two, because the face is always the nicest-looking ply.
The face has a mostly uniform colour, with no cracks, splits, or plugs. Minor colour inconsistencies and a small number of pin knots are allowed. The back can have oval plugs/patches, but they must be colour-matched. An unlimited number of pin knots are allowed on the back, and colour inconsistencies can be more pronounced (but still limited).
Both the face and back can have colour-matched oval plugs/patches, and any number of pin knots. Colour inconsistencies, again, can be more pronounced than in the B grade, but are still limited (minor mineral streaks and the like).
The face continues to follow the BB standard listed above. The back can have an unlimited number of plugs/patches, as well as an unlimited number of sound knots. More staining and mineral streaking is allowed. No open defects are allowed.
As above, but both the face and back sides are CP graded.
The lowest grade commercially available, patches, open knots, veneer splits, and core voids are allowed. This grade of Baltic Birch is not sanded, and is intended for structural purposes only, not for display purposes.
Why no A grades?
You might be hoping for some defectless, A-grade Baltic Birch - unfortunately, you’re out of luck. This type of plywood is no longer commercially available.
And with that, you know everything you’re likely to need to know about Baltic Birch grading. Have any other questions about Baltic Birch plywood? Get in touch with us - we know our hardwoods.