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I like to make projects as much as anybody. I actually delight in making the jigs and fixtures that make woodworking projects easier, faster, and more accurate. Whenever I construct a jig or fixture that I know I'll be utilizing over and over, it's important that it be powerful, stable, and most importantly, accurate each and every time I use it.
The material I turn to build these kinds of jigs and fixtures is Baltic birch plywood. It's a premium, hardwood plywood that's powerful and stable. This plywood gets it's name from the birch trees that develop in the Baltic region in Europe. Even though that's exciting, what makes Baltic birch plywood an excellent choice for use within the shop may be the number of plies that make up each sheet. The 3/4" plywood we commonly use consists of 13 plies. Typical 3/4" hardwood plywood produced inside the U.S. has seven plies. These extra plies give Baltic birch several advantages.
For starters, it's stronger and extra stable. Due to the fact it doesn't alter considerably in length or width, it's perfect for jigs and fixtures where you need to sustain accuracy over the long haul. The added plies also make for clean, solid joinery -- whether or not you're cutting grooves, dadoes, rabbets, or even dovetails. Finally, the plies hold screws superior than a typical sheet of plywood, whether you're close to an edge, or screwing into finsih grain. The Baltic birch you'll usually find at a lumber store is graded B-BB. So the face veneer (B) is going to be a single piece without having any patches. The back face (BB) and inner plies might be tightly patched. These patches on the inner plies make it very unlikely that you simply'll run across a void or seam, one thing that's pretty prevalent with other plywood. And considering that your cuts are going to be 'clean,' the finished edge will look great as it stands.
Plywood Metric Thickness
One fact I like about Baltic birch is that you can obtain thicknesses as thin as 1/8" to as much as 3/4". But Baltic birch comes from Europe, so it's actually manufactured in metric dimensions. This means each layer of Baltic birch is about 1.5mm thick. In most lumber stores, Baltic birch is sold in 5' x 5' sheets. (Note: You may normally locate it in half and quarter sheets.)
The size and thickness aren't the only things to consider when buying Baltic birch plywood for your next project. Although the huge variety of plies form a very stable item, it is a plywood item and may warp. This is especially true with the thinner sheets. In most cases, this isn't an issue considering that most jigs consist of smaller pieces which can be glued and screwed together. Also, Baltic birch plywood is comparatively high-priced. Considering that higher-quality plies and additional work go into assembling every single sheet, Baltic birch is typically twice the price compared to a typical sheet of plywood.
Where to Buy Baltic Birch Plywood
You're most likely to locate Baltic birch plywood at a woodworking lumber dealer. But for those who can't find it locally, there are actually a variety of mail-order sources that carry the product in a variety of sizes. A fast search on-line should provide you with quite a few selections. In most cases, you'll discover that Baltic birch may be the finest option for producing jigs and fixtures that you'll be using in your shop for years to come.