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    Plywood vs. solid wood

    This is of course is an old question but I'm asking it in reference to a specific project I'm gearing up to start.

    I'm going to make a rolling caddy for helping me both at home and at work.



    The idea behind it is to have something that is only about 28" high to hold tools while I'm either working at my bench at home or working on large pieces of furniture at work such as a sideboard or sofa on sawhorses. My caddy would feature a chisel box in the back in which chisels and other handled tools could fit into slots. This would resolve an issue I discovered at home when I cut my hand reaching under my bench top with a chisel fitted through the dog holes. The chisel box will be self-contained with a top that can be removed in order to clean it out from time to time. Then there is a 2 inch deep tray on top to place tools and a cubby-hole below that. Then there are two drawers for storing additional tools. One thought I had was to use one of the drawer slots to hold the rabbet plane box I've been meaning to make. It actually would become a special plane box that would hold not only the rabbet plane but also the two router planes, shoulder planes and the small trim plane. This is not meant to be a tool box as I already have that. This is something to hold various tools at the level in which I am working so I'm not placing them on the workbench or the floor.

    Originally I had planned to do this with EW Pine but the dimensions of each side of the caddy (15 x 28") require that if using the solid wood that I must join two pieces together for each side, as I tend to use 12" wide boards. So then I was considering doing this with plywood which was what I had considered originally. I should state that this is not a fancy woodworking project. I'm not looking to make something that will win a beauty contest or last for generations. My wife has full permission to "throw" my stuff out in the trash if I die before her. What I am looking to build is something that I can use at home but take to work if I need it there. Eventually I may make something for use at work but time is not something I have a lot of what with covering not only my work schedule but several other positions as well. There just isn't time for pleasure projects there. So the question is would plywood be heavier than EWP solid wood? Secondly can one make the carcass of the plywood and make the shelves and other parts of solid wood? In other words can they be combined and co-mingle?
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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Richo, either option are solid. I look at this way, which material do you have that will do the job and that will cost the least amount of money and will deliver the product you want. That's it. They each have their pros and cons so that leaves the ball in your court and I for one want to see pics of the finished product.
    Nothing beats a try but a failure, failure is an opportunity to learn.
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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    For a shop project like that I would definitely go w/ plywood. Probably the birch veneer, or Sandply. You won't have to worry about wood movement and it will be very sturdy.

    And yes, plywood and solid wood can certainly be combined. I often cover a plywood edge w/ a strip of solid wood. In this cart you could easily use solid wood for the drawer fronts, or the top.
    I'll gladly tell you how I do something. Just please don't confuse that with the right way to do it, and almost certainly not the only way.


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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    A question about the design, Richo. If this rolling caddy is going to be transported between shop and work, I assume you will be rolling this into a van or truck an that it will be secured while being transported. I would still worry about the occasional hard bumps that bounce our vehicles and some of the shorter length chisels could bounce out of the the box. What about a hinged top on the caddy to help hold down the chisels? Just my my $0.02.
    I like making things. I have a wood shop at home. I am a terrible carpenter but I love doing it. Raymond - Charlotte, NC

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    I'd make the cases out of plywood and the shelves, top and drawer faces out of solid wood. I made similar cart for a friend's wife for her sewing machine. I painted the plywood with a thinned down red water-based latex enamel paint, almost like a stain, put a clear Waterlox to seal it and the maple top and shelf and it looked great.
    Measure twice... cut once... SCREAM LOUDLY... get another board

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    User Richo B's Avatar
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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    A question about the design, Richo. If this rolling caddy is going to be transported between shop and work, I assume you will be rolling this into a van or truck an that it will be secured while being transported. I would still worry about the occasional hard bumps that bounce our vehicles and some of the shorter length chisels could bounce out of the the box. What about a hinged top on the caddy to help hold down the chisels? Just my my $0.02.
    Remember this isn't a tool box so the chisels won't be in it for storage or transport. They only exist in the caddy while working on something. And it could be screwdrivers or other handled tools as well. As for transport it will be thrown in the back of my Kia Sportage and transported that way.

    I made a stool years ago out of plywood and have taken that to work many times for this sort of use because it has a shelf under the seat. Got plans from Family Handyman. I'm thinking the caddy will be in the same league as that stool was so sounds like plywood can be a winner. This is supposed to be a quick summer project. Its hot out in the garage down here in Coastal Carolina and I don't want to be messing around with dovetails or other fancy joinery. I leave that stuff for the other less hot months.

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Clemmons View Post
    For a shop project like that I would definitely go w/ plywood. Probably the birch veneer, or Sandply. You won't have to worry about wood movement and it will be very sturdy.

    And yes, plywood and solid wood can certainly be combined. I often cover a plywood edge w/ a strip of solid wood. In this cart you could easily use solid wood for the drawer fronts, or the top.
    +100

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Graywolf View Post
    Richo, either option are solid. I look at this way, which material do you have that will do the job and that will cost the least amount of money and will deliver the product you want. That's it. They each have their pros and cons so that leaves the ball in your court and I for one want to see pics of the finished product.
    couldn't have said it better
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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    I'm not disagreeing with all of the recommendations.

    So the question is would plywood be heavier than EWP solid wood?

    Yes, 3/4" BB ply vs 3/4" EWP is heavier, but 1/2" t BB ply is about the same weight as 3/4" EWP.

    A single 28 x 15 panel side...

    Lbs. 3/4"
    1/2"
    EWC 4.6
    BB 7.2 4.7

    As for transport it will be thrown in the back of my Kia Sportage and transported that way.
    It doesn't have to be built like a tank for your dual use/locations so be kind to your back and make it a lightweight item. Sure, you can mix and match ply with solid wood.









    Last edited by Jeff; 07-06-2017 at 11:53 AM.

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Jeff - that is some very useful information you posted there. I'll have to jot that down. I think what I will do is have the sides and back be plywood and the rest of it will be EWP. There will still be some weight but I don't want to deal with joining sides of EWP and it needs to be somewhat rugged on the outside edges. Also I don't really want to be finishing those large surfaces of the exterior.

    Thanks for all the helpful information.

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    I''ll also pile on to what others have said about plywood being preferred. Assuming solid lumber will be the same moisture content as plywood will be a flawed assumption. Stuff from the big box stores is generally 15%. An 11-1/4" piece of pine will dry down to household 8% and lose maybe a 3/16" of width. On a coset shelf this is no big deal, but when parts are joined at right angles and constrained by other components, there's always going to be a high risk of shrinkage problem with off-the-rack wood. Letting the wood sit in a controlled environment or several months will usually decrease the risk some.

    The advantage of solid lumber is that your joinery doesn't have to be as precise. Misaligned joints can be scrubbed even with a belt sander or hand plane.

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    I started this project last weekend. I went with almost entirely plywood construction. I was able to get some good 1/2 inch birch plywood for it. The carcass was completed last week and weather permitting (meaning not too sweltering in the garage) I hope to do a lot more work this weekend to complete it. Still haven't decided how to construct the drawers. I don't want them to be too time consuming.

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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Richo B View Post
    I started this project last weekend. I went with almost entirely plywood construction. I was able to get some good 1/2 inch birch plywood for it. The carcass was completed last week and weather permitting (meaning not too sweltering in the garage) I hope to do a lot more work this weekend to complete it. Still haven't decided how to construct the drawers. I don't want them to be too time consuming.
    Don't believe it - didn't happen - no pictures!

    Just kidding, but seriously, many of us want to see (at least) the finished product, if not some WIP! (this being a GREAT idea!)
    Last edited by Hmerkle; 07-15-2017 at 06:07 PM.
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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    I built one very similar to what you're planning a few years ago. This one is mostly plywood, with trim and web frames from solid scrap. The primary reason for building it anyway, was to to see if I could make a substantial roll-around shop box using only pocket screws. Ten years or more and it's still solid. Even the drawers.







    Always be yourself because the people that matter don't mind, and the ones who mind, don't matter.

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    User Richo B's Avatar
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    Re: Plywood vs. solid wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Hmerkle View Post
    Don't believe it - didn't happen - no pictures!

    Just kidding, but seriously, many of us want to see (at least) the finished product, if not some WIP! (this being a GREAT idea!)
    No pictures because its not done yet. I'll be at a point to take photos tomorrow. I just wanted to update the thread to keep it going. I got quite a bit done today but need to put it all together tomorrow.

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