Normally we cover solid wood in the Wood Encylopedia, but we thought it might be useful to discuss a versatile material for everything from jigs to drawer parts and scroll saw projects.
What is baltic birch?: It’s a stable, high-grade plywood with many layers (or “plys”). A 3/ 4″- thick piece of baltic birch will have 13 layers. Each layer is made of one solid piece of wood, so there are no gaps (called “voids”) in the plywood. Large knots are patched.
Why is it called ‘Baltic’ birch?: Baltic birch is produced in the Baltic region of the former Soviet Union from birch or alder trees and shipped to this country.
What it is good for: In addition to being great for jigs, baltic birch is used for drawer sides, hockey sticks, chair backs, jigsaw puzzles, bed rails, skateboards, and the interiors of rescue vehicles.
How it is graded: There are three grades of the plywood, B, BB and CP. A grade of”B” means the face is generally clear, with small pin knots and brown streaks but no patches. The grade “BB” allows larger knots and some patches. The grade “CP” allows more patches and some hairline splits. The wood is stamped with two grades, one for each face. For example, the highest-grade baltic birch is stamped BIBB.
Characteristics of baltic birch: The plywood is easy on your cutting tools, and it machines easily. Screws hold extremely well, and you can drive screws and nails very close to the edges of the plywood without fear of the material splitting.
Are the metric thicknesses a problem?: Not really. The 3mm thickness is almost exactly 1/ 8″. The 6mm is just shy of 1/4″. The 12mm is just shy of 1/2″, and the 18mm is a hair short of 3/ 4″. The standard width and length of sheets of baltic birch is 60″ x 60″.
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