Baltic birch is a popular type of plywood, particularly in cabinet and furniture making. It’s naturally stronger and more durable than other types of plywood and often has an attractive, uniform face (depending on the grade). This type of plywood gets its Baltic name from the area the trees are harvested from, the Eastern European Baltic Sea region.
Baltic birch plywood is composed exclusively of birch veneer (thin sheets of birch wood) compressed and bonded together. Each layer of birch veneer is the same thickness, resulting in a more consistent, void-free, stable and aesthetically attractive sheet of plywood. The edges of Baltic birch plywood have an attractive stacked line pattern (achieved by alternating the orientation of each inner ply), making it a particularly popular material to use when an exposed plywood edge is desired. The front and back veneers are typically thicker than the top level veneers used on other types of plywood. This makes Baltic birch plywood more durable and less prone to chipping or sanding damage. Once bonded, the entire sheet is laminated in exterior grade adhesive, further increasing its strength and stability.
While Baltic birch plywood is typically more uniform and less prone to voids, there are different grades that denote the level of perfection. The top level Baltic Birch is grade B/BB. This is read as Face/Back grade, each letter designation allowing for a specific set of defects. B/BB Baltic birch plywood will have a face that’s a light, consistently uniform color without defects and a back that may have up to six color-matched patches no larger than an egg. The core plies of this grade board will all be single, solid pieces of birch veneer. This grade of Baltic birch is idea for cabinets or furniture that will have an exposed finish (such as pieces that will be stained rather than painted or covered with a finishing veneer). Lower grades of Baltic birch plywood allow for more defects, including knots, unlimited patches and small splits at the lowest level. You can learn more about the different grades of Baltic birch in our Guide to Baltic Birch Plywood.
Like most plywood, Baltic birch is used for a range of functions. However, because of its durability and consistency, Baltic birch is often used for structural purposes and to make cabinets and furniture. It’s particularly popular for kitchen and bathroom cabinets because the exterior grade lamination makes this type of plywood less susceptible to water damage.
Baltic birch is famous for its easy machinability and screw holding strength that’s superior to other plywood options. Its strength, uniform plies and thicker face and backing veneer also make Baltic birch the plywood of choice for pieces where you want to create dovetail or finger joints. The facing veneers of other types of plywood often chip, split or break off when trying to create finely machined joints whereas Baltic birch holds together nicely.
In addition to cabinets and furniture, Baltic birch as many specialty uses. It’s a popular plywood for making the core of skateboards (particularly because of its strength, durability and affordability), speaker boxes and even as the shell for custom trailers.