Plywood comes in many materials and grades. For any project or application, there is an ideal plywood product that meets the structural or visual requirements in an economic way. The most common choice in plywood comes from your local hardware store, where you can find common plywood made from species such as spruce, fir, pine, and cedar, among others. Each board has its own performance based on grade and material. But a specific category of plywood exists for those who are looking for a particularly exotic product. Tropical plywood is a special type of plywood that dominates the market for quality, form, and function. What gives tropical plywood it’s place in the market, and why would someone choose such a fascinating board of wood?
What is Tropical Plywood?
Tropical plywood is a special type of plywood made from a specific group of wood species. Those species include any that grow in a tropical region, including teak, mahogany, ebony, and many others. Originally, tropical wood was made in East Asian regions, but it is now widely manufactured in parts of Africa and South America as well. In fact, most of the regions around the equator grow and harvest these exotic hardwoods for plywood and other lumber products.
The specific species used in tropical plywood offer superior characteristics including performance as well as appearance. Naturally, plywood made from woods such as African mahogany or Burma teak have a unique appearance, incredible hardness, and ultimately better structural performance than other hardwood. Because of their characteristics, these woods provide exceptional appearance and value to any project.
Differentiation from Standard Plywood
There are only a few differences between tropical plywood and a standard sheet of plywood. For standard plywood, there are two major types you can buy, softwood and hardwood. Most structural projects will use softwood plywood due to its affordability, whereas hardwood is chosen for projects where appearance and strength are both desirable. All tropical plywood is considered hardwood plywood since all species grown in tropical climates are inherently of hardwood type. However, the final product does not differ much from any other sheet of plywood. Most plywood is made from 3-5 sheets of thinly sliced wood bonded together with resins and adhesives. Tropical plywood sees this same manufacturing process, only with their unique species.
Tropical plywood does adhere to the grading system of that used for other plywoods. Dependent on qualities such as frequency of imperfections, size of voids, and overall evenness, tropical plywood will be categorized in the typical Select grades A, B, C, and D. Grade A tropical plywood is the cream of the crop, offering a clean look, smooth grain, and a perfectly flat form. Each successive grade allows more and more imperfections, holes, and waviness. For most tropical plywood, you will not see anything of the lesser Common category. Wood in this series puts strength above appearance, and most woodworking enthusiasts are getting into tropical plywood simply for its stunning appearance.
All tropical plywood is considered hardwood plywood since all species grown in tropical climates are inherently of hardwood type. However, the final product does not differ much from any other sheet of plywood.
Tropical Plywood Applications
There are many great applications for tropical plywood. Furniture can be made using this type of plywood to showcase the elegant color and depth that tropical wood offers. Other indoor features like doors, cabinets, tables, and dressers would put tropical plywood to great use. While not the most economical choice for framing or structural building, it would provide exceptional strength and moisture resistance, as it is used to growing in humid climates. Rather, tropical plywood could be used as flooring, accent walls, or sophisticated trim work.
One reason why tropical plywood is losing interest in the market is the high cost. In recent years, the manufacture of lumber using tropical tree species has created a deforestation problem in many tropical areas of the world. The demand for such a desirable wood species has created a rapid reduction in supply. Furthermore, this has created issues where mills processing the lumber have to slightly lower standards on acceptable wood, effectively lowering the bar in the grading system. Nonetheless, tropical wood can still be appreciated as a fantastic choice for form, function, and overall value.
Tropical plywood is a special type of plywood made from a specific group of wood species. Those species include any that grow in a tropical region, including teak, mahogany, ebony, and many others.
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