If you are planning to build anything out of wood, especially for interior jobs, two good choices to consider are edge glued panels and plywood. With that being said, while both are technically made out of wood, they are fairly different. Today we are going to do a side-by-side comparison of the two to see exactly which one is best for certain jobs.
Let’s figure out whether you need plywood or edge glued panels for your next project.
Edge Glued Panels vs. Plywood: The Basics
Before we start talking about the similarities and differences between these two types of wood, let’s first figure out what exactly they both are.
What Are Edge Glued Panels?
Edge glued panels generally take the form of long boards. Edge glued panels are made by taking various pieces of narrow wood, kind of like small square sticks, and then gluing them together at their edges. Generally speaking, a high-quality interior glue is used for this.
This allows narrow pieces of wood to be glued together to make a much wider piece of wood. These are usually strong enough to use for lightweight interior purposes, such as for furniture making.
One defining feature of edge glued panels is that they usually have the wood grain running in the same direction. Also keep in mind that edge glued panels are usually made out of pine, which is a type of softwood.
What Is Plywood?
Plywood is made by taking very small and thin wooden veneers and placing them side by side to form a sheet.
There are then consecutive layers of these veneers layered on top of each other. Each layer has the wooden veneers perpendicular to the last layer. These layers are then glued and pressed.
This creates a so-called cross grain pattern with the grain of each layer running in the opposite direction. The result is a fairly strong and impact resistant sheet of engineered wood.
For the most part, plywood features anywhere from three to seven layers of these plies. Plywood, depending on the type, can be used for all sorts of interior and exterior purposes, as well as for structural and non-structural applications.
Similarities of Edge Glued Panels and Plywood
Now that we know what both plywood and edge glued panels are, let’s take a quick look at what makes them similar.
1. They’re Both Made of Wood
One of the most basic similarities shared between these two products is that they are both made out of wood. Now, one uses thin wooden boards and the other uses wooden veneers, but they are both real wood. They both, however, are not solid lumber, and most would consider both to be specific types of engineered wood.
2. They’re Both Glued Together
Although the construction process between the two is different, one of the most basic similarities is that they both use glue to hold the various pieces of wood together. Now, with edge glued panels, this tends to be interior grade glue, but with plywood, it may also be exterior grade glue that is waterproof.
3. They Can Both Be Used For Furniture Making
The other similarity that both of these building products share is that they can both be used for indoor furniture. Edge glued panels and plywood are both rather popular options for this.
Differences Between Edge Glued Panels and Plywood
Now that we know what the similarities between edge glued panels and plywood are, let’s talk about their differences.
1. Build Type is Different
As we covered in the opening, these two products are constructed in different ways. Edge glued panels feature small pieces of wood that are laid side-by-side and then glued together at the edges. However, there are no consecutive layers. This is unlike plywood where there may be anywhere between three to seven layers of these very thin veneers.
2. Structural Integrity
Unfortunately, edge glued panels are simply not structurally sound in nature. They just aren’t really strong enough to bear any kind of real weight. This is unlike plywood that can be extremely strong and bear hundreds of pounds. This is of course due to the cross grain construction process.
3. Plywood May Be Waterproof
Not all plywood is waterproof, although there are types that are. For instance, marine grade plywood is 100% waterproof. That said, edge glued panels are simply not waterproof in the least. This makes edge glued panels less than ideal for outdoor use.
4. Types of Wood Used
Although it can differ from one product to another, edge glued panels are generally made out of pine. Plywood on the other hand can typically be made out of most types of wood.
5. Direction of the Grain
Edge glued panels have the wood grain all facing in the same direction. Plywood, on the other hand, features a cross grain pattern, due to the perpendicular alignment of layers during the construction process.
6. Overall Impact Resistance
Due to the special construction, plywood tends to be extremely flexible and therefore impact resistant. This is definitely not the case with edge glued panels, which- as mentioned above- do not have much structural integrity. If you stomp on an edge glued panel really hard, it may just break apart at the seams.
7. Ease of Cutting
The benefit that edge glued panels have over plywood is they are easier to cut. Having all of the wood grains facing in the same direction does allow for easier cutting. Due to plywood having a cross grain construction, it can be a bit harder to cut, especially in terms of tear out.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
If you need something relatively affordable that also looks decent, and you’re just making basic indoor furniture, then edge glued panels should suffice.
However, if the material in question should be waterproof and ideal for outdoor use, impact resistant, and able to bear a good deal of weight, then plywood would most likely be the better option.
Now that you know what all of the differences between edge glued panels and plywood are, you can make an informed decision between the two.