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“Plywood” or traditional plywood sheets, typically 4′ x 8′ in dimension and of varying thicknesses, typically from 3/16″ up to 3/4″ or more, is constructed of veneers of wood glued together, but each layer of wood is placed at right-angles to those on either side.
Plywood products are also selected for interior or exterior use based on the weather resistance of the glues used to glue the veneers together (exterior plywood uses exterior glues), and finally on the condition of interior veneers or plies of wood.
Plywood used for floor sheathing or underlayment beneath carpeting, for example, is selected without interior voids so that someone’s shoe-heel won’t puncture through a clear top veneer of wood into a hidden void below.
PLYWOOD Roof, Wall, Floor Decks & Sheathing (1905 – present as a construction material in North America) is sheet material made of thin veneers of wood that are laid with wood grains in alternating direction, glued, heated, and pressed together. Interior plywood is generally glued with urea formaldehyde based glues; exterior plywood and marine plywood use phenolic formaldehyde glues and are water resistant.
While modern plywood products use a variety of glues, heat, and pressure to produce the product, plywood has been around at least since 3500 BC when a glued-veneer version was produced in Egypt.
The furniture industry has had a long history of gluing thin fine-wood veneers to a cheaper wooden base – a process similar to the production of plywood itself. The invention of the rotary lathe (ca 1850) by Immanuel Nobel (1801 – 1872) is what made modern plywood possible by permitting manufacturers to cut large thin (but thicker than wood veneers) sheets of wood from logs. The wood sheets are placed at right angles to one another and glued together.
The cross-grain construction combined with glue produces a strong, uniform material that is used for both enclosure and for structural stiffness in frame construction of building walls and roofs.
The properties of plywood, including its tolerance to weather exposure (marine plywood) depend on the glues and finishes used. Both softwood and hardwoods are used in plywoods, and fine wood veneer finishes are also available (for furniture use).
The first plywood made in the Western U.S. was produced by the Portland Manufacturing Company in Oregon in 1905, a company founded four years earlier by Gustav A. Carlson, F.S. Doernbecher, and M.L. Holbrook. Peter Autzen bought out Doernbecher and Holbrook. It was Autzen’s son, Thomas, who made key progress solving problems with bonding the veneers together.
Originally the Portland Manufacturing company had produced fruit baskets, crates, and drums, experience which we pose gave the owners familiarity with cutting thin strips of wood (baskets) that remained flexible for use in a manufacturing process.
Their plywood was exhibited at the 1905 Worlds’ Fair in Portland, Oregon. Interestingly, the first exhibition of plywood as a building product in the Northwest was in a log structure, the Forestry Building in Portland, OR where it was displayed until that building burned in 1964.
The stained plywood roof sheathing (left) was discovered during a home renovation project in which a flat roof was to be torn off for an addition.
In 1924 plywood sales were still primarily to door producers, but by 1928 the company had increased production and plywood was being used in automobile bodies. In that year the Pacific Coast Plywood Manufacturers, Inc. (PCPM)was formed jointly with Elliot Bay Mill Co. (Seattle),