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Photo: depositphotos.com
Photo: depositphotos.com

Plywood is a versatile and widely-used engineered wood product that is made by gluing together thin layers, or "plies," of veneer. These veneer sheets are usually peeled from logs using a rotary cutting process. The distinguishing characteristic of plywood is that the grain of the layers is typically perpendicular to each other, which is known as cross-graining. This construction method gives plywood several important advantages over natural solid wood, such as:

  1. Strength and Stability: The cross-grained structure distributes strength evenly across the material, making plywood resistant to cracking, warping, and twisting. It has high strength-to-weight ratios, making it a sturdy yet relatively lightweight choice for furniture and construction.

  2. Uniformity and Consistency: Because plywood is manufactured, it can be produced in large, consistent sheets with uniform properties, unlike solid wood, which can have knots, voids, or inconsistent grain patterns.

  3. Versatility: Plywood can be made from a variety of wood species, each imparting different qualities such as weight, cost, appearance, and strength. Many types of plywood are available, from decorative hardwood veneers for cabinetry and furniture to structural-grade plywood for construction purposes.

  4. Workability: Plywood cuts easily and can be nailed, screwed, and glued. It can accommodate intricate shaping and drilling, making it ideal for a wide range of applications in furniture-making and beyond.

  5. Sustainability: Plywood can often make more efficient use of wood from a tree, as it can be created from smaller trees or even from the leftovers that can't be used for lumber. This may contribute to better forest management and less waste.

  6. Surface Finish: The outer layers of plywood can be either a high-quality wood veneer for a decorative finish or a lesser grade for applications where the appearance is not as important, such as in structural work.

However, not all plywood is created equal; it comes in various grades:

  • A-grade: Smooth, paintable surface without repairs or defects.
  • B-grade: Minor repairs may be visible, usually smooth.
  • C-grade: Tight knots and minor defects are allowable, may have more repaired areas.
  • D-grade: Knots and open defects allowed, often used where the surface will be hidden.

For furniture, the grade of plywood chosen largely depends on whether it will be visible and the desired quality of the finish. Additionally, a moisture-resistant adhesive is often used for plywood that will be used in moist or humid environments, thus creating "Exterior" or "Marine" grade plywood.

In the manufacturing of furniture, plywood is often used to create flat panels for tables, cabinets, shelving, and even chair seats and backs. The strength and stability of plywood make it a preferred choice for items that experience regular stress or loading.

It's also important to note that plywood can come with various certifications such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or formaldehyde-free adhesives, highlighting the environmental and health considerations of the material.

Overall, plywood is a fundamental material in both the furniture industry and construction sector due to its adaptability, structural properties, and cost-effectiveness.

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