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Old 07-31-2015, 09:01 PM   #1
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More fun with plywood

I played around with a couple of methods for building lightweight interior cabinet panels today.

It's a pretty simple idea.......the center layer is strips (I have plenty of leftovers!) with outer skins glued and stapled together.

The first experiment was using 3 layers of 1/4" Baltic birch to create a lightweight 3/4" panel.














I also glued up another piece the same size as the original using 1/2" center strips with 1/8" skins; this also yields a 3/4" thick panel for those who are math-challenged.






Here is a comparison with weights-all panels are the same size:

(top to bottom)

3/4" Baltic birch 1 lbs 12 oz

3/4" Chinese import birch 1 lbs 7 oz

I know this one has biscuit grooves in it....if this was for a peer-reviewed journal I would have found a non-grooved piece... close enough for van work...

1/4-1/4-1/4 inch sandwich 1 lbs 7 oz

1/8-1/2-1/8 inch sandwich 1 lbs 4 oz




If you want to be a real "weight weenie", then you could always try 1/8-1/4-1/8 sandwich for 1/2" total panel thickness or 1/8-3/8-1/8 for 5/8" panels.

Keep in mind the weights above are somewhat "worst case" since actual van interior panels are typically much larger and will have more "air" inside if you use skinny strips for the "jelly" part of the sandwich.

Downsides to this method:

it takes time, glue and staples

you have to plan ahead a little if you need part of the panel to be solid (for example for bolting other things to the panel). Perhaps not much of an issue with the 1/4" sandwich but probably an issue for the 1/8-1/2-1/8 sandwich.

To get a clean end result, it helps to make the panel slightly oversize and make the final accurate cuts on the completed layer cake. Curved panels require a laminate trimmer bit for clean edges.

1/8" skins may not be robust enough for puncture resistance....the 1/4" skins certainly are...

Upsides to this method:

Whatever thickness material you use for the center goes a long way, and the outer skin material is relatively cheap...but you need two outer skins most of the time.

The panels are light.
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Old 07-31-2015, 09:14 PM   #2
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Re: More fun with plywood

Very interesting! And I like that you used "accessible" materials. I mean we all know that there are fancy engineered panels that are really light (but not practical for many of us). I love a good experiment.
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Old 07-31-2015, 10:52 PM   #3
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Re: More fun with plywood

Great experiment. Have been thinking about rebuilding my cabinets this winter. What size, LxW, test panels did you make? I did not see where you said.
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Old 07-31-2015, 11:59 PM   #4
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Re: More fun with plywood

fun stuff!
Don't worry - I end up using my table saw as a work bench too. So much extra space!
(Evidence of multi project-multi tasking/sidetracking: I spy a Park cone wrench laying about willy nilly)
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Old 08-01-2015, 07:31 AM   #5
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Re: More fun with plywood

Larry.....I didn't measure anything.......I'll post L x W today.

Rockbender: haha! I used the cone wrench to loosen the floating pins on the E350 caliper, they have some thin 17mm nuts that require a thin wrench.

I've been into bikes forever and between me and my buddy, we've got lots of Park tools.....Pro Truing stand, headset press, loads of hand tools, etc. When I was a kid, I worked at three different bikes shops before college, and managed one that was owned by Bob Marley's Cousin's in Florida. They sold cheap bikes, and it didn't last too long, about 4 years.
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Old 08-01-2015, 07:40 AM   #6
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Re: More fun with plywood

...I just had another thought....

I don't think that my local wood emporium sells import birch in any thicknesses less then 3/4", but if it's available, making sandwiches from this would yield lighter panels.

I built a good-sized curved panel using 1/8-1/2-1/8 yesterday, and I'm thinking of building a few more to extend my storage in the rear driver's side. This is also a fun challenge with all of the curves back there.

I'll be using 1/2" "bender board" for this. This is plywood that has all the layers with the grain aligned in the same direction, so it's really bendy in one direction and really stiff in the other.

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Old 08-01-2015, 09:25 AM   #7
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Re: More fun with plywood

What? We're not a bonafide peer-reviewed journal yet?

We should be.

Nice work!

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Old 08-02-2015, 03:56 AM   #8
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Re: More fun with plywood

Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Scotty
What? We're not a bonafide peer-reviewed journal yet?

We should be.
Well, I'm always trying to be snarky, critical and questioning everything, all while never showing my own work!

Just kidding but most of us either improvise on the spot or have/will use someone else's great idea, perhaps building on an inspiration found in something occasionally unrelated.

That being said most of the DIY things I've seen here are pretty amazing in how well they're executed and the practicality they have too.
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Old 08-02-2015, 07:22 AM   #9
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Re: More fun with plywood

Quote:
Originally Posted by rockbender
Don't worry - I end up using my table saw as a work bench too. So much extra space!
I actually have a very nice old workbench in the garage but it too is completely covered with who-knows-what....

The table saw always ends up being the workbench. The ground top is a nice datum to clamp to and make sure things are flat.

I paid another visit (and some cash!) to my local wood store and indeed they do sell import birch 1/4" 4 x 8 sheets of plywood. Based on the 3/4" comparison, it's highly likely that this material will yield very lightweight panels.

On a bummer note, I removed my roof rack from my Element last year since I commute a huge distance to work (140 miles round trip), and while loading some cherry 1x boards into the Element one of them tagged my windshield from the inside and broke it.....

Also, the brand of bender board plywood that they sell is called "wiggle-wood"
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Old 08-02-2015, 09:19 AM   #10
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Re: More fun with plywood

If you really are trying to get light sheets, you could try making the middle strips really small, just trim pieces around the edges basically, then use a foam core. That way you'll be able to use the lightest material for skins while still having stiffness and better puncture resistance.

There are a dizzying number of possible core materials available with many different characteristics but since you're not building a space craft, plain foam sheets will be plenty strong and light. The local Lowes/Home Despot sells a couple of different kinds in multiple thicknesses.
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