I want to build a computer desk and some alcove shelving. I need
several sheets of plywood but i really dont have a bloody clue what im
talking about. I really think if the whole industry was more
accessible to dumbasses like me im sure it would be bigger. Second
problem, and a big one - the ply wont fit in my car, obviously, so a
delivery needs to be arranged but will anyone deliver a small quantity
of timber to me economically ?... i doubt it.
I need some 18mm ply thats furniture grade for the desk and
shelves( 3-4 sheets) and maybe some 1 inch by 2 inch battons for the
shelving design i found online. It would be great if it was possible
to buy this stuff online but i can only find www.buildercenter.co.uk
and have heard they are expensive.
I have a list of timber merchants near me from yell.com
Is it a good idea to ring a few of these and bumble my way through a
quote request?.. what kind of ply is best for me and what's a good
Thanks for any help.
Ply seems to come in about three gared.
Crap stuff which is useful for structures, but dosn;t look that good and
mustn't get wet.
WBP (?) which ain't that great either, but can get a bit wet.
And quality birch ply that smells lovely when you cut it (except on a
laser) and has a fine finish.
I would expect to see much change out of 50 notes for an 8x4 sheet of
birch, cut and delivered. Bit its ages since I bought some, so I could
be well wrong..
however, i notice they have hardwood ply and softwood ply - what is
the difference?... i think im alergic to the look of veneer so i need
the ply to look nice on one face. The edges i plan to conceal with
some ordinary wood.
These are the shelves i plan to build, i really like the bracketless
design even if they are overly chunky. http://www.diydoctor.org.uk/projects/makingshelves.htm
Like all sheet materials 8 by 4 feet (2.4 by 1.2m) is the standard
sheet size, with other sizes derived from halving that. 18mm thickness
is the most commonly used.
Ask specifically for birch ply or if they don't have it, red ply. I
think I got mine from Travis Perkins last time.
Some useful info here: http://wiki.diyfaq.org.uk/index.php?title=Sheet_Materials
B+Q is about the cheapest for birch ply at the moment, but it's worth
going and selecting your own rather than having it delivered as they
don't always store it very well. I usually get pieces that have been
damaged and get them to knock a decent discount off. Full sheets are
better value than their small sheets, and because they cut to size for
free, there's no disadvantage.
Since you're not very experienced you might consider using 'Contiboard'
which is a good general purpose material for what you intend building. It
has many advantages such as a good range of fittings / connectors and it
requires almost no finishing. You can get almost any size in your car even
if that requires a few car park cuts. It's much cheaper at B&Q etc. than
at a timber merchant. Look at: www.screwfix.co.uk for fittings and
As far as timber merchants in general are concerned it's worth visiting a
few to find one with a friendly and helpful attitude. A good one will sell
better quality *real* timber than B&Q etc. and delivery charges are
usually quite reasonable.
Using Ubuntu Linux
Windows shown the door
Here's an assortment of ideas.
If you are looking for a furniture grade ply, I don't think that you
will find it in B&Q or any of the other sheds - I've certainly never
seen it any of them. Generally they have a cheap construction grade
material and sometimes one a little better, but the outer veneer is
poor and usually patched with filler. You might be lucky in being
able to select a few sheets that you feel are good enough for what you
want and then you could use their rent a van/truck to get it home or
alternatively ask them to cut it to size for you. A word of warning
though. The panel saws in DIY sheds are usually not well set up and
you can easily end up with something 3-5mm out. This is useless if
you want to make something joined together. However you could work
out a detailed layour sheet before you go using graph paper - do this
anyway for best economy of material use - and then you should be able
to have pieces cut in the correct order. Here what I mean is that for
a freestanding piece like a desk, it may not matter if a dimension is
3mm out provided that the connecting piece is 3mm out as well by being
cut at the same time without the saw being adjusted.
Nonetheless, a panel saw is able to do much better if properly set up,
so I would ask them about that. Ask them to cut a piece of scrap and
let you measure it. If it's out, then either they need to adjust the
saw calibration or to allow for the error in other cuts. At a DIY
store, this is an exercise to do in the week when they are less busy
and perhaps more receptive.
If you are going to go for furniture grade ply, these start at the £40
range in 18mm depending on what you want. Note that there is also
veneered MDF available which can be easier to work. The larger
suppliers of these kind of boards such as James Latham
http://www.lathamtimber.co.uk/ and Arnold Laver http://www.laver.co.uk/
will I think, only want to sell complete 2440x1220 sheets but you could
ask. Other than that, if you want pieces cut to size then it would
be better to approach local timber merchants (not builders merchants).
Fax them a list and a cutting diagram and ask them to quote. You
will pay rather more than for uncut sheets.
If you are going to cut furniture grade ply yourself then you need to
invest in a good quality circular saw with a cast base, not a stamped
one - e.g. Bosch, Hitachi (expect to spend £80-100) and get a good
quality sheet materials blade for it. You then need a work area
large enough and to properly support the material for cutting. For
this, you need to have a cutting guide or guide clamp. If you can
find good quality and a straight piece of 100x25mm timber, you can use
that, clamped to the sheet. The idea is that you run the left side of
the saw against it, so it needs to be positioned precisely for that to
happen. Alternatively, you can invest in guide clamps. Look at
www.axminster.co.uk and catalogue number 340954 for an example.
An alternative to ply, which you may or may not like, is laminated
board - normally in pine. This is strips of wood laminated together
into boards of various lengths and widths and intended for shelves and
some furniture construction. It's easy to work with and generally
straight and flat. Most of the DIY stores have this, some more than
others and prices do vary.
The box type design that you are looking at also has the advantage of
providing strength as well as a fairly easy way to neaten edges as long
as you adequately fasten the front and lower pieces. Note that there
is a grade of ply which has one good side and one moderate side which
would be a good choice for this. Either it is best grade material
with one dinged side or specifically made that way.
You can also fit (for example) hardwood in a strip to the edge of ply
arranging for it to be just the thickness of the board. It does need
to be carefully trimmed after gluing it one - typically with a small
router with trimming bit. The result looks very good in a contrasting
timber, but it's something requiring practice on some scrap material
because it's easy to wreck the veneer of the board. Another similar
approach is to use an iron on veneer. This has a hot melt adhesive and
you iron it on to the edge of the board. After cooling you can
carefully trim (or sand at an angle) to finish it.
If you are going to be doing a fair amount of this kind of work, you
might want to look at getting a biscuit jointer. These are ideal for
joining panels side by side or at angles. The tool is like a small
circular saw with part projecting blade which cuts a segment slot in
the edge or other position of material. It has fences to register the
tool and then it is pushed against springs to make the cut. The idea
is that the slots are accurately referenced to the edges. Assembly is
then with beech biscuits which can be bought very inexpensively and
glued and clamped into place The biscuit swells with the glue (e.g.
white wood glue) and makes a very firm and accurate joint.
Professional biscuit jointers with fine adjustments cost up to £400,
professional ones around £150-200, but there are quite usable ones at
around £50-60. The very cheapest are often reviewed as being
inaccurate so to be avoided. The results are good. You can make
very strong constructions without using those horrible plastic blocks
or having screws on show - e.g. putting shelves part way up a cabinet.
For the desk that you have in mind, another option to consider for the
top is to buy a length of woodblock kitchen worktop - available in
almost any wood you like This will give you a very sturdy top with a
finished front edge and little to do to finish apart from several coats
of Danish Oil with a light sanding.
My local timber yard (Goodwillie's of Waterlooville) cuts sheets of plywood
to my spec while I wait. I'm sure most of them will.
See if one of the Arnold-Laver Timberworld units is in your area.
When I was new to woodwork I visited the Reading unit, and was helped
to choose the right stuff. Their website is very useful, just to get
the terminology right so you don't sound like a p....ock. They always
have a panel saw there and will cut panels to your cutting diagram for
a small fee - probably more accurately than you (or B&Q) could do it.
When drawing a cutting diagram (there is software that will do it for
you) remember that the saw kerf (3.2 mm usually, so say 5mm) has to be
You could use WBP plywood (any Builder's Merchant) which is not too
expensive, but it has voids inside and the surface veneers are thin and
they split easily (and you get splinters!).
Proper cabinet-grade birch multi-ply is wonderful stuff, but you pay a
big premium for it. I would guess that it is twice as strong as WBP
too, and maybe 3 x the price.
Another alternative is Hardwood veneered ply, or MDF, I'm sitting at a
desk made from Ash-veneered MDF now. It needs to be edged with real
timber, but for big projects you can't beat it for stability and cost.
Finally, don't write off using real wood. Panels made of strip-wood,
usually spruce, are not expensive in comparison to Birch Ply, and are
easy to work with.
Whereabouts are you?
Someone might be able to make a local recommendation.
Probably worth going to see a couple of timber yards and what they
have, most will either cut your selected ply so it fits in the car and/
or put it to one side for delivery.
If you ask them to write 'clean face' in big capitals on the order
ticket you should receive just that, a clean sheet of ply.
Normal 'WBP' ply is very variable these days, the bigger yards should
do birch ply or veneered ply plus edging.
> I want to build a computer desk and some alcove shelving.
So, sheet goods mainly: ply and MDF. These aren't too hard.
> i really dont have a bloody clue what im talking about. I really think if the whole industry was more
> accessible to dumbasses like me im sure it would be bigger.
Welcome to the club! Timber yards are some of the worst places around
at doing accessible retail, just as you describe.
Shop around. There are better ones. They're frequently a better range
and cheaper too. There must just be a lot of inertia and convenience
in the trade, I can't think how the bad ones survive otherwise.
My local good vendors (Bristol area):
Bulk or framing timber comes from http://www.bendreybrothers.co.uk/
who are out by Warmley
Interesting Timbers (Emborough, out towards Wells) for nice furniture
Avon Plywood (Keynsham) for plywood and flat stuff.
> the ply wont fit in my car,
Bigger car. All of my recent estates will take a number of sheets of
ply, with one rip down to 4'x4' half-sheets. I think the record was a
dozen in my Citroen XM, and and that wasn't even an estate!
Anyone want a dirt-cheap Volvo 740 in Bristol? (Old, huge, scruffy,
> will anyone deliver a small quantity of timber to me economically ?
Usually yes, so long as you can wait a week and can accept it during
the day. You piggy-back on a big delivery nearby.
There are several sheet materials you might use.
Chipboard. Worthless, avoid.
MDF. Dead handy, but it doesn't like damp and it will sag if
Ply. _Lots_ of types and grades. Grade (quality) often makes more
difference to suitability than type (function). I've recently had
lovely very high quality cheap sheathing ply from Avon that's more
useful than the asian hardwood ply and even better surfaced than some
recent expensive birch ply.
Sheathing ply. Made from cheap resinous softwoods, it's not bad for
damp and the surface can be attractive too. Start here.
Asian stuff. Made from tropical rainforests and there's a huge amount
of fraudulent labelling around. Much of it is illegal(sic) logging
from Burma or Cambodia, legalised by the fact it's their own
government doing it. Heavy, expensive, plain surfaced, boring to look
Oak veneered (or other hardwood). Top-end stuff, for cabinet backs.
Looks good, not that much more expensive, far cheaper than doing it
with solid timber. Bear it in mind, but don't waste it on dog kennels.
Birch ply. The usual stuff for "cabinet grade" plywood. Lightweight,
strong, stiff and expensive. Grade matters a lot, because the poorer
stuff can have a lot of repair patches in the surface. Grade is very
variable, so ideally look before buying. Stained and varnished, it can
look quite acceptable for "bare wood" furniture.
Valchromat. Like MDF, but with more colour and resin to it. Moderately
damp proof and gives a good surface. If polished and waxed, you can
leave it bare. I've even done woodturnings from it.
Versapanel. Like concrete MDF. Good for outdoor use, fascia boards,
shower enclosures, firproofing, dog kennels.
> I need some 18mm ply thats furniture grade for the desk and
> shelves( 3-4 sheets)
18mm is thick and heavy. You probably need some, but I doubt you need
it all to be this thickness. 12mm is fine for uprights and even
bookshelves. 18mm is really only needed for desktops. Varying ply
thickness is important if things aren't to look "boxy". Also MDF is
much more sag-prone than ply. 18mm MDF is usually replaceable by 12mm
ply. A good desk design would be 18mm MDF for the top (dense, heavy
and stable), 12mm sheathing or birch ply for the sides, good 10mm
birch ply for internal cupboard drawers and divisions.
Web search for the "Sagulator" too.
Tools are a £100+ Bosch jigsaw (maybe Makita). Read the group
archives, but a _good_ jigsaw is worth it.
A biscuit jointer is a great way to join ply boxes quickly, easily and
accurately. Aldi have them in at present (20 quid) along with biscuit
and glue-bottle kits. Don't use dowels, they're a right old faff.
If you're going to use a circular saw, fit an appropriate fine-tooth
A cheap router is useful, especially for edge treatments on MDF.
Don't think purely in right angles either. Look at some of Jarkman's
particularly the wavy stereo. Curved front edges look so much better
I thought they go a couple of centimeters deep or is there a really
narrow type of biscuit to use for that? I really dont like materials
plastic-y veneer. I would like to stain lightly and see the character
of the wood. If i had the facilities to turn the oak sleepers into
accurately cut boards and worktops then it would be a really
economical source of timber. I had 40 of them delivered at about £17
each. Each 80kg of nice oak 1800mm x 225 x 125. Do any of you guys do
this?... cut into peices this would cost £25 thousand pounds at
homebase - never going back there again.
Pete C, i am in the islington area of london so if anyone has a
reccomendation for top quality birch ply in my area that would be
thanks for all the links, will keep me occupied for a while.
Your best bet is either Homebase or a B&Q Depot. Both stock 8 x 4 sheets of
18mm ply, B&Q are probably cheaper. Either will cut the 8 x 4 to whatever
sizes you need either free or cheap. In either store you can select the
sheet you want & take it to the cutting desk.
That way you don't have to cut it & it will fit your car. Do take care that
they cut it accurately however - one of the numptys in my local B&Q Depot
was obviously trained by Stevie Wonder.
Battens in 2 x 1 will be fine. On a solid wall use these hammer fixers
You can drill the timber batten & then through into the wall in one go. Use
a drill bit like this
The fixings & drill bit are both available from B&Q or Homebase.
Timber/builders merchants are still stuck in a "got any O's" time warp IMO.
The Medway Handyman
> guys, that's fantastic. I really was not expecting that sort of
> response. I already have a good hitachi circular saw that i used to
> cut large new oak sleepers for a huge landscaping project in the back
> garden last year. I spent £200 + on that saw and it can go up to 90 cm
> cutting depth.
It might be a bit hefty for finer panel work but would certainly need a
fine toothed blade.
> A biscuit jointer sounds like alot of fun. I have seen
> Norm from New yankee workshop use one. Whats the minimum thickness of
> ply you could box with biscuits?
> I thought they go a couple of centimeters deep or is there a really
> narrow type of biscuit to use for that?
It depends on the machine.
There are three major sizes of biscuit, 0,10,20 and all machines can
cut slots for those. The more expensive machines are adjustable in
fine increments, the cheaper ones not. There are some additional
sizes such as FF (means face frame) and is a narrower biscuit and some
machines have other depth settings.
I've used biscuits with 9mm material, but the most common tend to be 12
and 18 or even greater.
> I really dont like materials
> with a
> plastic-y veneer. I would like to stain lightly and see the character
> of the wood.
I completely agree.
If you are going to use oak, then Danish oil is a good finish. It
doesn't come up too much above matt and is easily refinishable without
stripping. Easy to apply as well.
> If i had the facilities to turn the oak sleepers into
> accurately cut boards and worktops then it would be a really
> economical source of timber. I had 40 of them delivered at about £17
> each. Each 80kg of nice oak 1800mm x 225 x 125. Do any of you guys do
> this?... cut into peices this would cost £25 thousand pounds at
> homebase - never going back there again.
I do cut, plane, thickness and machine my own timber where possible,
but mainly to get specific sizes and pieces that are true and square.
It is necessary to be careful though - for example metal and other
embedded objects can take out a set of planer blades. At around £20 a
reversible set of 4, I don't want to do that too often.
If C.F.Anderson are still in Upper Street, they are a major supplier.
here is Veneered MR Grade Plywood (veneered 1 face only) 2440 x 1220
and this is WBP Plywood Products
Is veneered plywood like mdf with a glossy plastic feeling veneer over
it, or is it cabinet grade ply with a real wood layer? If so is there
cabinet grade ply among the WBP Plywood Products (that don't mention
they have a veneer) ? Can veneer mean either a thin layer of real wood
or a lino material with a wood pattern. Prices suggest there are some
v. good quality ones. Is it safe to assume russian birch is going to
be attractive on one side? - at that price i should hope so!
Hope i made myself clear, thankyou
Sorry, but I've deleted your original post. I don't like WBP due to bad
experiences (years ago) and only use marine ply - irrespective of cost -
it's the business. Lasts donkeys of years. There are boats still in use
today that were built with it the early 60's to my recollection - could
> thanks again. Andy, on that link u provided... looks very good and
> they deliver but im confused about the choise of plywood.
> here is Veneered MR Grade Plywood (veneered 1 face only) 2440 x 1220
> and this is WBP Plywood Products
> Is veneered plywood like mdf with a glossy plastic feeling veneer over
> it, or is it cabinet grade ply with a real wood layer?
Both material types on that site have the real wood as a veneer.
> If so is there
> cabinet grade ply among the WBP Plywood Products (that don't mention
> they have a veneer) ?
WBP is mainly used for construction purposes (typical of the stuff sold
in DIY store) although the ones here not.
> Can veneer mean either a thin layer of real wood
> or a lino material with a wood pattern.
The description should tell you. Normally the work "effect",
"melamine" or "foil" is used.
> Prices suggest there are some
> v. good quality ones. Is it safe to assume russian birch is going to
> be attractive on one side? - at that price i should hope so!
There should be a balancing veneer generally. Also the availability
of different thicknesses gives a clue. For example 6mm for a cabinet
back where you would have the good side facing forwards and the hidden
rear side being a cheaper veneer,
> Pete C, i am in the islington area of london so if anyone has a
> reccomendation for top quality birch ply in my area that would be
Try Goodwoods on Junction Road, near Archway. They're a family owned
firm, very friendly and (at least last year) will cut to size
accurately and free of charge. IIRC delivery is cheap / free depending
In fact, now that I come to mention them, they're one of the few
things I miss since moving out to the sticks.
fumes are strong though so needs lots of ventilation while drying
I thought the Danes were a green lot
Yer kidding. They have (or used to have) power stations burning oily
fish industrially. The windmills are just a front.
Besides... what's the use of so called green products if they don't work?
Oil finishes is probably the one area where solvents don't do much. The
oil on its own is a good consistency and doesn't really need thinning
for most applications.
Possibly. I just don't like most water based products for wood finishing.
Sort of like CFL bulbs really.
All of which goes to prove that the environmental lobby is all about
clouded vision and muddled thinking.