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Plywood is great for building cabinets, cases, and even tabletops. Itís a strong and stable material, and comes in sheets, which is handy for creating large, flat panels. What isnít so obvious is how to make plywood look like solid wood. The good news is that with some time, practice, and tips from the pros, you can make plywood parts look a lot more like solid wood. In this edition of Kreg Plus, weíll share tricks to help you get the best-looking plywood panels.

Ignore the Cutting Diagram

The first step in getting plywood project parts to look like solid wood comes when you start breaking down the sheet. People tend to cut parts from the plywood sheet in the most efficient manner. The problem with this is that the parts donít have consistent grain patterns.

The solution is to be as choosy with laying out plywood parts as you would be with parts cut from hardwood boards. This produces slightly more waste, but the overall look of each panel is much better.
Cutting Diagram
Another important aspect is covering up the exposed plies on the edges and ends. In addition to appearance, thereís another reason for covering up the edges: The thin veneer can chip or get damaged without some protection. The trick to covering up the edges is doing it without calling attention to the edging. Two methods are shown below:

Thin Edging

A key to blending the edging and plywood is to make sure the color and grain are as similar as possible. One surefire way to do this is to cut the edging from the same plywood as the rest of the project. At the table saw, cut a kerf along the edge of a piece of plywood, leaving only the face veneer. Simply cut the veneer free from the blank with a utility knife and straightedge and itís ready to be glued in place. The result is a perfect match. Thin Edging

Hardwood Edging

For an edge that needs to stand up to more wear and tear, glue a strip of hardwood to the edge of a plywood panel. By taking some time and care in selecting the stock for the edging, you can get a good match. To conceal things even more, add a simple profile to the edging. A slight chamfer or roundover that begins at the joint line helps blend the parts together visually. Hardwood Edging

Ends Matter, Too

It can be tempting to treat the ends of a plywood workpiece the same as you would the edges. The problem with this is that the grain of the top surface doesnít flow across to the ends. A better option is to take cues from traditional, solid-wood construction. Here are two approaches you can take:

Wrap It in a Frame

A mitered frame surrounds the plywood panel, giving it a traditional look. A shadow line adds some detail, creating the look of a floating panel. Simplify Centers

Breadboard Ends

Wide strips conceal the ends of a plywood panel to give it the look of solid wood. A bullnose profile blends the edging to the panel.

Plywood provides an economical way to create nice-looking projects, which makes it a popular building material. Paying attention to these details will take your woodworking abilities up a notch, and the results are sure to stand out.
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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
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