It seems like every other month or so, someone asks about Baltic Birch plywood on one of the forums I frequent. I think one of reasons so many questions exist, is because there isn’t much information on the net. The following is a basic primer on Baltic Birch plywood, generated from various internet sources I’ve come across.
Region of origin – As the name implies, Baltic Birch plywood is produced from Birch trees from the Baltic region of Europe. The two main producers appear to be Russia & Finland.
Thickness – True Baltic Birch plywood only comes in metric thicknesses. The most common sizes found in North America are 6mm, 12mm, & 18mm. Additionally 3mm, 9mm, 15mm, & 25mm can occasionally be found in a narrower range of grades.
Size – You used to only be able to find Baltic Birch plywood in 5′x5′ sheets. Recently people have reported finding 4′x8′ sheets. Supposedly Manufactures have become wise to the fact that plywood comes in 4′x8′ sheets in North America, and have started producing to that size.
Plies – Baltic Birch plywood has more plies for a given thickness that North American plywood. Additionally every ply is birch, unlike a lot of plywood of North American origin that has hardwood exterior & softwood interior plys. The following chart list ply count by thickness.
- 3mm – 3 ply
- 6mm – 5 ply
- 9mm – 7ply
- 12mm – 9 ply
- 15mm – 11 ply
- 18mm – 13 ply
- 25mm – 18 ply
Grading – Baltic Birch does not follow ANSI grading standards most are familiar with, instead the following grading scheme is used. A typical grade found in quality furniture is B/BB.
- Grade “B” – Selected one-piece face generally light and even in color. Occasional small pin knots and some brown streaks may be allowed. Intended for natural finish. No patches allowed.
- Grade “BB” – One-piece face generally light and even in color. Occasional sound tight knots are permitted but open knots and defects in BB have been cut out and replaced with small ovular or round veneer patches before gluing. The veneer selected for the patches is of the same general color as the basic face veneer.
- Grade “CP” – One-piece face very close to grade BB. Rejected from BB for small defects with more streaking. Occasional hairline splits of less than .5mm are allowed. The oval or round patches may or may not be matched for color with the base face veneer. There will normally be more patches per face than the BB grade.
- Grade “C” – One-piece utility grade veneer. Open defects and open splits are allowed.
The following images are of some Baltic Birch plywood of Russian origin I purchased a few days ago.