Plywood is something almost everybody has heard of, but do you know how it’s made? Sure, you might know the very basics of Plywood being made up of three or more thin layers of wood brought together with an adhesive, but what really goes into making Plyco’s Decoply? What processes go into creating our Premium Birch Plywood? Just how exactly do we end up with Marine Plywood on our doorstep? Here at Plyco, we’re obsessed with all things Ply, from particle board to plywood panels, so we thought it would be interesting to detail the behind the scenes process.
Trust The Plyco Process
Everything starts with the trees. Trees used for manufacturing plywood are generally smaller than those used for other types of wood such as lumber, while Plywood can be crafted from both hardwood trees like Maple, Poplar and Birch, as well as softwood trees such as Radiata Pine, Hoop Pine and Lauan.
The trees come from a plantation which has been carefully managed. First, the selected trees are marked in order to know which are ready to be cut down. This is done through the use of chainsaws or by fellers – a large hydraulic sheer that is mounted to the front of a vehicle.
You spin me right 'round
Once these mighty trees have been cut they are dragged to a loading area by handy vehicles known as skidders. Here the logs are cut to size and loaded onto trucks in a long pile called a log deck. Once cut and loaded the wood is ready to begin its exciting journey to the plywood mill.
Upon reaching their new home, the logs are picked up by loaders as needed and placed onto a chain conveyor belt that brings them to the debarking machine – kind of like the checkout at your local supermarket, except a tad larger. The debarking machine removes the bark by using either sharp-toothed grinding wheels or high-pressure water jets as the log is rotated. These logs then move onto another conveyor belt where a circular saw cuts them into sections suitable for making standard plywood sheets. You’ll often hear these referred to as peeler blocks.
So Veneer, Yet So Far
The next step in this magical process requires the timber veneer to be made. Before we get too carried away though, the peeler blocks must be heated and soaked to soften the wood, by steaming them or submerging them in hot water in a process that takes 12-20 hours depending on the type of wood and a host of other characteristics. Once heated the blocks are transported to the peeler lathe, where they are fed one at a time. The lathe rotates the block quickly and a knife blade peels a continuous sheet of veneer from the surface.
It's getting hot in here
Now that we have our sheet of veneer you can either choose to process it immediately, store it in a multiple-level tray or have it wound onto a roll. From here the next step requires cutting the veneer into usable widths. During this step, the optical scanners search for sections with unacceptable defects and those are clipped out. Similar to The Terminator, but for plywood. Veneers will then be stacked according to grade, which can be done manually, or with our Terminator technology. Finally, the sorted sections are dried to remove moisture.
We’ve got our veneer so it’s time for the fun to begin. The process of laying up and gluing pieces together is now underway, which must be manually done, or semi-automatically through the assistance of machines. In the case of a three-ply sheet, the back veneer is laid flat and run through a spreader, applying glue to the upper surface. Short sections of core veneer will be laid cross-ways and the entire sheet will run through the spreader a second time. The face veneer is then laid on top of the glued core.
Things are starting to heat up as we’ve reached the pressing stage of the process. Sheets are loaded into a hot press that can handle an incredible 20-40 sheets at a time! Once all sheets are loaded the press squeezes them together with immense pressure and heats them to around 110-157 degrees Celsius. Remarkably, the pressing is finished after just 2-7 minutes.
On The Home Straight
Once they unload the sheets they’re passed through saws, trimming them down to their final length and width. The faces of the plywood board will then be sanded through the use of belt sanders or manually spot sanded depending on the grade.
The beautiful final plywood product
Finally, the sheets are given a grade and then shipped off to us here at Plyco, where they’re given a standing ovation upon arrival. The very last step of the Plywood process occurs when our fantastic customers purchase a sheet, which is delivered through our fleet of trucks out of our Mornington and Melbourne locations, or through carrier and courier companies for interstate and regional deliveries. Alternatively, if you have the means to, you’re welcome to come to see us in person and take your shiny new Plywood home.