Difference between Hardwood and Plywood

Key difference: Hardwood is the wood that comes from an angiosperm tree. This is a type of tree that has seeds that are enclosed, be it in pods, a shell, a covering or in a fruit. Some famous hardwoods include maple, balsa, oak, elm, mahogany, and sycamore. Plywood, on the other hand, is a type of manufactured wood panel. It is made by gluing together plywood layers, also called veneers.

Hardwood, softwood and plywood are categories used to classify different types of woods.

Many people consider that hardwood and softwood are named such because hardwood is harder and denser than softwood. This is true often enough, but not all the time. Take for example the balsa wood, which is soft, light and less dense than most other woods, but is classified as a hardwood. The classification of the wood is not actually done on the basis of weight or density; rather it is done on the basis of plant reproduction.

Basically, hardwood is the wood that comes from an angiosperm tree. This is a type of tree that has seeds that are enclosed, be it in pods, a shell, a covering or in a fruit. For example, apples or nuts and seeds like acorns and walnuts. These types of seeds allow birds and insects to be attracted to the flowers of the tree and be able to carry the pollen to other trees. This is also the reason why hardwood trees are not often bunched together but are spaced apart and often have other trees in-between them.

Most hardwood trees are also deciduous is nature. A deciduous tree is a tree that loses its leaves annually. Hardwood trees are also slower to grow, taking their own time. Due to this, most hardwood is dense. This is also the reason that hardwood is expensive, as it takes longer to grow. Some famous hardwoods include maple, balsa, oak, elm, mahogany, and sycamore.

Hardwoods are used for various applications such as fuel, tools, construction, boat building, musical instruments, flooring, cooking, barrels, manufacture of charcoal, etc. However, most people relate hardwoods for use in home furnishing and furniture. The most commonly used hardwoods for furniture include oak, ash, acacia, mango and mahogany.

Furniture made with hardwood tends to be long-lasting and durable. Due to this hardwoods are generally accepted as being the highest quality wood. However, with the high density of most hardwoods, they have a tendency of splitting, due to which the carpenter has to take extra care while making a piece of furniture. Despite this, some hardwoods are preferred for a particular use. For example: maple and elm are often used for flooring, while balsa is preferred for models and lightweight wood projects as it is easy to work with.

Plywood, on the other hand, is a type of manufactured wood panel. It is made by gluing together plywood layers, also called veneers. These veneers are glued together with adjacent plies having their wood grain at right angles to each other. This allows them to form a composite material.  Cross-graining, i.e. having the wood grain at right angles to each other, reduces the tendency of wood to split, as well as reduces expansion and shrinkage. It also makes the strength of the panel consistent across both directions.

Plywood has various advantages over traditionally wood. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable and re-usable. Furthermore, it can usually be manufactured locally. Plywood is also resistant to cracking, shrinkage, splitting, twisting and/or warping. It also has a high degree of strength. All these attribute combine to make plywood one of the most widely used wood products.

Plywood is further divided into:

  • Softwood plywood - Is usually made either of cedar, Douglas fir or spruce, pine, fir or redwood and is typically used for construction and industrial purposes.
  • Hardwood plywood – Made from hardwood, often from birch and used for demanding end uses. Birch plywood has excellent strength, stiffness and resistance.
  • Tropical plywood - Made from mixed species of tropical wood.
  • Special-purpose plywood
    • Aircraft plywood
    • Decorative plywood (overlaid plywood)
    • Flexible plywood
    • Marine plywood
    • fire-retardant plywood
    • moisture-resistant plywood
    • sign-grade plywood
    • pressure-treated plywood

Image Courtesy: borderhardwood.com, unitedplywood.in

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