The Manufacturing of Plywood: 1950s and Now

Plywood is created by a complex process of layering timber veneer with glue. In this video from the Victoria and Albert Museum, two methods of creating plywood are shown.
Jessica Miley

Plywood is one of the most ubiquitous building materials. It is in our furniture, houses and even cars. A simple combination of wood and glue, plywood is strong and widely applicable. The process of making this common material is absolutely fascinating and incredibly complex. In this video from the Victoria and Albert Museum, two methods of creating plywood are shown.

The first is how the process was done in British Columbia, Canada in 1954. Huge Douglas Fir trees are cut down and floated down the river to the factory. Then a massive rotary veneer cutter essentially peels the log into a continuous very thin sheet. This sheet is then cut into smaller chunks that allow it to be handled more easily. The resulting thin slices of wood are layered on top of each other and glued then pressed under pressure to create plywood boards. By stacking the grain of the wood at right angles to each other the sheets are made much stronger than a regular solid timber panel. 

The video also shows the same process in the 20th century in Finland. While the process has remained essentially the same, the machines are much faster and computer controlled. There is less physical labor required and the overall process is much more efficient.

The development of steam-powered machines in the 1800’s really drove the development of plywood production. As the process became faster and cheaper, it became the material of choice for mass furniture production.

 The Manufacturing of Plywood: 1950s and Now


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