Typical Uses of
Common Baltic Birch Questions
What is Baltic Birch?
What sizes does it come in?
What thicknesses do you carry?
What are these grades?
What is this shop grade that I see all of the time?
What type of glue do they use? Can this be used outside?
Q: What is Baltic Birch?
Baltic Birch, aka 'Russian Birch', is a popular panel best known for its light color, strength, multi-ply construction, and affordable cost.
Q: What sizes does it come in?
The most common Baltic Birch size is 5'x5'. However, we are seeing much more 4'x8' available in the marketplace.
Q: What thicknesses do you carry?
Thickness and unit quantities are defined as the following:
Thickness (mm) *Thickness (inches) Sheets per unit
* Note - the Baltic Birch thicknesses in inches are approximate. For example, the most common thickness for drawer sides is 12mm or ½". However, a true half inch = 12.7mm. Baltic birch has been around long enough that the equivalency ratios stated above are considered the norm.
3mm || (1/8")||- 130 sheets|
|6mm ||(1/4") || - 65 sheets|
|9mm || (3/8") ||- 44 sheets|
|12mm || (1/2") ||- 33 sheets|
|15mm || (5/8") ||- 26 sheets|
|18mm || (3/4") ||- 22 sheets|
Q: What are these grades? They don't look familiar.
They are indeed different from the domestic grades many of us are used to seeing. Baltic Birch is manufactured in accordance with the Russian export GOST 3916.1-96 standards. We have simplified the extensive list to what you see below. The baltic birch full grading standard is available online.
B----Selected one-piece face, generally light and even in color. Occasional small pin knots and some brown streaks may be allowed, but generally no patches, voids or mineral streaks. Sanded surface intended for natural finish.
BB-One-piece face generally light and even in color. Pin knots and mineral streaking or discoloration is allowed with occasional sound tight knots permitted. Open knots and defects in BB face veneers have been cut out and replaced with small oval or round veneer "football" patches before gluing. The veneer selected for the patches is of the same general color as the face veneer. Sanded surface.
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. Sanded surface.
C---Patches, open knots and veneer splits allowed. Not sanded.
Q: What is this shop grade that I see all of the time?
Baltic Birch "shop grade" is an evolved grade brought on by the demand of the customers. When the Russian mills first began manufacturing birch plywood, occasionally some cracks in the veneer would form on the edges during the drying process. The plywood mills would then cut off the 2"-10" that were damaged and send only the good part of the panel (60"x 58" or 60"x 50") to us at a discount rate.
Well, the manufacturers here got smart and asked that the mills just send the full sheet at a discount price. They figured that they were cutting the material anyway and would be happy to cut around any splits for a discount on the material.
So the loose interpretation of shop grade is defined as allowing splits on one edge of the panel, 2-10" long, and splits of no more than ¼" wide.
Q: What type of glue do they use? Can this be used outside?
Baltic Birch comes in Type I and Type II glues. Type I is a phenolic, exterior glue. This does not mean that an exterior glue is a substitute for a true marine plywood. (Link to marine plywood page) This simply means that the panel will perform slightly better in outdoor applications. Type II glue is an interior glue, and by far the most prevalent in today's marketplace.
Multi-ply construction. What does that mean exactly?
Multi-ply construction means that the plywood is constructed with more plies than a standard, domestic piece of plywood.
Metric Thickness American Equivalent # of Plies
|3mm ||1/8" || 3|
|6mm ||¼" || 5|
|9mm || 3/8" || 7|
|12mm || ½" || 9|
|15mm ||5/8" || 11|
|18mm || ¾" || 13|
Baltic Birch made the most noise in the US as a drawer side application. The multi-ply construction made for an attractive edge to bull nose. The light color looked great as a veneer core drawer. And the price made this product a slam dunk.
For many of the reasons stated above, Baltic Birch has been adopted as the product of choice for several of the applications listed below: