Can you carve plywood?

can you carve plywood

Plywood is manufactured material made of piles of wood veneer. The biggest problem that you will face is the conflicting grain direction of the different wood glued together.

With such a rugged terrain for your carving tools, can you carve plywood?

Carving plywood is possible, but under special circumstances and some carving techniques may be near impossible to pull off. Here is all you need to know before carving plywood.

Hand carving plywood

Hand carving plywood is not as easy as power-carving plywood. Hand carving plywood is not something I would recommend for beginners.

However, hand-carving plywood is doable, and some prefer it. To carve plywood using hand tools, your tools must be very sharp.

The quality of the plywood may also contribute to how successful the outcome will be. The softer plywoods like birch and pine will be easier to hand carve.

As for techniques, avoiding too deep a cut will ensure you avoid very common splits when a plywood surface is disrupted.

power carving plywood

power carving plywood
Airgraft-grade plywood Ultima Thule Artwork in Emma Modern Aer Museum Espoo, Finland

Power carving is the most common technique for carving plywood. Many artists like the above artist produce remarkable plywood sculptures using power tools.

In power carving plywood, the most common tool is the rotary tool. Other common tools include the die grinder and the angle grinder.

It is easy to carve plywood using power tools without having any major issues with your material slitting badly. High RPMs of these tools enable clean cuts on the plywood.

Carving in the round with plywood

to carve in the round, you will need thick plywood. But since getting anything higher than 1″ thickness is a hustle, the only option is gluing up plywood pieces.

The pictures below show a carver that used plywood to carve out a birds house.

How to carve plywood

For the demonstration purpose we will use the steps the very innovative woodworker Andrzej Gdynia used. Here are the steps on how to carve plywood.

Step one: Glue up the plywood

Glue up the plywood

Gluing plywood together gives a more thick carving medium. Always ensure that you apply enough glue as the end graves can drench lots of glue.

Step two: Setting up the structure

Setting up the structure

Smart designing can save you tons of wood. Therefore, the correct setup is crucial. Good setup starts from the design and only rely on improvisation when its only necessary. Take this birdhouse, for instance. The priority of stacking the piles of plywood is only on the necessary parts.

Step three: Carving the plywood

Carving the plywood

Carving can begin when the piece has been glued together, and the piece work has dried. To avoid trouble, it’s always safer to only aim at shaving very small bits of plywood. The deeper cuts are notorious for sending splits all over.

Step four: Finishing your carved plywood

finishing your carved plywood

A good coat of poly will go a long way to protecting your newly carved plywood piece. Other options include staining it to make the wood pretty interesting with dense color. Painting is also a fresh idea for finishing the carving.

Summary: Can you carve plywood

Carving plywood is doable. But plywood is not your everyday wood. Many techniques and design adjustments must be made to carve plywood successfully. We hope this article has been helpful to you. Happy carving!

Hadwin Fisher

I'm basically a "Hobby Whittler." Everything I make is for Personal use, gifts for others, or other Items for charity auctions or other "Causes" i.e. "Local Hospital" Etc. Some health issues are interfering with me doing any large-scale projects in my workshop at this Present Time. That said I can't stay idle, whittling, and writing about whittling with my Friend ken Read keeps me sane and happy!

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