Desk top


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Welcome to the forums Chuck.

 

Plywood isn't a shortcut at all.  In fact, in some cases it's more appropriate than hard wood.

 

In the case of your desk tops, it depends on the size, style, and finish that you're considering?  Plywood is much more stable than solid wood so, no wood movement issues.  It also has thinner plys so, doesn't take wear and tear as well.  

 

Movement issues can be dealt with as can wear and tear issues.   

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Are they school classrom type desks? Those I have seen usually have a plywood or composite top, with a laminate on the surface. If you want a nicer looking piece of furniture, you might try veneering the plywood. Lots of threads in this forum that discuss veneer. Ply or solid wood, it really comes down to how the kids treat it. If you have some that are likely to carve their initials in the top, I would avoid plywood, as it will chip and splinter. If you don't expect that sort of treatment, plywood is certainly more stable, and simpler to make panels from.

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Plywood is more stable and simpler to make panels from, but some other things to consider: The face veneers on commercial plywood are typically very thin, so the surface will only be as hard as the core. Typically this is poplar. So even with a maple face you are getting the hardness of poplar, which is easily dented by a pencil or pen. MDF core will actually be more durable than veneer core (aka plywood). Also, if they leave a cold beverage on the top without a coaster it will bubble and lift the veneer. If you have the skills/budget I'd use solid wood (which can be refinished dozens of times), mdf core would be second choice and veneer core (plywood) would be my third.

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I'll add another point to this. Yes, you can cut a piece of plywood to make a top quicker, but it's not all winner winner chicken dinner. It's a little trickier to achieve a flat smooth surface under a film finish. If you know what I'm talking about, then you know how annoying it can be once you lay the finish down and see those ripples in the veneer surface. It becomes critical on a table top surface to properly prep it before you start finishing. I have been using fine paper on a small wooden block with great results. Don't worry, you wont go through the veneer. :)

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