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Old Feb 21, 2012, 05:15 PM
Registered User
Chico, California USA
Joined Mar 2003
469 Posts
"real" aircraft plywood

Yes, I have used the search function and still not sure the differences.

I am running low on the aircraft ply I have collected over the last 40 years. I checked the 3 hobby shops in a 25 mile radius and all I find is craft wood.

The product I am looking for:
-tan to light brown in color
-pieces I have with labels state "BIRCH PLYWOOD AIRCRAFT" or "aircraft plywood"
-cannot be dented with a thumb nail
-no voids in any of the plys
-extremely stiff

What I find:
-craft ply
-birch ply almost white in color (similar to craft)
-massive voids along edges
-easily dented with a thumb nail
-sheets less than 1/4" easily bent

Apparently all "birch ply" is NOT aircraft but not sure that all "aircraft ply" is made of birch.

In the photo the white piece to the left is Revell Birch Plywood (junk), the Midwest is BIRCH PLYWOOD AIRCRAFT (good) and the Nosen is Aircraft Plywood (ok).

I would like to order a 6"x12" sheet of each size up to 1/4" which should last me until my final takeoff! Where can I find the 'real aircraft plywood'?


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Old Feb 21, 2012, 10:17 PM
Space Coast USA
hoppy's Avatar
Space Coast
Joined Oct 2000
21,496 Posts
Google is your friend.

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Old Feb 22, 2012, 01:04 PM
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United States, NJ, Browns Mills
Joined May 2005
2,134 Posts
I usually get mine from Balsa USA. It's listed as "Birch" ply, and it's what I've used for firewalls, dihederal joiners, etc., since around 1981. They sell it in 12, 24, and 48-inch lengths.


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Old Feb 22, 2012, 01:15 PM
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United States, WI, Waunakee
Joined Oct 2002
2,771 Posts
There are three kinds of ply used in the hobby. Lite ply which is poplar. Then there is a three ply birch and a 5 ply birch. Real aircraft ply would be the 5 ply birch. The more plys you have the stronger it is. For things like formers ets all you need is lite ply. Motor mounts. Wing joiners etc I'd use 5 ply.
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Old Feb 22, 2012, 01:48 PM
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The 'Wack, BC, Canada
Joined Oct 2002
12,078 Posts
Much of the birch AIRCRAFT ply is european baltic birch. And I've seen some which has the speckled grain indicating it is beech. Both are far harder woods than our domestic birch. This would explain why the hardware store birch plywood you found is so poor by comparison.

If you're the sort to buy lots at a time so you're stocked for a few years to follow you may want to consider buying full sheets of aircraft ply from one of the homebuilt aircraft suppliers. Or gang up with a few buddies to buy it so the price comes down a little.
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Old Feb 22, 2012, 03:32 PM
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sscherin's Avatar
USA, WA, Kennewick
Joined Nov 2005
502 Posts
for 1/4" look into Halex underlayment..

It's a 6mm 5 ply Baltic birch, 0 voids, exterior rated glue. It comes in 4x4 sheets

You can find it at Lowes if you want to check it out.
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Old Feb 22, 2012, 04:01 PM
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Chico, California USA
Joined Mar 2003
469 Posts
Thanks for the responses. Will check out the Halex today.

I will post more on the topic when I get an email reply back from a manufacturer.

Yesterday I called a HS 28 miles away and explained in detail what I was looking for. They said 'yes', it was in stock. When I arrived I was shown several 6"x12" pieces obviously cut from a 'home improvement center' panel. All four sides were irregular cuts made with a coarse rip saw, voids, etc....the doll house material was better quality.

Next week a local friend, and modeler, will be going to Aircraft Spruce in SoCal and offered to pick up what I need. Unfortunately I am into E gliders and I only need a small amount to cover motor mounts and maybe servo trays.

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Old Feb 23, 2012, 06:57 AM
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Dallas, TX
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Old Feb 24, 2012, 07:38 AM
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United States, PA, Beaver
Joined Sep 2001
3,524 Posts
+1 for Balsa USA. I recently ordered 4 sheets of 1/8" 1'x2' Furniture quality and reasonably priced.
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Old Feb 24, 2012, 10:41 AM
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Chico, California USA
Joined Mar 2003
469 Posts
Apparently Halex in NOT a Lowe's west coast item. The distributor is valid but none of the area stores have ever carried it. Tried a hardwood/flooring lumber yard and a few flooring stores with no luck.

Looks like BalsaUSA or Midwest brand are what I have been looking for. Our LHS (AMain) carries Midwest Aircraft through 1/32, but only Craft above that size. I was a little confused about the Midwest offerings since I did not see any Aircraft grade above 1/16 on their web site but did see larger sizes on a number of retailer sites. An email from Midwest indicated that their web site (online ordering) is a subset of their full product line which is contained in the downloadable (a word?) catalog.

Thanks for all your replies. I need to place an order and move on with the 96" Bomber build.

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Old Feb 24, 2012, 02:48 PM
Tumble weed country Eastern Washington
Joined Aug 2004
530 Posts
Check out http://balsawoodinc.com Good wood and resonable pricing and shipping, alot cheaper than Midwest, and I think a little better than BUSA.
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Old Feb 26, 2012, 02:12 AM
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Joined Jun 2002
2,336 Posts
Thanks for the info. With more and more lhs gone by the wayside, this kind of stuff becomes harder to find.
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Old Feb 26, 2012, 03:45 PM
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Mike Hall's Avatar
Albany, GA
Joined Jun 2002
2,357 Posts
World panel down in FL stocks a few very nice plywood types that work well for models. I have ordered a few sheets of the Okoume which is pretty light weight and very strong but sometimes it a bit warped up. I laser cut all my parts so the warped part becomes a problem with holding the sheet flat but with my new machine its not much of an issue. a full 4x8 sheet of 3mm Okoume is like $50 which is pretty cheap. In my opinion, it is much better than liteply although just a touch heavier. And on a side note, they do not have it listed but a 4x8 sheet of lite ply is $38 which is cheap compared to ordering from most other places. '

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Old Feb 27, 2012, 09:57 AM
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United States, CA, Antioch
Joined Jun 2011
24 Posts
I use National Balsa via mail order. Low prices, any stock you want and quick delivery.
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Old Feb 29, 2012, 08:36 AM
Designing something...
United States, CA, Cameron Park
Joined Jan 2004
1,758 Posts
Do you make it down to Sacramento very often? I've got plenty of 1/64", 1/32", 1/16", 3/32", 1/8" and either or both 3/16 & 1/4" (I'd have to check when I get home). If you're in the area I'm sure I can set you up with some for a reasonable price. FYI I know of a local source of 4X8 sheets of lite ply for ~$22. :-O

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