Is Baltic birch a Hardwood?

Is Baltic birch a Hardwood?

Baltic birch is known as a quality wood for indoor and outdoor woodworking projects make by using a special method. It has become more popular because of its plywood which has great qualities than most of the woods. For people who started working with Baltic birch, it’s common to wonder, is Baltic birch a hardwood?

Here’s what I know from looking into it:

Yes. Baltic birch is 100% hardwood. It is entirely made by using birch plies which are also known as hardwood and don’t use any softwood or filler plies in the middle.

But that’s just a quick snapshot of the question. Hardness is a property that cannot tell directly only by looking at the wood, it is a result that comes with the combination of many wood properties.

So, in this article, we’ll explore a little deeper and make sure we answer all the questions regarding how strong is Baltic birch? What are the furniture that are made out of it and What are the factors that make it hardwood and many more.

Let’s get going.

Why does Baltic birch consider a Hardwood?

The difference between hardwood and softwood is relative and comparable. Baltic birch is considered as hardwood but softer than ash or maple. Baltic birch plywood has become popular plywood because of its natural strength. There are several reasons why Baltic birch is considered as a hardwood. Some of them are listed as follows.

  1. Baltic birch is entirely made out of birch layers, which is also known as hardwood. (No softwood or fillers in the middle)
  2. The thicknesses of the included plies are very small. Because of that, the number of plies per unit length is very high. That’s a plus point for hardwood.
  3. Stability, durability, and stiffness are also high.

According to the Janka hardness test, the hardness value given for the Baltic birch is 1260 lbf (5600 N). you can get a clear idea about its hardness comparatively with other wood types from the table given below.

Wood speciesHardness value
Brazilian Walnut3,684 lbf (16,390N)
Red Mahogany, Turpentine2,697 lbf (12,000N)
Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba2,350 lbf (10,500N)
Mesquite2,345 lbf (10,430N)
Golden Teak2,330 lbf (10,400N)
Guatambú, Kyrandy, Balfourodendron riedelianum2,240 lbf (10,000N)
Santos Mahogany, Bocote, Cabreuva, Honduran Rosewood2,200 lbf (9,800 N)
Merbau1,925 lbf (8,560 N)
Jarrah1,910 lbf (8,500 N)
Purpleheart1,860 lbf (8,300 N)
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1,820 lbf (8,100 N)
Rosewood1,780 lbf (7,900 N)
African Padauk1,725 lbf (7,670 N)
Wenge, Red Pine, Hornbeam1,630 lbf (7,300 N)
Hard maple, Sugar Maple1,450 lbf (6,400 N)
Australian Cypress1,375 lbf (6,120 N)
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
Ash (White)1,320 lbf (5,900 N)
American Beech1,300 lbf (5,800 N)
Red Oak (Northern)1,290 lbf (5,700 N)
Yellow Birch / Baltic birch1,260 lbf (5,600 N)
Heart pine1,225 lbf (5,450 N)
Teak1,155 lbf (5,140 N)
Black Walnut, North American Walnut1,010 lbf (4,500 N)
Cherry995 lbf (4,430 N)
Black Cherry, Imbuia950 lbf (4,200 N)
Red Maple950 lbf (4,200 N)
Silver Maple700 lbf (3,100 N)
Southern Yellow Pine (Loblolly and Shortleaf)690 lbf (3,100 N)
Douglas Fir660 lbf (2,900 N)
Cuipo75 lbf (330 N)
Balsa70 lbf (310 N)
Table 01 –  Janka Hardness values

How Strong is Baltic birch?

Baltic birch is known as one of the strongest plywood in the world. the reason for being strong is it’s completely made out of thin birch layers. Because of packing thin birch plies on top of the other, Baltic birch veneers are thicker than most plywood types. Each layer of birch has the same thickness. As a result of that gives an aesthetically attractive, void-free, and stable finish to the plywood with great strength with additional heft. Because of closely packed birch plies, we can sand the wood down as we wish without reducing its strength.

To give additional durability and low prone to chipping and low sanding damage with time, the front and back plies of Baltic birch are thicker than high-level plies of other types of plywood.

After the bonding/packing of birch plies in order to make Baltic birch plywood, the entire sheet material will be laminated for further its stability, strength, and great adhesive.

The strength of all the wood types for furniture we discussed here. (click to read my article).

Baltic birch plywood Furniture

Because of being hardwood with great strength and durability with void-free structure, people tend to use Baltic birch plywood for most indoor and outdoor furniture.

I have studied a lot and given below some common indoor applications of birch plywood.

  • Cabinets
  • Bookcases
  • Drawer sides
  • Tabletops and bottoms
  • Bed desks
  • Skateboards
  • Coffee tables
  • Flooring
  • Packaging
  • Kitchen furniture
  • Uncommon ventures

As you can see, Baltic birch plywood is applicable literally for any kind of interior wood application.

Why it has become this so special? Let’s dig into it. Baltic birch plywood has a high impact resistance because of free of gaps and defects. Smooth surface and excellent screw holding power is also a plus point for furniture manufacturing and construction. Because of nearly not having any defects and gaps, the Baltic birch is very attractive with an aesthetic look and grain can run either direction of the sheet.

So, let’s dig into its exterior usage.

After years of working with Baltic birch plywood, according to my experience, I’d not recommend using Baltic birch plywood for exterior applications, even they have been known as hardwood type. Birch plies use to make Baltic birch are not much durable exterior wood.

It doesn’t survive prolonged exposure to moisture atmosphere.

One of my neighbors made a huge mistake of using Baltic birch plywood as a mailbox cover. After around a year later, we experienced the consequences, it was completely delaminated with wasps that are nested in it. Another example is Baltic birch plywood with phenol laminated film versions are widely used for concrete pouring, trucks, and trailers, which clear cut edges develop mold quickly and cause delamination quickly even with that film coat.

Can you use Baltic birch plywood for exterior projects?

Some experts suggest applying marine spar varnish above the surface can help to keep the moisture resistance rather than shelf finishes. But the downside is you have to keep applying marine spar varnish ones a year because it breaks down from UV rays. Especially when you live in a hot climate. If you wish to keep your Baltic birch interior furniture outside for a long period of time, my advice is to apply marine spar varnish on it and cover it up until you get it inside. This will prevent the effects of rain and snow.

According to my personal experience, if you need to use Baltic birch plywood for exterior usage, I highly recommend fulfilling the following factors before placing outside for better durability.

  1. Buy really high-quality Baltic birch plywood.
  2. The amount of glue/varnish you going to apply – the deeper glue/varnish soaked, the longer time to delaminate.
  3. You’ll get better environmental resistance for Baltic birch plywood furniture if you live in an area with dry air and no long rainfalls or snowing.

Apart from having several disadvantages for external applications, hands down Baltic birch is an excellent wood for furniture. It uses as a decorative as well because of its beautiful layers of natural wood. Apart from household furniture, Baltic birch is also used in the construction sector.

What is the Difference between Baltic birch and Normal birch?

There are significant differences between Baltic birch and normal/veneer birch plywood by appearance and other physical properties as well.

The easiest one is, Baltic birch plywood has two times higher number of birch plies than birch plywood.

Baltic birch plywood is entirely made out of birch plies, with high-density glues while in veneer birch plywood the only birch part is its surface. The middle areas are made out of poplar or other hardwood types.

According to my personal opinion, I think Baltic birch is the advanced and more versatile version of veneer birch.

I have listed below further differences between Baltic birch and veneer birch plywood.

Baltic birch plywoodBirch plywood
Hardness is highRelatively low in hardness
100% made with birch pliesBirch on the surface and other hardwood types in the middle
Higher in strengthLess in strength
Not good for paintingIdeal for painting
Less prone to voidsMore prone to voids
Great for heavy-duty projectsGood for cabinets
1/8″ and 1/4″ Baltic aren’t flat.  All sizes are perfectly flat

Baltic birch Hardwood Grades

Now you know that Baltic birch is a hardwood with lots of great qualities. Like every other wood, the Baltic birch is also graded according to its qualities. This was done by Russian intergovernmental standards.

A: Perfect face with great qualities. Not available in the market.

B: Has a single piece face and back. Has a uniform light color.

BB: Has uniform color. No limit to pin knots.

CP: low consistency in color. No limit of plugs. Use for laminating.

C: low consistency with color. Utility grade. Use for structural purposes.

Is Baltic birch plywood Expensive?

The short answer is YES. Baltic birch plywood is an expensive wood type. This is not only because Baltic birch is a hardwood type, but also because of its great physical properties and environmental resistance. Currently, an 18mm sheet of Baltic birch is cost around 65 US dollars.

Did I cover All You Wanted to Know About Is Baltic birch a Hardwood?

We learned about more than Baltic birch in today’s article.

We talked deeply about Is Baltic birch a Hardwood?, how about its strength, can we use it for interior and exterior applications, advantages and disadvantages of using Baltic birch over normal birch plywood, and many more.

I have included everything I know about Baltic birch to make this article rich.

On top of that, we even dug deep to find the perfect Baltic birch grading type for your future woodworking projects!

Remember, Baltic birch plywood is one of the top class plywood with good hardness, strength, and stability and that’s the main reason why they are expensive in the market, always do a research using Baltic birch plywood according to your woodworking plan.

Always be safe when woodworking, and always enjoy the woodwork you make!

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