Is Baltic Birch a Hardwood Or Softwood? (Ultimate Guide!)

Ever wondered if the Baltic Birch in your favorite furniture is indeed a hardwood? The answer might surprise you! Let’s dive into the captivating world of this versatile wood. Ready for the journey?

Is Baltic Birch A Hardwood

Back in my beginner woodworking days, I was scratching my head over the same question about the hardness of Baltic birch, especially when I wanted to use it for some tough jobs.

So, I’ve done the legwork, talked to the experts, and I’m ready to spill the beans in this friendly guide – let’s solve this mystery together!

So, let’s find out, Is Baltic birch a hardwood?

Yes, Baltic Birch is considered a hardwood. Despite being a plywood, its high density and strength result in a Janka hardness scale rating of 1260 lbf, which places it in the hardwood category. This makes Baltic Birch durable and suitable for various woodworking projects.

But that’s just a quick snapshot of the question.

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    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, I’ll explore whether is Batic birch a hardwood, the characteristics of baltic birch, and how strong is Baltic birch with its uses.

    Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

    Let’s get going!

    baltic birch plywood
    baltic birch plywood

    First of all, let’s get a brief idea about, what is baltic birch.

    What is Baltic Birch?

    Baltic Birch, known scientifically as Betula pendula or Betula pubescens, is a type of plywood originating from the Baltic states of Northern Europe.

    Don’t let the term ‘plywood’ mislead you, though – Baltic Birch is not your ordinary plywood.

    It’s a premium hardwood product known for its excellent strength, stability, and aesthetic appeal.

    It’s not just the beautiful pale yellow color of Baltic Birch that catches the eye.

    Its distinct attribute lies within its construction – multiple layers, or ‘plies,’ of Birch veneer are glued together, creating a uniformly thick and robust sheet of plywood.

    This structure is one of the factors contributing to the hardwood’s celebrated durability.

    baltic birch is a popular material for speaker cabinets
    baltic birch is a popular material for speaker cabinets

    Why Does Baltic Birch Consider a Hardwood?

    The difference between hardwood and softwood is relative and comparable. Baltic birch is considered hardwood but it is 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).

    The distinction between hardwood and softwood lies not in their actual hardness or softness, but in the type of trees they come from.

    Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, which lose their leaves annually, and Baltic Birch is no exception.

    Derived from the Betula species, Baltic Birch originates from the cold climates of northern Europe.

    However, the categorization goes beyond the botanical definitions.

    From a practical perspective, the hardness of a wood is measured using the Janka scale, a standardized test that gauges the force required to embed a steel ball halfway into a piece of wood.

    The higher the Janka rating, the harder the wood. Baltic Birch, interestingly, holds a decent score of 1260 lbf, placing it in the realm of hardwoods.

    For context, compare this rating to other popular woods: Hard Maple scores 1450 lbf, while Red Maple scores 950 lbf, and the mighty Brazilian Walnut, one of the hardest, scores a whopping 3684 lbf.

    baltic birch vs normal birch
    baltic birch vs normal birch

    The Composition: Small Plies, Big Impact

    Baltic Birch stands out among other types of hardwood due to its unique structure.

    It is composed of multiple smaller plies, or layers, bonded together with a high-density adhesive.

    This structure significantly enhances the wood’s strength and stability.

    Unlike traditional plywood that may include fillers or veneers from different species, Baltic Birch is 100% Birch, ensuring uniformity and consistency throughout.

    Hardness of Baltic Birch Compared To Other Woods

    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, Kyrandy2,240 lbf (10,000N)
    Santos Mahogany, Bocote2,200 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 Pine690 lbf (3,100 N)
    Douglas Fir660 lbf (2,900 N)
    Cuipo75 lbf (330 N)
    Balsa70 lbf (310 N)
    Table 01 –  Janka Hardness values
    baltic birch using in cutting and engraving application
    baltic birch using in cutting and engraving application

    How Strong is Baltic Birch?

    Baltic birch is known as one of the strongest wood 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.

    bookshelf made with baltic birch
    bookshelf made with baltic birch

    Baltic Birch plywood Furniture

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

    Here’re some indoor uses of Baltic birch,

    • 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 so special? Let’s dig into it. Baltic birch plywood has a high impact resistance because of free of gaps and defects.

    A smooth surface and excellent screw-holding power is also 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.

    factors affect the durability of baltic wood
    factors affect the durability of baltic wood

    Exterior Usage Of Baltic Birch

    After years of working with Baltic birch plywood, according to my experience, I’d not recommend using Baltic birch plywood for exterior applications, even though they have been known as a 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.

    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 the 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.

    making a cabinet using baltic birch
    making a cabinet using baltic birch

    What Are 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
    quick tip for getting the best finishing in baltic birch
    quick tip for getting the best finishing in baltic birch

    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.

    That’s it. Now you know the answer to the hot topic, Is Baltic birch a hardwood? Yes, Baltic birch is a hardwood with lots of benefits.

    Is Baltic Birch Durable?

    Yes, Baltic birch is extremely durable since it is a hardwood with high density and good strength.

    Plus, it has good resistance against environmental elements such as moisture and insect attacks. therefore, you can make durable indoor and outdoor furniture both with Baltic birch.

    Baltic birch furniture can easily last more than decade with proper finishing and maintenance.

    Is Baltic Birch Good Quality?

    Yes, Baltic birch is a quality wood that uses for making luxury furniture, expensive woodworking projects, and many other commercial products.

    you can use baltic birch pretty much for any application. It is strong, durable, stiff and easy to work.

    Is Baltic Birch Good For Cabinets?

    Yes, Baltic birch is good for cabinets. It is easy to cut, nail,drill and able to finish with any kind of fining sealer.

    with proper finishing and maintenance, you can keep Baltic birch cabinets even for decades with no issues.

    pros and cons of baltic birch plywood
    pros and cons of baltic birch plywood

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    What are some common uses of Baltic Birch?

    Baltic Birch’s strength and consistency make it a popular choice for various woodworking projects, including but not limited to drawer sidings, countertops, floors, kitchen fixtures, cabinets, and even skateboards.

    Is Baltic Birch plywood expensive?

    Relative to other types of plywood, Baltic Birch tends to be more expensive. This can be attributed to its high-quality attributes and the labor-intensive process required to produce it. The cost can also depend on the grade and the location of the store.

    Is Baltic Birch durable?

    Yes, due to its high-density level and excellent strength, Baltic Birch can withstand harmful elements and harsh environments, making it highly durable. It’s particularly resistant against infestations and moisture buildup, making it suitable for both interior and exterior projects.

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

    In this article I’ve 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!

    Baltic birch is a hardwood with Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf (5,600 N) which is harder, denser, and stronger than many other kinds of wood. Baltic birch hardwood can use for any woodworking project with proper finishing.

    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!

    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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