Is Baltic Birch a Hardwood? + Plywood Grades & Uses

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Hardwoods are typically the go-to materials for plywood due to their impressive durability and strength, saving you from the inconvenience and expense of frequent replacements and repairs down the line. But when it comes to Baltic birch, is it robust enough to handle heavy-duty applications?

In this article, let me elaborate on the characteristics of Baltic birch, helping you understand whether it stands up to the rigors of intensive use.

Is Baltic Birch Considered a Hardwood? Why?

cabinet made out of baltic birch plywood

Although baltic birch isn’t as hard as sugar maple or Brazillian walnut, it still falls under the hardwood category with the Janka scale rating of 1260 lbf. It doesn’t include fillers, so the material showcases natural durability. 

Since baltic birch has small plies and a high count per unit length, many woodworkers rank it higher on the hardwood scale. Besides durability, this wood specie showcases enough stability and stiffness to endure harsh conditions and everyday impact. 

Wood SpeciesHardness Value/Janka Scale Rating
Baltic Birch Wood (Yellow)1260 lbf (5600 N)
Red Maple Wood950 lbf (4200 N)
Hard or Sugar Maple1450 lbf (6400 N)
Brazilian Walnut3684 lbf (16390N)
White Oak Wood1360 lbf (6000 N)
Northern Red Oak Wood1290 lbf (5700 N)
Northern American Walnut Wood1010 lbf (4500 N)
Douglas Fir Wood660 lbf (2900 N)
Loblolly and Shortleaf Yellow Pine Wood690 lbf (3100 N)
Balsa Wood70 lbf (310 N)
Black Cherry Wood 950 lbf (4200 N)
Cherry Wood995 lbf (4430 N)
Teak Wood1155 lbf (5140 N)
American Beech Wood1300 lbf (5800 N)
Hornbeam & Red Pine Wood1450 lbf (6400 N)
Rosewood1780 lbf (7900 N)
Jarrah Wood1910 lbf (8500 N)
Purpleheart Wood1860 lbf (8300 N)
Red Mahogany Wood2697 lbf (12000N)
Jatoba Wood2350 lbf (10500N)

Strength of Baltic Birch

Distinct from the average plywood sheets, Baltic birch is characterized by its substantially thicker veneers. This uniform thickness across each layer ensures that the hardwood provides superior strength and stability, making it a reliable choice for various applications.

cutting Baltic Brich plywood

It’s also an attribute that gives this material an aesthetically pleasing and void-free finish. 

And because baltic birch’s plies are knitted closely to one another, the sanding process won’t hinder its durability and strength. The wood’s thickness also gives it an edge against potential surface chipping. 

Moreover, to enhance durability, stability, and adhesion, the majority of manufacturers opt to laminate birch plies. By bonding multiple layers of birch sheets together, the resulting composite material exhibits superior strength and resistance to wear and tear.

Furniture and Uses of Baltic Birch Plywood

The amalgamation of strength and uniformity in Baltic birch’s structure renders it an incredibly versatile material, suitable for both indoor and outdoor woodworking endeavors.

Here are some interior workpieces where woodworkers often utilize this hardwood: 

furniture made out of Baltic Birch plywood

As for exterior usage, baltic birch materials may need some protection against harsh elements and climate. While it’s true that this wood is one of the most durable and hardest in today’s market, the truth is mold development can happen quickly. 

When mold [1] occurs, this hardwood will delaminate. Instead of regular wood finishes, you can enhance its moisture resistance by applying a marine spar varnish. You must reapply this protective finish yearly to maintain its effect on the material. 

Baltic birch plywood thickness and layersB

Besides buying premium baltic birch materials, it’s advisable to use generous varnish or glue application. You may not know, but it determines how long the wood’s lamination will last. 

If you’re residing in a dry area with irregular rain or snow, applying additional protection to a baltic birch structure is a requirement you can’t skip. 

Is Baltic Birch Ideal For Making Cabinets?

Yes, baltic birch plywood works well as a wood material for cabinet making. It’s a hardwood specie, but this lumber can accommodate drilling, cutting, nailing, and finishing procedures without problems. 

As long as you execute the proper finishing process and diligent maintenance, baltic birch cabinets can last long without visible issues. 

Baltic Birch vs. Normal Birch Wood

Besides aesthetics, baltic and regular birch wood don’t share many similarities. Even at first glance, it’s hard to ignore that baltic birch materials have twice the number of plies than its typical variation. 

Surface of birch plywood

On top of that, baltic birch doesn’t include fillers. So unlike regular plywood, it has a solid wood construction from the same tree species accompanied by high-density adhesives. 

Given these attributes, this hardwood is a more versatile variation of regular birch veneers in today’s market. Below are the exact differences between the two:  

Baltic Birch WoodRegular Birch Wood
Suitable for heavy-duty woodworking projectsMore suitable for cabinetry
Not recommended for painting It can accommodate paint well
Excellent strengthLacks in strength
Void-free wood surfaceSusceptible to voids
Not flat (1/8″ and 1/4″)Perfectly flat surface
No filler included (100% birch)A mix of birch and fillers from other hardwood species
High hardness levelLower hardness level

What are the Grades of Baltic Birch Hardwood?

Like other hardwood materials, baltic birch comes in different qualities and grades. These specifications determine the material’s appearance and durability. You must know these details to select a suitable wood for your project. 

Baltic Birch Plywood

Here’s an overview of the hardwood grading system curated by Russian intergovernmental standards:

Is Baltic Birch Plywood Costly?

As with most hardwood in today’s industry, baltic birch plywood is less affordable than other woodworking materials. 

baltic birch plywood

Considering its excellent attributes and environmental impact, it’s only natural that the government and manufacturers mandate a higher price range for these species. 

If you scan the market, you’ll see that baltic birch materials can range up to 65 bucks per 18mm plywood sheet. 

However, this estimation still depends on the wood’s grade. The store location you’re buying from also affects the lumber’s general cost. 

It’s recommended to search online for reference pricing before going to the local store to buy your wood material because it’ll help you plan your resources better.

Is Baltic Birch Durable and Good Quality?

Since baltic birch belongs to the hardwood family, durability is the first attribute you can expect from it. Due to its high-density level and excellent strength, this material can withstand harmful elements and harsh environments. 

furniture made out of Baltic Birch plywood

Many professional woodworkers choose hardwood over other alternatives because of its resistance against infestations and moisture buildup. These attributes make baltic birch highly workable for interior and exterior furniture pieces. 

If you want baltic birch workpieces to last for decades, ensure the wood surfaces undergo proper finishing procedures and regular maintenance. 

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Now that you’re aware of Baltic birch’s status as a durable hardwood material suitable for a variety of woodworking projects, the next step is determining how to best employ it. 

While it might be tempting to use it across all your projects, it’s crucial to carefully consider its benefits in relation to your specific workpiece. 

Given its cost and characteristics, making an informed choice is paramount. Remember, the world of hardwood offers a plethora of options for you to explore.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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