Stacked Plywood Technique
Make A Computer Desk With The Stacked Ply Technique – How About It
I say “how about it” because I seem to have found it difficult to find woodworkers locally working with stacked ply. In some way this is a desk come dining table. The plan was left behind at the local Men Shed in Kalgoorlie Australia. Birch ply is used as it has many advantages. As a material for the amateur with limited skills, I also say “how about it” as this ply is easy when using a TCT woodworking machines. Its strength, consistency, and multi-dimensional stability mean that it’s far more versatile than solid wood; and it’s also attractive and very distinctive in its finished form. My first design was a stacked ply coffee table. The example illustrated here was made will last many years.
The table is made of solid plywood, weighs about 85 pounds(approx 38 klos), and seems to be completely indestructible by any means other than fire. It has no moving parts, no joints, and will presumably last forever! Its strength can be demonstrated by an adult standing on the top and tipping it from side to side on its base, a feature that would be inadvisable on an ordinary coffee.
Its construction is straight forward enough, provided you have access to woodworking machines: you’ll need a sabre saw, portable router, band saw, and electric drill. This table was made from 18mm Russian birch ply.
There’s really nothing complicated about this design. The dimensions can be made up to suit particular requirements. A top: base ratio of 2:1 both attractive and functional. First decide on the size of your top, and divide this by two for the diameter of the base. Then decide on the total height – this example is 252mm, or 14 levels of ply. Subtracting three thicknesses of ply (54mm) for the top leaves 11 for the base. These are the only dimensions required, and there’s really no need for a plan other than a sketch of the dimensions.
To make the coffee table, mark out the required number of circles on sheets of ply, cut each roughly to shape using a sabre saw, recut them to within l-2mm of required size with a band saw, and finally plane them to their finished dimension with a router on a trammel bar, using sharp, TCT straight-sided cutter. Starting at the bottom, dry-fix the pieces for the base, one upon another. Then drill holes for four 10mm fluted dowels per level, transferring the centres with metal dowel points; the dowels prevent the ply moving when glue and clamps are applied.
After the dry run, glue up the circles. Do this as quickly as possible, and then apply clamps over its entire height, leaving it to dry overnight. Try to remove all the excess glue from the surface, as it disfigures polyurethane finishes, spoiling the effect of the stacked ply. One way around this is to apply coat of polyurethane to the edge of each piece of ply before gluing up. This takes time, but seals the ply and prevents any excess glue soaking in. Glue may then be wiped off more effectively.
It’s easier to sand the base before adding the top. Sand the base until the congruent solid finish is achieved.
Screw and glue the lowest level of the top to the base, and then build up the rest of the top in the same way as the base. Use a router to cut a 2-3mm radius quaner-circular groove on the top and bottom edges of the table: one to give the paint an added impression of depth, the other to reduce the chance of floor coverings snagging on the end cut.
Polish the vertical surface with silk polyurethane applied as earlier, and the top with primer followed by two or three coats of eggshell paint. Use masking tape around the edge of the table top, allowing the paint into the routered groove, but no further. A little wear knocks off dust particles, and this paint then gives a thick, rich appearance commonly mistaken for some form of attractive laminate. Of course the colour can be changed at any time to complement changes in room decor. The result should be a table of great practical application and immense durability.
The design effects a compromise. There are no comer legs on the table, support being provided instead by a central stacked-ply column containing three drawers. The lowest drawer runs on Grant sides and contains a filing system while the upper two provide space for stationery and writing equipment. The 60x30in desk top is made up of two levels of 30mm ply. The leaves are articulated at the back by three pairs of SOSS hinges, and side on rails set into the top of the drawer column. Accordingly the top can be unfolded into a 5 x 5ft table top, and slid forward on rails so that the drawer column becomes a central pillar for the dining table. The pilar is designed in such a way that the drawers are inconspicuous when closed. A skirt of ply is fitted below the drawers to conceal four castors that permit the table to be moved around the room with ease. If neither of these designs appeal to you, why not try and come up with some original stacked ply designs yourself?
Once you’re completely familiar with the stacked ply process, the possibilities are endless, and although the technique is undoubtedly time consuming, the results can be very gratifying so how about it. Good luck!