Flexible Plywood

Flexible plywood has many uses and we'll discuss them on the following page. But first: what is it? Flexible plywood is plywood created to be very thin, almost like thick veneer, and to have a grain and glued layers that align to bend well in one direction. Many different woods can be used depending on what finish you want the wood to have, some popular types used are birch, maple, poplar, and other hardwoods. These woods can be the surface finish, or another veneer wood can be added to approximate any other wood finish.

Hardwoods are mainly used for flexible plywood as they have a tight, small grain that remains woven together more stably when bent than would the larger, coarser grain of softwoods. Very dense, hardwood plies are quite strong, they remain even and so resist warping better, and are of higher quality. Another desired wood is lauan, which is a tree originating in the Philippines but which has now become the general name to describe various tropical hardwood plywoods.

Flexible plywood averages from 2 to 5 plies, or layers, of wood, glued together with a special, more elastic resin than is used for regular stiff plywood. Technically, flexible plywood is sometimes not considered to be plywood at all, since plywood actually has alternating layers of perpendicular grain, making the wood tougher and less warping, whereas flexible plywood has layers that are parallel in grain, running in the same direction to take the stiffness out of the sheet. It resists warping due to the quality of the woods used to make the even plies, while the aligned grain allows the plywood sheet to be bent; you'll need to check carefully to see whether the plywood sheets or slats you buy are meant to be bent lengthwise or widthwise.

The finished flexible plywood sheet is commonly found in thicknesses ranging from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick; other branded products using more synthetic materials and fibers can be found up to 3/4 inch thick. I read forum post where a thickness of even up to 1 inch was mentioned for Bendy Ply, a synthetic flexible plywood. Flexible plywood sheets range in size from around 1' x 4' on up to 4' x 8', though can be found in many other sizes. A large sheet will cost in the $45 dollar range and up, depending on the quality of the woods used.

Now, let's read a little about where flexible plywood is used, and tips on how to use it.