DRIVE Marine Services offers a range of marine plywood for all your boat building needs.
Our range includes; "PACIFIC MAPLE MARINE PLYWOOD", "HOOP PINE" and "GABOON"
- Choosing Plywood as published in Australian Woodworker February 2017
- Summary of BS1088 Marine Plywood Standard
- Qualities of Plywood as published in Australia Amateur Boatbuilder 2008
- Plywood Standards Info Sheet
- Plywood Information Sheet
If you want really high quality plywood, then it is available. It is just not available at anything like the low prices that we sell this plywood for. The absolute best marine ply in the world has to be the Australian Hoop Pine AS2272 plywood made in Queensland. We do stock it and sell pretty much all that we can get. The other choice is european manufactured Gaboon. This is also a tropical hardwood which is listed as non durable in the BS1088 standard. The logs are transported to a European mill (usually from Africa). It is then made under a proper quality assurance system, before being shipped to Australia. We know of one such importer in Australia, the plywood is very good, but the transport costs and penalties are enormous. (But please don’t confuse this with Chinese or Malaysian Gaboon, they are not in the same league.)
The upshot of all this is that as with most things, you get what you pay for. In a great many cases the almost BS1088 pink marine will be perfectly satisfactory, especially if you are using epoxy to seal it, and or you are painting it. You should consider other more expensive plywood if you are bending it tightly or will be finishing it clear (check our plywood report, some is OK).
Hoop marine ply is made from Australian plantation grown hoop pine. It is by far the best plywood available in Australia today. The veneers are of an even thickness and the marine plywood is made to AS 2272 which is a more stringent standard than the BS 1088 but like all good things you pay a premium for it. The A-C exterior Plywood meets AS 2271 and again is superior to the imported Marine plywoods to BS 1088 as most are only B-B faces.
The B-B hoop exterior plywood is manufactured to AS 2271 and is superior to most of the imported marine plywoods to BS 1088. If the colour is to your liking I would recommend it over the pacific maple and Chinese sourced Gaboon. Comes in 1.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6.5mm, 9.5mm, 12.5mm, 16mm, 19mm.
The Gaboon we sell is sourced from Greece, the quality is sensational, the price respectable and is the most lightweight marine plywood we sell. Beware the Chinese made Gaboon, its quality is nowhere near as good, or as lightweight. It is high quality plywood produced with 100% veneers of the tropical hardwood Okoume, specially manufactured to provide durability and longevity. Its physical characteristics are very stable and can withstand exposure to severe weather conditions for long periods of time. It meets the requirements of BS 1088-1:2003 and EN 13986. Okoupanel Marine is suitable for both external and interior use and coating with Bote-Cote Epoxy Resin to seal and densify the surface as it is fairly soft. Mourikis Gaboon has a density of 500kgr/m3 +or- 10% making it the lightest plywood available. The face veneers present a solid surface that is free from open defects. Face veneers are free of knots other than occasional sparse "sound pin" knots. The veneers are reasonably free from irregular grain. Face veneers are B/BB and veneer thickness is between 1mm and 1.5mm. The core veneers have the same basic requirements as face veneers, except that small splits may occur, and there is no limit on the number of pin knots or edge joints. Core veneer thickness is between 1.5mm and 3mm. All boards are sanded on both sides equally and the finished size is 2500mmx1220mm. Available in 1.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm and 25mm.
Specialty Veneers available on 1.5mm Gaboon being:
- Teak & Ash
- Other veneers by special order.
PINK MARINE PLYWOOD
This plywood used to be called Pacific Maple Marine Ply. That is another name for Meranti or the scientific name is Shorea. There are about 24 species within the Shorea genus which are called Meranti. Only some of those are red to pinkish in colour. It is a tropical hardwood, it is considered to be moderately durable, fairly short grained of moderate density and often has a very attractive colour and grain. Pacific Maple is also known as Philippines Mahogany, Luan and Luaun. When made into plywood, it is fairly lightweight. This varies according to exactly which subspecies of Shorea was used for the veneers in the marine plywood.
Due to over logging, the supplies of legal Shorea sp logs have become very limited. Very little is available from the Philippines, Indonesia, PNG or Malaysia. What we are selling comes from Indonesia. Our importer assures us that it is they only buy from sources which can satisfy them that the logs are legally obtained.
Good quality imported marine plywood has been difficult to obtain, however this Red Meranti plywood from Indonesia seems to be good quality. The Dragon brand has been applied to the quality plywood from the PT Sumber Mas Indah company, a family run plywood mill.
Pink Marine Plywood is the best of the economical marine plywood available. It is the most compliant Asian sourced marine plywood to BS1088. The fac veneers are approx 1mm thick and the central veneer are thicker. The faces are a uniform pink/brown colour. It does have some core gaps, a few of which exceed the allowable 0.5mm. Provided it is sealed with epoxy (and preferably sheathed with fibreglass cloth) it will be quite satisfactory for many boatbuilding purposes. It clear finishes nicely to a reddish brown colour. It is made in Indonesia and is labeled B-B/A Bond/WBP.
Available in 3.6mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm and 25mm.
Mahogany (Sapelli) Marine Plywood
- European Made
- British Standard 1088
- Light Weight
- A Grade Top and Bottom Face
- Waterproof Glue
- No Core Voids
Sapelli Marine is a high quality plywood produced with 100% veneers of tropical hardwood Sapelli, specially manufactured to provide durability and longevity. Its physical characteristics are very stable and can withstand exposure to severe weather conditions for prolonged periods of time. It is suitable for both external and interior use, and meets BS 1088-1:2003 and EN 13986 requirements Type approved by Lloyds Register. This plywood is sexy and exhibits those beautiful mahogany grain - red and brown colours. Available is rotary and crosscut with the grain appearance quite different.
Our supplier states that his plywood is sourced from Legal and Sustainable Malaysian Forests. He tells us that it is AFS/PEFC certified.
This is our most economical range of marine plywood. The range of thicknesses is somewhat limited, but it does appear to be of acceptable quality. The face veneers are quite thin, and some interior veneers are thicker than higher cost plywoods, but this should not be an issue if its being finished with paint. It complies with BS1088:2003 and the written specifications are European standards. I would not use this as a hull material where it is placed under tension. It is fairly heavy and we have experienced the veneers tearing near cut edges, plus it has an oily surface and needs sanding before gluing or coating.
- homogeneous surface of a consistent fair quality
- strong, excellent bending strength
- light and decorative
- easy machining and surface treatment
- taint and odour free
BIRCH - CRAFT GRADE
This premium plywood is used in Model Aircraft, Light Aircraft, Display and Exhibition, Models, Telescopes, furniture, and Souvenirs. It comes in thickness down to 0.4mm which is a 3 ply. Sheet size is 1.22mx1.22m. It is manufactured of Finish Birch in Finland by Koskisen. KoskiPly birch is a strong yet flexible cross-banded plywood, made throughout from birch veneers and faced with a joint-free birch veneer. Veneers can be left in it natural state, lacquered, waxed or stained. Faces grade is AB/B so that the AB can be clear finished and the B face will provide a abuse for a high quality paint finish.
Birch plywood can be used both indoors and outdoors. The flexibility of the material is such that 1.5 mm thick birch can be bent through 180 degrees, this greatly extends the range of design possibilities.
DRIVE Marine Services is able to supply special veneered plywoods. We supply the sheets of plywood and PURBOND Polyurethane Glue to our veneering specialist who adhere the veneer to the Marine or exterior Plywood ensuring an “A” grade joint which is waterproof.
NOTE: Be mindful that most commercially available plywood with a veneered facing are bonded using a “B” grade adhesive which is not waterproof. If using any of these ensure the plywood is adequately sealed using three (3) coats of BOTE COTE Marine Epoxy System.
We can ship plywood to anywhere in Australia, how-ever we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you also buy 2 of the 3mm MDF Sheets which we will cut into 2 x 1200x1200 pieces to act as protector sheets for your plywood to protect your plywood from damage whilst in transit. If your order weighs more than 30kg, please give some thought as to how it is going to be unloaded from the delivery truck. We take no responsibility for damage caused if not shipped with MDF.
Another thing to note are tailgate fees. Incurring a tailgate fee is dependent on a few variables: If the freight is long or is palletised then a tailgate will be needed. If the freight is over 30kg and there is no-one to assist the unloading, a fee may also be incurred. Be sure to provide us with as much information as you can when you are ordering, so both you and us are not slapped with a surprise tailgate fee, which can be upwards of $12o.
Imported Marine Plywood
Most economical plywood is being imported from Asia and Fiji. This has resulted in difficulty obtaining reasonable supplies of good quality marine ply. Here is a brief overview of what is happening.
A few years ago, we were really spoiled by what seemed to be an everlasting supply of really good quality Pacific Maple (Shorea sp) BS1088 Marine Ply from the Wyang mill in Indonesia. Following considerable UN pressure on Indonesia to end unsustainable logging, and unfortunately, because they insisted on only buying legal logs, the mill was unable to continue as it was unable to buy legal logs at a price which would enable them to make and sell plywood at a price which most of their buyers were prepared to pay.
Since then we have been obtaining BS1088 Pink Marine mostly from Malaysia. The pink marine plywood presently available generally complies with BS1088. There is also the Tropical Hardwood that complies with chain of custody, assuring it is made from legal logs. It is fairly heavy and we have experienced the veneers tearing near cut edges, plus it has an oily surface and needs sanding before gluing or coating.
It also seems that many (if not most) of the Malaysian mills just do not understand BS1088 or what they have to do to produce plywood which complies with it and BS1088 stamps are more for branding than actual quality. (We have seen this with the so called BS1088 plywood coming out of China for many years also). It is important to note that BS1088 is a British standard, and it only has legal effect as a standard in England and any other country which has passed laws making BS1088 a legal standard or in the case of Mourikis Gaboon they use Lloyds classification society to audit their manufacturing process and finished plywood complies with BS1088. Thus in Australia, New Zealand and the usual source countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, it is no more than a description of what the plywood should be like.
We also must keep in mind that plywood is mass manufactured and there will always be a small number of defects and non compliant sheets. High class manufacturers have systems in place to prevent this or detect them and remove them from the production run before they reach the customer. Read more on this subject in this Plywood Idiosyncrasies article. Plywood Idioscrocies & Tests Article -0515
BS1088 specifies what trees can be used to make marine plywood. Pink Marine refers to plywood made from Shorea (meranti or pacific maple) a durable species which is listed as permitted. Okume (gaboon) is another permitted species, but interestingly it is listed as a non durable species (that is it is prone to early decay and rot, making it even more important to seal with Bote Cote Epoxy Resin). Many of the plywoods that we have seen, especially those from China, have a listed species as the face veneer and other non listed, cheaper species for the interior veneers. Some mills are even quite open about the use of non listed (and probably non durable) species for the interior veneers.
Marine & Exterior Plywood Glue Bond Inspection.
Plywood is a wonderful material, but like all things man made, occasionally things can be less than perfect. No matter where in the world plywood is manufactured and even with the most sophisticated quality systems and procedures the mills cannot achieve 100% pass rate in their bond ratings. The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) requires that glue bond samples be taken daily from a production run and that all but a very small percentage must be of the highest strength. Please note that this means that they do allow a small number of poor glue bond strength samples to occur in a batch of plywood and not to reject the batch for that reason.
Mills that produce plywood to a standard must, under that standard, conduct ongoing testing and third party auditing to maintain their stamp of approval. However due to the fact that sheets which have areas with low bond strength or no areas with no bond are hard, and sometimes impossible to detect without destructive testing, these sheets will inevitably find their way into the market. We use the term delamination to describe this fault.
Plywood intended for truly life and death situations, such as aircraft applications can be non destructively inspected and certified sheet by sheet, using ultrasonics, at considerable cost and delay.
For the rest of us, we have to adopt simpler methods. The first thing to understand is that this doesn’t happen very often. The second thing is that you can’t tell by just looking at the sheet. The third thing is that it is just as likely in a top of the quality range sheet of AS2272 hoop pine marine ply as it is in a sheet of cheap imported almost BS1088 marine ply. The fourth thing to understand is that it might only be a small part of the sheet which is affected.
So what to do.
Cut the sheet up as per normal. Take an off cut, throw it into a bucket of water. Leave it there for 24 hours, then put it in the sun. Do that a couple of times and if it is still intact, then there is no problem with the glue bonds in that off cut. You could also boil the off cut for a few hours to see what happens.
Please understand that these water tests will not damage a good glue bond. If it comes apart it is because the glue bond was unsatisfactory. The water test simply highlights the unglued areas that were already present, which were impossible to see.
Admittedly, this only tests the off cut, not the whole sheet, how-ever our experience is that this will detect almost all of the bond failure situations. Most of the bond faults that we have seen cover most or all of the sheet. You would get further assurance by testing other off cuts from the sheet. They don’t need to be big pieces, 2” x3” (50mm x 75mm) is more than big enough. Alternatively you can water test the actual piece of plywood that will ultimately be used. Please remember to air dry the pieces flat, and remember, water testing may cause some grain to rise which can be sanded smooth again once dry.
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