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Comparing the strength of solid wood with that of plywood Featured science projectScience project video

Abstract

This science fair project was conducted to find out which type of wood is stronger- solid wood (both hardwood and softwood) or plywood. The tests were conducted by comparing plywood with two types of solid wood - redwood and oak.

Hypothesis

The solid wood will be stronger than the plywood.

Scientific Terms

Hardwood, softwood, plywood, finish coatings, decay, warping, humidity

Background

Tyes of Wood

There are basically 3 types of wood used by woodworkers – hardwood, softwood and plywood. Regardless of type, hardwoods and softwoods are solid woods, with pieces cut  directly from  lumber (felled trees). Plywood on the other hand is engineered wood which is produced by binding many thin layers of wood with glue and pressing them together at high temperatures.

Solid woods are normally favored over plywood because of their appearance.  When solid wood is used  in building the  interiors of houses or for furnishings, it gives the home a lively and warm feeling.  Applying varnish or other forms of finish coatings helps to enhance  its appearance. Solid woods also do not decay or disintegrate as fast as plywood when exposed to water.  However, because of these advantages solid woods are  very expensive.

Plywood is very strong because of the way in which it is engineered, even though it may not look  as attractive as solid woods. The layers of the plywood can be seen at the sides, in cross-section. They are quite resistant to warping, bending and cracking. Plywood also does not expand and shrink like solid woods when the humidity changes.
 

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Complexity level:
7
Project cost ($):
70
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 6 hours for observation
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Ensure that safety equipment (gloves/goggles) are worn when handling power tools. Tools should be handled only by an adult