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Teak Wood vs. Plywood

By Abhijit Phadke

This article compares Teak wood with plywood, and lists the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Solid Teak Wood Plywood
Teak wood has a beautiful golden brown colour and a striking straight grain pattern and it looks very attractive. It does not need any further decoration. If it loses its shine after a couple of years, it can be sanded and polished again, so that it looks as good as new. Plywood needs to be decorated to increase its beauty and appeal. The most common ways of decorating it are by glueing a decorative laminate (such as Sunmica, Formica or other brands) or by glueing a natural wood veneer on its faces. Other simpler methods include staining and painting. Some plywood companies also sell decorative plywood directly, in which the topmost surface is a good quality decorative veneer. e.g. Teak veneered plywood, means a thin veneer (layer) of teak wood has been glued over the plywood.
Teak wood is obtained by felling trees, cutting them into timber logs, grading them as per their quality, and then sawing the wood to required sizes and finally using it to make furniture. Plywood is an engineered wood product. It is made by rotary-cutting the logs to obtain wood veneers, and then glueing these veneers over each other using artificial resins.
Teak wood is a natural substance, and contains no chemicals. Plywood is made by glueing veneers together using either UF (Urea Formaldehyde) or Phenolic resins (synthetic plastic resins).
Teak wood is obtained from either old-growth teak trees (naturally grown) or Plantation teak (from teak farms). The tree grows naturally in the tropical climate of South East Asian countries. In India, it grows well in the central and southern states. Various varieties based on region such as Burma teak, Nagpur teak, Dandeli teak, Adilabad teak, Malabar teak etc. are available. Plywood can be made from many trees. Using hardwood is much more common than using softwood, because plywood needs to be strong in most cases. In India, Gurjan wood obtained from Gurjan trees is a popular material used for making plywood.
Solid teak wood is considered to be stronger compared to plywood. It is dense and heavy, and is a very versatile material. It can be used for building construction work, indoor and outdoor furniture, doors and window frames, for flooring, for making the decks of ships and has lots of such uses. The strength of plywood largely depends on its grade. Marine grade ply is better then BWR grade, and BWR is better than MR grade. Solid teak wood is considered stronger because its a homogeneous material, whereas the plies in a plywood are held together by resins. Plywood strength (glue shear strength) largely depends on the type of glue used, whether its unextended phenolic resins, or phenolic resins with additives, or whether its UF resin.

Teak wood contains natural oil within its cells. Because of this teak wood is able to resist termites and other pests. Teak also does not rot or decay easily. Well seasoned (well dried) teak wood also does not shrink or warp due to climate changes. It is dimensionally stable. Plywood is treated with chemicals at the time of its manufacture, to make it termite-proof and borer resistant. In general, solid teak wood is much more durable compared to plywood.
Both teak and plywood also have their own special properties. e.g. Teak wood can be hand-carved to make more intricate pieces of furniture. Plywood is useful because it comes in standard sizes and thickness. There is also a variety of plywood known as flexible plywood which is useful for creating curved wooden surfaces.
Ready made solid teak wood furniture can be easily purchased from local furniture shops or branded showrooms. Plywood furniture is generally not purchased ready made, rather people approach carpenters and get custom-built furniture made out of plywood and laminates as per their requirements.

So, these are the major points of difference between teak wood and plywood. All things considered, solid teak is superior to plywood in many ways, but its also much costlier.