I’ve noticed that many of the questions about how to do the projects available on this website have to do with the choice of board, so this time I’ll try to shed some light on this versatile product.
I have posted new articles for each board, you will find them by clicking on the top links. I’ll describe the main features of each type of board, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, in order to help you choose the right material in all of your projects.
Sometimes one project can be made with different boards, but depending on the choice, the results may be better or worse from an aesthetic or structural point of view, as well as having a different cost.
Besides the price, another point to take into consideration is the availability of the materials. It may be impossible to obtain certain materials where you live. Some carpentry stores only sell whole boards and that can be an issue, due to the price and the difficult transportation.
There are boards and woods of various qualities. Even if they look the same, a plywood board may be of higher quality than another because its manufacturers chose the best defect-free wood to make it. They may have used better adhesives or simply dedicated more time to each of the processes needed to manufacture the board. This can be applied to all kinds of boards. But despite all that, I’ve seen interior decoration made from the cheapest particle boards -the kind people wouldn’t even want to have in their garages- used in a very successful way.
Depending on what you’re going to use the board for, you should ask yourself whether you need to buy the most expensive one, or go for a cheaper option suited to your budget. But what you should always do is ask the seller what kind of board they’re selling and have the necessary information to check if what they’re saying is true. Some places will try to sell it as is, or may even be uninformed as to what they’re selling, which I’ve had happen on more than one occasion. Due to this and many other reasons, it’s always a good idea to be aware of all the options at your disposal. In this other article you’ll find more information on the cost and choice of materials.
By using manufactured boards in your projects, you won’t need as many tools as when you’re using solid timber. Almost just a circular saw to cut the required pieces from the board. You’ll be able to do projects by gluing pieces together to reach the necessary thickness, instead of the usual method of cutting away at solid wood. A good example is the modular workbench in the pictures above.
Another advantage of using prefabricated boards is that they tend to warp less than solid wood. If they’re of good quality, they’re not as susceptible to shrinking or expanding due to changes in humidity. That said, just like solid timber, boards may warp if they’re not stored properly, on a completely flat surface. I suggest keeping this in mind and checking the condition of the board before buying it in a carpentry store. In some projects, it’s not a big deal if the board is a little warped, but building homemade tools that are decently accurate and of good quality requires straight boards which are in good condition.
Using boards in our projects has other advantages over solid wood, less material is wasted and more labor is saved.
Some of the boards mentioned here are hard to obtain, more so if we’re talking about small pieces, such is the case with HPL. Every once in a while I visit industrial estates and, after seeking permission, I check the waste skips of factories that do large carpentry projects. I almost always find pieces of board that I can use in my small projects.
Almost all of these boards are made with phenolic resins. Phenol formaldehyde is a synthetic thermostable resin, obtained through the reaction of several chemicals with methyl alcohol. If used correctly, it can produce boards of excellent quality, some of which are suitable for the outdoors. Other boards have an outer layer of melamine, which is another organic resin obtained in a similar way to phenolic resin. I’ll also discuss other interesting materials to build our home tools out of, such as Methacrylate or teflon.