Private Woodworking Instruction in a Box
with Hendrik Varju

Produced by Passion for Wood, Ontario, Canada

ISBN 978-0-9781432-3-7

As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 151

Plywood consists of thin veneers or plies of solid timber glued together to form a strong sheet material. It has been used since ancient times and was used both as a stable material for larger panels and as a means of using rarer timbers in fine furniture (these were applied as a veneer over the less expensive plywood substrate).

When modern alternatives were developed, plywood manufacturers in Australia shifted their marketing focus to construction applications such as concrete formwork and marine plywood, for which MDF and particleboard were not suited. The use of plywood for general applications including woodworking consequently declined in this country.

In the USA the plywood manufacturers strongly promoted the advantages of plywood over other alternatives and as a result, plywood is a common choice for large panels in American woodworking projects. Plywood is used much more extensively and is more readily available in a greater variety.

In Europe man-made materials are used extensively for cabinetmaking due to the expense of solid timbers. The premium board material is considered to be plywood, with some manufacturers going so far as to finish other board materials with a plywood strip to give a more up-market appearance.

For larger projects the use of plywood saves the time and effort required to plank up large panels and can provide the same strength and appearance at a lower cost. However, as Hendrik Varju explains in his DVD set, Working with Plywood, there is much more involved than just substituting plywood for solid timber.

For cabinetmaking applications plywood cannot be effectively jointed or planed. Components must be precisely cut on the table saw and routed to shape as required. You have to learn how to work with slightly bowed panels and inconsistent sheet thicknesses. The edges need to be covered by iron-on veneering or solid edging. A number of specialised skill s are required to be able to work successfully with plywood.

Hendrik Varju has previously released two DVD sets, Jointer & Planer Secrets, and Revelations on Table Saw Set-Up & Safety. If you have purchased either set, you will be familiar with Hendrik’s video style.

The DVDs run as if you are attending an actual one-on-one workshop with Hendrik at his woodworking premises, Passion for Wood, in Erin, Ontario, Canada. Hendrik conducts numerous classes and produces these DVDs as a means of spreading his instruction to a wider audience.

As with the previous topics, the footage on Working with Plywood is lengthy – 11 hours, 18 minutes spread over five DVDs. While not inexpensive, Hendrik’s DVD sets provide excellent value as they go into their topics in great depth. In effect you receive one-on-one class instruction without paying for the full cost of the class, nor the airfares and accommodation.

Another benefit is that Hendrik’s DVDs cover subjects that have not been extensively covered by previous publications or videos.

When you open the DVD case, don’t panic if you don’t see DVD1. I found it attached to the front cover, hidden behind the Table of Contents. This is a single sheet that lays out the chapters and the DVDs on which they can be found. While the chapters appear on the menu on each disc, it’s handy to be able to locate the correct disc before inserting it into your DVD player or computer.

To demonstrate the basic skills and steps required to successfully build with plywood, Hendrik constructs a simple bookcase with two shelves. As he explains, it’s not the most exciting project, but the same techniques can be applied to much larger and more complex cabinets such as entertainment units, wall units and kitchen cupboards.

The bookcase has veneered plywood panels finished with both solid timber and iron-on veneer edging. Some smaller components are cut from solid timber to illustrate how veneered plywood and solid timber can be matched together in a completed piece.

The first chapter on Planning Your Project covers the type of construction used, the reasons for various conventions and what you should consider when designing your own piece, preparing the cutting list and marking out the plywood for cutting. Much of the information in this chapter can be applied to any cabinetwork, irrespective of whether plywood is used.

In Choosing and Roughing Out Parts Hendrik discusses plywood selection, what defects to avoid and the importance of the correct blade. The sheet is then cut into oversized components on the table saw.

Solid Wood Edging covers the ripping of solid stock into multiple edging pieces, with an emphasis on safety and accuracy. The strips are then glued onto the plywood panels. In this process, care must be taken with colour and grain matching, positioning, clamping and trimming. Included are a number of professional tips on how to overcome problems that inevitably arise.

The Iron-on Edge Banding chapter refers only to the use of genuine timber veneer, not to artificial iron-on edging. The final result is a veneer similar to the outer veneer on the plywood. Again there are a number of tips to assist you to achieve a perfect finish.

With the exposed edges trimmed, the panels are trimmed to their final size and rebates routed for the shelving and back panel.

To form the rebates Hendrik makes good use of his stopped dado router jig. In Chapters 11-13 he details how you can make your own copy of this jig.

Further chapters cover dry assembly, drilling shelf support holes, final glue-up and the installation of adjustable shelves and the back panel.

Housed joints and dowels are used for assembly. The section on dowelling is quite extensive and offers many tips on making these joints easier and more accurate.

In extra footage (about 15 mins) on Disk Five, Hendrik discusses the use of plywood versus solid wood, checking for square and his personal philosophy on why he puts so much detail into his DVDs.

Working with Plywood is a comprehensive workshop on the construction of a basic cabinet unit. It is an excellent introduction for the novice while providing a wealth of tips and information to enable more experienced cabinetmakers to enhance their work.

Duration: 11hrs, 18mins, 5 discs

DVD – English – NTSC


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