[Maker’s Note] Homemade Rainbow Plywood

by Yun-Han Lin

A sneak peek of the procedure before we get started!

Source of Inspiration

Plywood Laboratory, a Japanese wood product company, develops a kind of unique plywood referred to as “Paper-Wood.” Paper-Wood is made by laminating colored paper sandwiched in-between each veneer layer. The stripes that appear at the cut cross section impart colorful and beautiful expressions.

Source: Plywood Laboratory official website

Design your very own colored plywood

Inspired by Plywood Laboratory, we decided to make some colored plywood, too Right after we had a basic concept for our design, we started with the most often used materials: thin wooden boards and epoxy resin. A U-shaped wooden strip was placed in-between each wooden board before the epoxy was injected to fill the spaces among the veneer layer.

Choice of veneer

It is hard to find veneers that are less than one centimeter thick in most shops selling timber and sheet materials, because veneers are usually difficult to cut and they are easily bent and deformed by humidity during storage. Then we found Wood Mall- a store that sells almost all kinds of tools and materials in woodworking. There were three to four types of 3mm thin veneers and they were rectangular boards that came in only two sizes- 60×12 and 60×15. Yet, they are good enough for our project, so we glued them together according to our design using the super glue.

Leak-proof treatment

As we were injecting epoxy in-between the veneers, super-glue was not enough for airtight sealing, so more needed to be done for leakage prevention. Otherwise, the resin would flow out. As shown in the film, we used hot melt glue to fix up the spaces, yet there were still gaps among the glue traces, where the epoxy could leak out. In the second trial in the video, we tried a different way by wrapping the veneers with the transparent tape, yet it did not turn out well, either. Next time, we would probably use a plastic bag of similar size that can fit the entire plywood.

Colored epoxy resin

As you can see in the film, we used oil dyes and color pastes. Oil dyes are transparent colorations, where too much of it would create a glossy layer of coating on top of the resin surface. In comparison, color pastes are opaque materials, which come in more colors and make it easier for toning

Tips for resin injection

Before injecting the resin entirely into the veneer, we first covered the veneer surface with a thin layer of resin. After that layer had completely dried, we started injecting the toned resin into the veneer. In this way, the toned resin would not be absorbed by the wood or would there be any air bubbles. Also, the veneer would not be bent or deformed that easily.

Cropping

After the resin had been dry and hard, the next step was to cut out the edges along the U-shaped wooden strip. The thing was, the dried resin was much harder than the wood, so be extra careful when you are using the circular saw. It is recommended to cut the edge little by little, which would be safer.

Finished work

Then there was the finished colored plywood. If made into small objects with curved designs, the colored stripes at the cut cross section could stand out even more.

The model we tried this time with transparent resin ended up with some air bubbles, so it did not look as good as expected. This was also the reason that most people do not prefer the transparent design, but our helpers at the studio favored this version more, to be honest. Next time, we could try not to leave any bubbles!

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