A cabinetmaker by trade, Phil Hayes decided that his next project at home would involve making birch plywood drawer units.
When Phil began his apprenticeship, he worked mainly with solid native timbers – rimu and kauri – and plywood only made an appearance behind the scenes to join furniture together.
‘But then I saw how nice a finish you could get with ply, and it inspired me to make some drawers with it. I like it because it is stable and natural (not a veneer), as well as hard-wearing and scratch resistant, which makes it perfect for furniture.’
Cutting the panels for the units involved using a dimension tool that can break sheet sizes down quickly, easily and accurately. It could also do all of the mitres and angles required, and in general Phil found the ply very easy on his tools in terms of wear-and-tear – a marked departure from solid timber.
When it came to building the drawers, Phil used concealed fixing, to hide all the joints behind the front face of the ply. This involved biscuit-jointing – grooving two edges to accept a wood ‘biscuit’, then gluing the parts together and clamping them overnight – resulting in what he found to be a very solid finish.
Sealing cut edges involved going over them with a fine sander to remove the saw blade marks, and then simply adding a coat or two of a water-based Cabot’s stain. Phil also notes that using a pre-finished product is much more efficient than what he had encountered during his days as a professional furniture-maker.
‘When we made cabinets with solid wood, you then had to hand them over to who we called the “French polishers”, who would go over it, and if they weren’t happy, it came back to you again for more work. With PlyPlay, I could cut and assemble it and it was ready for use practically straight away.’
Having achieved what he set out to do – and then some – Phil is rapt with the end result.
‘My first thought when I finished the cabinets was, “Wow, people would probably really like to have these in their home,” which was a nice feeling.
‘I love working with natural timbers, and think that plywood should be brought to the front a lot more in interior and house designs.’