Using scrap bits of ¾” ply I was able to whip up these gorgeous plywood coasters (that you’d never guess were just scrap ply).
As with everything I do, I learn something new and then hope to pass along any tips and tricks I’ve figured out along the way.
Today is no different.
Today I’m going to show you the most AWESOME plywood coasters (most awesome coasters of any kind, anywhere) you’ve ever seen – BUT I’ll also give you the tips I learned along the way.
This project is fabulous because it finally gives you a reason to use up all those scrap bits of plywood you might have laying around. The parts that were too small for a larger build, but were too big to throw away.
I’ll take you through this step by step so you can use up all of those bits and bobs and create something really beautiful.
Rip down your plywood to 1″ strips on your table saw (mitre saw if you’re very careful)
You’ll see above that I glued up my strips by turn them onto their side so that all the layers of plywood were facing up/down. However, instead of gluing them up so I had a straight edge along the bottom, I would have wasted a lot less wood if I’d lined them up so that they were on a 45° along the bottom edge – more like this:
You can eyeball this and line them up roughly on a 45° angle, then cut it smooth once dry OR cut the ends of each of your 1″ strips before glue-up and line them up with the angled edge lining up. You’re going to want 16-20″ of usable wood because we’ll lose bits and pieces with each step.
Use lots of wood glue and clamps every 4″ because your plywood WILL tear out. It’s the nature of the board going through the planer, so make sure you’ve got it adhered as best you can to minimize the amount. Clamp tightly overnight.
Put your (now dry) plywood board on the mitre saw and make that 45º angle clean and crisp. We’re going to run that edge along the table saw rip fence so we want a clean starting point.
With your table saw rip fence set at 1″, carefully run the angled edge along the fence and cut strips.
You can see where I wasted a lot of wood in the bottom corner, but if you followed the step above, you shouldn’t have as much waste.
Now you want to create chevrons with your plywood coaster material. To do this turn every other strip 180° so that the angled pattern is running perpendicular to the piece before. Your pattern will form a W.
Use a good dollop of wood glue – covering your pieces from edge to edge and tightly clamp your new chevron pattern together to set overnight.
You can stop with the glue ups at this point and create some beautiful chevron plywood coasters, but I wanted to go one extra step to make these really beautiful.
With your mitre saw, square up one end of your chevron plywood board. Your table saw will be set at 1″ again, and you will repeat what we did yesterday – cutting 1″ strips – using the straight edge along the fence.
You will be left with strips that look like this:
Glue up your strips so that you are creating squares within the plywood pattern. Look at the photo and give it a minute – you’ll see the squares forming where the chevron strips have been flipped perpendicular to each other.
I didn’t do this next step, but my cabinet-making teacher said I would have had considerably less tear out if I had. Create a wood frame to go around your plywood board. Glue it around all 4 edges and clamp it tightly in place. Doing this will stop a lot of the tear out you’ll get while planing.
Leave your glue up to set overnight and then it’s time to plane!
There is going to be tear out no matter what you do, so the best we can do here is to minimize it. You’ve added the extra wood (not plywood) frame around the edges of your plywood board, and now we’re going to plane it, but only taking off about 1/32″ at a time. (ie. very, very little)
I ran my board through the planer several times and each time I lost a bit more of my board, so it’s good that we started this project at 16-20″. A few larger chunks, from the edges, went flying so please be careful and make sure no one is standing near the outfeed of your planer.
Select out the best sections of your plywood board and cut out your coasters at 4″ by 4″ square. I found cutting one straight side on the mitre saw, then ripping down 4″ sections on the table saw worked best for me.
Sand your plywood coasters smooth with 120 grit and 220 grit and you are done!
Look at how beautifully they turned out!
Sure there are little gaps in the layers of the plywood, but that’s what gives it interest and character. If I had used cabinet grade plywood I would have ended up with perfectly alternating dark and light stripes throughout. (A project for another day for sure!)
I rounded the corners with a hand sander and then used Varathane Triple-thick to coat both sides.
Epoxy might have been a better option; to make sure no moisture gets into any nooks and crannies – but I don’t like how epoxy yellows the wood so 2 coats of triple-thick should work fairly well.
I started with roughy 17″ lengths of plywood and I ended up with four, 4″ coasters and some scrap for a keychain.
These are so great for cleaning up your scrap pile AND they’d make gorgeous gifts for loved ones or as hostess gifts. I’d certainly love receiving a set.
I think I’m going to add this to my “Handmade Holidays” project list for next year, or maybe even as teacher gifts for this one?
So don’t throw out your old plywood (as long as it’s 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick) and try making a set yourself. I know you’ll be really pleased with the results.
Have a great one!