Sheet Goods Selector
Do you know what sheet goods work best for shop fixtures? Or which ones excel in furniture construction? Armed with our chart, you'll be an instant expert.
Sheet Goods Selector 1
PARTICLEBOARD Description: Wood shredded into tiny chips (essentially sawdust, often from waste wood), combined with adhesives, and then heated and compressed to form sheets. Uses: Widely used as a substrate for flooring and countertops and for building inexpensive knockdown furniture and cabinetry. Also suitable for some shop fixtures. Available Sizes: Sold in 4x8' 1/4", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", 1", and 1-1/8" thicknesses. Half and quarter sheets are often available. Common Grades: PBU -- for floor underlayment. M-S, M-1, M-2, M-3 industrial grades are best for making shelving and countertops. Pros: PBU grade is readily available and inexpensive. Particleboard cuts easily and is fairly stable. Cons: Low stiffness, heavy, holds fasteners poorly, not moisture resistant. Where to find it: Home centers carry 1/4-3/4" PBU grade. "M" grades (mostly M-2) are found at building-material and millwork suppliers. Price (3/4"x4x8', sheet unless noted): $12+ per sheet for PBU grade. "M" grade prices range about 20 percent higher.
MELAMINE Description: Particleboard faced with paper impregnated with melamine resin, a type of plastic. Paper on low-cost types is simply adhered. Higher-cost sheets are thermally fused (essentially melted together). Uses: Great for making cabinet carcases because it wipes clean easily. Use it, as well, for shop fixtures or to make an economical router-table top. Available Sizes: Sold in 49x97" oversize sheets in 1/4", 1/2", 5/8", and 3/4" thicknesses. Common Grades: There are no standard grades for melamine, but there are "vertical" and "horizontal" types. Higher-priced sheets generally feature thermally fused coatings and are made with thicker paper. Pros: It is inexpensive, readily available in a variety of colors and in wood-grain patterns, and has an easily cleaned surface. Also available with kraft paper or real-wood veneer on one face. Cons: Melamine is not moisture resistant, heavy, edges chip easily when cutting unless you use blade designed for cutting laminates. Where to find it: Home centers carry 1/2" and 3/4" sheets, shelves, and closet parts. Colors other than white and patterned papers are available by special order. Price (3/4"x4x8', sheet unless noted): $25+ for adhered-surface, vertical-grade white sheets common in home centers. Colors and wood-grain patterns cost slightly more. $40+ for thermally fused sheets.
HARDBOARD Description: Ground wood pulp combined with resins and pressed into sheets. May be smooth on one or both faces. Uses: Excellent for shop fixtures and jigs (especially the variety with two smooth faces) and benchtops. Use perforated hardboard for hanging tools. Available Sizes: Available in two thicknesses: 1/8" and 1/4" in 4x8' sheets. Common Grades: Service (2 green stripes), Standard (1 green stripe), Service-tempered (2 red stripes), Tempered (1 red stripe), S1S (smooth one side), S2S (smooth two sides) Pros: Readily available, easy to cut, relatively stable, available with two smooth sides or one, takes paint well. Cons: Standard and Service grades are susceptible to moisture, can't sand faces, flexible, edges easily damaged, holds fasteners poorly. Where to find it: Home centers carry 4x8' sheets plus half and quarter sheets in standard and tempered grades. Look for the edge stripes. Price $10 (1/4" 4'x8', tempered). Perforated sheets are also available at a similar price.