Plywood Pattern 

From Scrap to Art

My journey so far with patterned plywood

I’ve been experimenting with making patterned plywood for the last few weeks, using strips of plywood from laser cutting

The process is pretty simple, but takes a fair bit of gluing time. I’ve created a set of instructions and some tips.

Boxes of Plywood Scrap

Any really tiny bits are burned by a hackspace member in his woodburning stove

Patterned Plywood Board

My first patterned plywood board, freshly varnished

Matched Plywood Boxes

The two 'sweetheart' boxes that I gave to my father & his wife

Collecting Supplies 

In our local hackspace, one of the most popular areas is the laser cutting room. A lot of things get cut out of plywood, and there’s usually a fair amount of waste in the free for all bin. I went for a rummage, looking for edge pieces (leaving any of the wider scraps for other people to use for their own projects). 


Use a bandsaw or table saw to cut a load of strips of the same width (I’ve found that about 2.5cm/ 1 inch works quite well).Roughly sand off any splintery looking bits, paint, varnish, ect, then line them all up on a flat surface 

Tip #1 - I discovered after my first experiment that using a roughly 45 degree angle on one edge reduces wastage and saves time. 

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay  

Glueing Up 

Generously apply wood glue to the veneered side of each strip, clamp those edges together, hopefully getting a good squidge of glue pushed out, and leave to dry for at least an hour (ideally a full day). 

Tip #2 - don’t make the glued width of your patterned plywood greater than the max intake width of the planer thicknesser - you can plane later on, but it makes for much more work 


Unclamp your patterned plywood and run it through the planer a few times until the board is relatively flat and has no big ridges/ differences in height. This makes the use of the table saw for the next step much easier and reduces the chance of increasing ridge height in subsequent steps. 


Cut the board into 2.5cm strips at a 45 degree angle. This can be done using the band saw or mitre saw, but I found this easiest on the table saw. Some delamination (pieces falling apart) may occur, but is easily fixed with more wood glue. 

You can also use more clamps and wood glue to stick together any angled strips that end up a little bit short (especially likely if you skipped tip #1).

Tip #3 - if you followed tip no.1 and glued your pieces at a 45 degree angle, you can use a circular saw and a straight edge clamped at 45 degrees to trim off the edges on your plywood piece, then simply set the table saw fence at 2.5cm to easily cut strips. 

Glueing 2 - The Re-Glueining 

Line your strips back up, flip every second strip 180 degrees. Repeat glueing and clamping process 

Tip no.4 - this creates an attractive herringbone pattern. If you choose, you can skip the next cutting and glueing step and stick with this

Cutting (Again) 

This time, cut the board into 2.5cm strips at 90 degrees, glue and clamp. 

(Glueing 3 - It’s Back & this Time it's Sticky) 

Tidying up the Board 

Plane and sand the board - I recommend using the planer thicknesser followed by the drum sander.Use wood filler to go over any little gaps or areas of poor glue adhesion. 

Allow to fully dry (approx. 2 hours), then sand away the excess. The ‘natural’ filler shade shade works quite well, or you can make your own filler by mixing together some wood glue and sawdust


Apply a finish. I have tested polyurethane varnish, danish oil & beeswax, which all work well & produce different, but all very cool depth & shine effects. 

Tip no.5 I have found that the patterned plywood is prone to splitting if left unsealed in direct sunlight, within a few days of the final gluing. Luckily, wood filler can be used to fix the splits.

Next steps

At this point, you will have quite a thick piece of patterned plywood board. After the planing and sanding, my pieces ended up at around 17mm. You can split it into thinner pieces (shown), connect multiple boards together, carve it to make a tool handle…

Check out how I made my pattern plywood boxes here

Options - there are myriad pattern possibilities that can be created by cutting, placing and gluing at different angles. 

There is a useful Instructable here, and there’s a guy on YouTube (Michael Alm) who makes a lot of cool variations here 

My next steps: I have a few different patterns to try out, and some ideas for gluing frames and jigs to make the process easier. I’d also like to try making an inlay from the patterned ply and make some more boxes with some refinements.