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Old 06-07-06, 04:29 PM
Matt Leahy's Avatar
Matt Leahy Matt Leahy is offline
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Default Birch Ply panel recommendations?

I'm a newcomer to the medium with one painting finished, and I'm on the track to start several more.

I have a large amount of 3/4 inch birch veneer plywood and I'd like to execute a few paintings on that support. Does anyone have any recommendations on cradling ply; what size necessitates cradling (I'm thinking of doing one 24x36"), and should I lay down a linen covering over the wood before the gesso coats?


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Old 07-07-06, 12:29 PM
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PhilS PhilS is offline
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Hi Matt,
The general consensus seems to be that plywood is not advisable. The glue interferes with the adhesion of the traditional gesso. I don't know if an isolating layer of linen would help or not. To be on the safe side, I would stick with untempered masonite (if you can find any...). Others on this forum may have more info on the use of plywood. I've never tried it myself.
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Old 22-07-06, 12:32 AM
Alessandra Kelley Alessandra Kelley is offline
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I did a small experimental work on plywood once, but it cracked badly along the wood grain.
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Old 18-08-06, 01:47 AM
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mona mona is offline
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Hi Matt,

If you have not already thrown out your birch plywood, or resolved your question, I'd like to offer another resource which might support your idea about wanting to use a birch veneer plywood as a surface to gesso for egg tempera.

I don't make my own panels, but I purchase from two suppliers who make them, and one reliable resource I use is Stanislav Solovyev who makes a variety of panels for icons and general use. Stanislav is using a high quality birch plywood for one of the kinds of panels he custom-makes which he calls BGP panels, and in my opinion if he is doing it, it must be okay, because I think his work is excellent overall.

Perhaps you can write to him via his website and ask him about this.
The description of his birch panels, which include linen in the gesso is at the following URL: <>

Good luck,
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Old 18-08-06, 02:22 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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Plywood can be made in a number of ways. Most common is a veneer core of crosslinked boards, or a mix of veneer and particleboard sheets. These tend to be the lightest and strongest, but always tend to have voids inside, and be prone to warping or twisting. Plywood with an MDF center is best for painting, I've found. It is more rigid than the other cores; although heavier. These are not difficult to make yourself. The type of glues that are common are synthetic resins and folmaldeyde based glues. Also, most veneer now is cross-cut (more economical) rather than rotary-cut which gives a better surface for painting.

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Old 18-08-06, 09:52 PM
David McKay David McKay is offline
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Hello Matt:

I have never tried glueing linen to plywood and applying gesso over that, but I have heard of this proceedure (useing rabbit skin glue) and think/feel that it is probably ok. But no guarantees from me. It would also be rather heavy at 24 x 36

There is something else that you may be interested in if you have lots of free plywood. I have used a system of making the panel and frame as one solid unit in the past and it has some merit, although somewhat limiting. I started out by cutting the middle out of a piece of plywood. In other words, I made a rectangular dougnut shape with the sides about three inches wide. If, for instance, you wanted to make your 24 x 36 in. panel then you would cut out a rectangular piece of plywood 18 x 30 from a piece 24 x 36. To this glue a 1/8 piece of masonite 24 x 30. If you wanted extra support you could leave some of the plywood across the dougnut opening like spokes or ribbing, which will act as cradling. You could gesso the masonite in the usual way and the plywood will keep it relative flat. Now you can use the edge of the plywood to attach strips of wood and/or other materials to act as a frame.

I know that it seems like a long way around but as I said if the plywood is available you may want to experiment in this direction. I used this method to make circular paintings and simply bent thin strips of wood or even masonite around the circumference as a frame. By using two pieces of masonite (one smaller than the other) you can create a liner as well that will not crack as the plywood might in time.

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Old 21-08-06, 09:45 PM
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Matt Leahy Matt Leahy is offline
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Thank you for the information, I appreciate it.

I gessoed several small panels, which seem to have come out okay, despite some very unusual and troubling humidity issues in the studio. I work at a small college in Kansas, which is typically very environmentally stable, at least inside- but when I made my panels the air condiitoner seems to have failed and the building was pumping in warm moist air from outside while they were drying.

I also made two panels with a cloth layer- one a fine weave cotton and the other linen. While I was gessoing the linen covered panel it blistered and was a loss. I'm not sure why, as I made both at the same time. The cotton panel is beautiful. I have some reservations about cotton, although most of the research I've done suggests that the long preference for linen is a traditional bias and that some modern cotton canvas is just as stable. I'll probably just do a personal work on that one just in case.

Again, thanks for the info!
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Old 28-08-06, 02:16 PM
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Dimitris C. Milionis Dimitris C. Milionis is offline
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just dip the whole lot in a warm bucket of luke warm rabit skin glue and let it out the dry for 3 days in the shade.
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Old 04-09-06, 04:51 AM
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Bert Congdon Bert Congdon is offline
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When I first started ET, I did many experiments, and I have settled on a proedure that works for me. I use thin plywood, birch is fine, cradled with 1x2 poplar. This is then covered with cotton or linen canvas. In gluing the canvas down, I use carpenters glue (hide glue barely covered with water and warmed with alum added). The alum tans the glue so that it is not soluble in water again. I also add glycerin to the chalk and glue gesso to prevent cracking. I apply four coats of gesso (chalk and glue), then smooth when dry. I have a couple dozen 24x30, some painted, some not. They have been lying or hanging around here for between five and ten years. I have not lossed a panel since I started using this method. Before using this method, every panel I did cracked, and that led to the experiments.

Air blowing on them when they are drying will cause cracking, and standing them on one end without moving them may cause craking at the top. People may argue about the additives, but I say this method works, and other methods do not.

Beyond this, my advice is NEVER KEEP GLUE OVERNIGHT. I have said it before on this forum that keeping glue in the refrigerator overnight makes the glue (gesso) very smooth...and very weak.

One experiment I did with fresh glue, was to try to pull the canvas off after the entire panel had soaked in water overnight, only to rip the plywood to pieces.
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Old 22-05-11, 04:33 PM
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EllenT EllenT is offline
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Default glueing cotton or linen to a panel

Hi Bert,

I've just read your recipe here for panel prep. What are your proportions of hide glue to water? It sounds like a strong solution. Also I'm presuming that RS would be a fine substitute. Is that right?
You mention alum. Maybe this is a dumb question but what is that?
Thanks for your info and response.
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