Quick Sheet Wood Lexicon

It dawned on me the other day when I was talking to the wife about getting some materials and my mother-in-law made the comment that she was glad my wife knew what the hell I was talking about. My wife has been with me long enough to know and either just nod, and in many cases actually knows what it is exactly I’m talking about ( she really never ceases to amaze me ).

So I thought it might be useful to others if I did a quick little lexicon on the different types of sheet wood you can get from place like Home Depot and other such stores for use in building, crafts, etc.. This is by no means a complete list and it’s presented in no particular order.

OSB – Oriented Strand Board: Invented in the 60’s Oriented strand board is a type of engineered wood similar to particle board, formed by adding adhesives and then compressing layers of wood strands in specific orientations. It’s a typically rough sheet wood suitable for a wide range of applications and more recently being included in furniture builds taking advantage of it’s unique appearance and make it smooth by filling in the varied surfaces with epoxy or resin.

OSB – Oriented Strand Board

Plywood: is a popular choice for residential and light-duty construction and is made from thin sheets of veneer that have been peeled from debarked wood. These thin layers, also called plies, are then glued together in alternating, perpendicular directions to create a cross-graining pattern. This method of layering combined with the adhesives makes for a very hardy and durable material that can be used for most any project depending on the grade of plywood you get. There are varying grades that I won’t go into but it starts off with rougher construction grade plywood and ends in VERY expensive sanded surfaces sometimes comprised of hardwoods like oak, maple, and I’ve even seen a sample of walnut before.


MDF – Medium Density Fiberboard: is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres, often in a defibrator, combining it with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure often times making it more dense than plywood. There are a wide of uses for this material including furniture and building but outdoor use seems to be limited as it does have a tendency to absorb water and thus mold more than other woods do outdoors.

MDF – Medium Density Fiberboard

LDF – Low Density Fiberboard ( Aka Particle Board ): Similar to MDF and created in much the same way it’s just not as dense and thus not suitable for as many applications as MDF is. LDF gained wide spread use around the world as a cost effective material for making furniture kits with that could be mass created, slapped into a box with some screws and sent all over the world for people to swear at and ultimately assemble wrong.

LDF – Low Density Fiberboard ( Aka Particle Board )

HDF – High Density Fiberboard: HDF is an engineered wood product. It is similar to particle board and medium-density fiberboard, but is denser which makes it way stronger and harder because it is made out of exploded wood fibers that have been highly compressed. The applications for HDF are similar to that of plywood and MDF but cost is generally a prohibiting factor in smaller projects or bulk furniture.

HDF – High Density Fiberboard

Now there are also different variations that some places offer that have a core made of LDF, MDF, or HDF to which a veneer has been applied to in order to present the look, feel, and weight of woods such as oak or maple. If you’re not exactly what you are looking at, take a glance at the edges of the sheet. Each type has a distinctive look to it that will help you identify the board you’re looking at as you can see below:

Quick example of various wood types commonly seen in stores

Well hopefully that will help some people out, at some point I may come back to this and expand on each section but for now I just wanted to give a quick little lexicon to some of the terms and acronyms you may hear or want to use yourself when you go to purchase stuff. It definitely helps when you ask someone for help and can speak the right language !!!