Plywood Versus Hardboard

A month or so ago I wrote about how I purchased both a 2x4ft piece of 1/4 in thick birch plywood and the same in hardboard. I wanted to figure out which I liked best in terms of ease of use, preparation time and that sort of thing.

Here are my results:

Birch plywood was easy on the saw, with simple measurements I was able to pull a straight line with my circular saw. It chewed through it easily. I was even able to double stack it and cut through a double stack.

The hardboard one the other hand needed a firm hand for cutting or the saw would pull to the side and leave me with uneven sides. I tried double stacking it just for giggles, bad idea, it bound the saw up and made a mess of it.

For the record I'm using a black and decker 18V cordless circular saw with a 6 inch blade. (I think)

For gessoing I use a thinned gesso for the first coat, so it gets down into the fibers and really bonds with the surface. For the second coat I add some titanium white to the gesso to increase it's opacity. the last layer(s) are straight out of the bottle gesso. I'm pretty neurotic about brushing each coat in perpendicular directions to one another. This creates a really nice texture that I love.

The birch plywood dried really fast. The gesso went on smooth and with no skipping or strokes pulling away from one another. The plywood took 3 coats for a nice even coat that did not show the grain of the wood.

The hardboard dried much more slowly. The brush strokes sat more on the surface of it and the thinned gesso had a tendency for the strokes to pull away from one another. This tendency went away as more coats were applied. To get an evenly applied and opaque covering that was sufficiently white I needed to apply 4 coats of gesso.

Overall for my purposes the birch plywood wins out. It's slightly more expensive but the fact that it cuts more easily and uses less gesso means I spend less time preparing it's surface and can get to the business of art more quickly.