Case of the Missing Ply

I decided to remake one of the business card holders because I wasn’t happy with the finished look (I sanded and refinished and still wasn’t happy).

Cutting the new one, I decided to clean a piece up, sand laser edge off, etc. before putting it together.

One of the nice things about Baltic birch is how the edges look. Like the first holder I made. It provides a nice contrast and appearance.

Cleaning this up though, it’s like the contrasted edge of the ply is just disappearing. Two photos: one shows the flat side and one shows the curved side. The contrasting ply edge runs all the way to the curve then just goes to crud. I thought maybe it was filler or something, but it seems like it’s consistent with the curves.

What am I doing wrong?


That seems bizarre to me. I’ve never seen that happen. I’m interested in anyone’s solution to this one.

You are looking at edge grain vs end grain. These look different in the light and even more so when stained.

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No football plug or anything at that part either.

I don’t believe that I am. Those two cuts are parallel. Just opposite sides of the piece.

Then it is a section that has heartwood/sapwood next to a part that is normal. Depending on the wood, the heart or sapwood will have a much darker color than the rest of the tree.

I think I’m just not sanding down far enough - discounting how deep the laser edge really is.

Hope you find a solution. I just wanted to say that I really like your business card with that puzzle piece indentation.

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You might find that a thorough cleaning would get the dust out of that canter ply, and in the meantime what you to clean it (I use hand sanitizer) will absorb differentially and bring out the difference as well. In most stuff I would prefer if it didn’t show off so much.

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Different sources will also look different as they say what is on the outside, but not what they use for the inner layers.

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Staining the wood enhances the contrast caused by differences in grain. Lasering the wood leaves a “stained” edge so the contrast looks great until you take some sandpaper to it. Then you load up all the pores in the wood grain with sanded powder that reduces the contrast. Try wiping the edge with a damp paper towel and I bet the grain contrast starts to come back. If so, staining would further enhance the contrast. But you’re unlikely to get as much contrast as you would if the lasered edges were only very lightly sanded… if you remove that “caramelization” of the edge of the wood you’re literally removing color that staining won’t bring back.


My pondering has to do with why I lose it on the curved sections. The straight edges do a great job at maintaining discernible plies - the curved edges don’t.

Try a damp cloth wipe and see if you’re just maybe sanding harder there?

A cloth damp with hand cleaner easily dissolves the burnt resins but if you don’t use a lot of hand cleaner those resins become like a stain going back on your work and working their way into the wood. Mostly you want to use excess hand cleaner, but perhaps here you don’t so much.

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