Make finished plywood bendable

Hi. I am using medium cherry plywood and would like to cut words like, “thankful, blessed” and make it bendable so that I can glue it to a curved surface. Has anyone tried this and if so, what settings did you use? Thank you in advance.

You need to use veneer if you want it to bend around a curved surface.

Technically you can bend plywood but it’s not the ideal material.


I haven’t done this but, there has been some previous discussion. One search term that might get you some useful results (here or on the Internet, in general) is “kerf bending.”

For instance:

@evansd2 did some of this with hardwood:

@elka found some flexible birch plywood:

Another possibility would be “steam bending.”

Or use an already bendable material like veneer, like @eflyguy suggests.


Thank you! The surface has a slight curve so it is mostly straight. I just want to be able to glue the it directly on the surface.

Ok I will check this out. I was searching living hinges but it was not what I wanted. This seems to be more what I need. Thank you!

The whole point of plywood is to stay flat/straight. Two hardwood surfaces with a core is meant to be somewhat of an I-beam.

A single layer like a veneer is very much adaptable to curved surfaces.


I’ve never worked with veneer. Where would you recommend getting them?

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Glowforge sells it, but so do local woodworking stores like Rockler and Woodcraft. The GF stuff comes with masking and 3M VHB for attatchment.

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Thank you!

To be honest, I’ve never had much luck bending veneer. It seems to want to crack even if I bend along the grain. I think it’s the Proofgrade finish that is cracking. Unfinished veneer would probably not have this problem. You might be able to get away with a very gentle curve.

I’ve had a lot more luck with kerf bending. Here’s a project:


I have applied shapes cut from Cherry and Walnut Proofgrade Veneer to wine bottles where the typical label would go. I removed the label first.

One was a replica of a Dom Perignon label for when my daughter returned from military training. Pretty sure she still has it but is living in Hawaii now, it’s probably somewhere at my ex’s.


I wonder if my Proofgrade is just really old? It’s probably from 2017.

The piece I used for the Champagne bottle last year was in my original materials back in 2017. I have never bought PG veneer.

There is nothing wrong with it, I just have little use for it.

I have bent plywood successfully but the MDF in medium plywood would only make a mess. Light plywood would work however as it has no MDF.

As you can see here rows of engraved pill shaped ovals gives the inside face someplace to be compressed to without creating a linear weakness to break at.

I left the plywood soaking in hand sanitizer in a baggie for 24 hours before bending and then made the bend very slow so all the bits of wood had time to move. If you did this with MDF it would return to the pile of sawdust from which it came!
That is 1/4 inch thick oak plywood.


This is exactly what I am trying to do. Would you mind sharing the engrave settings and widths you used?

I shared my procedure and settings here, in Beyond the Manual where settings are supposed to be shared:

Good luck!


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