I was at Lowe’s the other day, and noticed that the regular ol’ 3/4″ birch and oak plywood they’re now selling is 13-ply, instead of the normal 7-ply, so it has a superficial resemblance to Baltic/Finnish birch. I’m guessing that the interior plies are made of the same South American mystery wood that the “blondewood” plywood is made of. I looked at a few sheets of the birch, and the face veneers weren’t too bad–better than the old stuff, actually. The front faces were essentially free of knots and patches, with maybe a small split here or there. The back faces had “spackled” knots, but it was done neatly. The face veneers are still much, much thinner than those on real Baltic/Finnish birch. The front veneer appears to be thicker than the back veneer (which was about as thick as cigarette paper…). Flatness of the sheets was not bad, but not great–about a 1/4-1/2″ bow in 8′.
I bought one sheet and took it home. After cutting it up, I could see that there were significantly more edge voids than I would expect to see in Baltic/Finnish birch. Overall, though, the material seems to be better than the old stuff.