Hardwood plywood has a distinct face and a distinct back. In a cabinet door, for example, you want the best appearance possible on the outside. On the inside, you still want it to look good, but small areas of burl, mineral streaks or sap wood won’t be the distractions they would be on a surface that is always exposed. For hardwood plywood, the grading system for the face veneer is designated by letters: A is the best and D is the worst. There is a different standard for backs: 1 is the best and 4 is the worst. A1 or A2, with plain-sliced veneer, is usually the best grade available for work that will receive a clear finish. Grades B and lower for faces, and 3 and lower for backs, are generally considered only suitable for paint-grade work. Rotary-cut veneer will look like plywood, rather than solid wood. You can probably get away with using rotary-cut veneer for something such as the interior of a cabinet, but it won’t look right on an exposed surface next to solid wood
.The grade should be stamped on the side of the sheet but it is often missing in imported plywoods. Expect to pay $75 or more for a 4′ x 8′ sheet of A2 plywood with plain-sliced veneer. The oak and birch plywood the big home-improvement stores had in stock at the time of writing this was graded C3. The difference in price is mostly in the difference in the veneer. In addition to being a lower grade, the face veneer on inexpensive types of plywood can be as thin as 1/100″ compared to about 1/40″ on better material.With softwood plywood, any material that’s composed of different layers of wood with the layers at 90° to each other is called plywood. With hardwood plywood, any material can be between the face and back veneers and still be called plywood. The core material is specified separately from the face, so you can have maple plywood with a veneer core (which is similar to construction-type plywood) or with a particle- board or medium-density fiberboard core. With softwood, plywood is plywood and particleboard is particleboard. In cabinetmaking, you refer to veneer core if you want material manufactured similar to construction plywood. The inner cores of veneer-core plywood are much thicker than true veneer. In 3⁄4″-thick material, the thickness of the core layers can range from about 1/8″ on seven-ply material (five core layers plus the two face veneers) to less than 1/16″ in 13-ply material.