Lauan, also known as "luan," plywood and veneers are softer, lighter and less expensive than the more common plywood used for residential and commercial construction purposes. Some refer to lauan as "Philippine mahogany," even though the wood is not mahogany at all.
Lauan is typically made from wood from the "Shorea" family of trees. With hundreds of species, shorea trees are plentiful. "Inside Woodworking" magazine states that Shorea almon and shorea negrosensis are the main sources for lauan.
Lauan plywood is primarily pinkish in colour. Some material can be just a shade more reddish than others. The colour variations are due to differences in each particular shorea tree and among various shorea species, just as with all natural, raw wood materials. Overall, colour and grain will not vary much despite the unique aspects of each individual tree.
Lauan plywood can be difficult to find in many cities. Because lauan plywood is not commonly used in construction, most major home improvement retailers will have to order it for you.
Lauan plywood sheets are 4 feet-by-8 feet and available in different thicknesses: 1/4 inch, 1/8 inch, 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and 5.5mm.
Most Common Uses
Lauan is relatively inexpensive and often used as an underlayment and for "doorskins." As an underlayment, the 4 feet-by-8 feet, 1/4-inch thick sheet of plywood is placed over existing flooring in preparation for tile. The 4 feet-by-8 feet,1/8 inch thick sheets used for "doorskins" are used in the construction of interior doors and for drawers and backing of cabinets.
Lauan plywood is prized by hobbyists for constructing doll houses, small wooden toys and miniature wooden tools. Because lightweight lauan is so soft, many project parts can simply be stamped out with a die versus using hand or power tools to cut the wood. (see ref 1)
Another common use for lauan plywood is for making construction-grade plywood. Sheets of lauan are glued together to form thicker, stronger and more durable construction materials.
Shorea wood is especially resilient. Outdoor furniture that is made with shorea wood will last a long time. Lauan plywood, as well as shorea wood in general, is comparable to teak and often used for marine projects such as building kayaks and canoes or for boat decking.
Shorea trees are a sustainable resource. According to shorea-wood furniture maker Oxford Garden, harvesting regulations in some countries allow for only trees of 20 inches or greater in diameter to be legally cut, protecting the younger, more vigorous trees so they repopulate the forests. In the rainforest regions of Southeast Asia, shrewd reforestation strategies ensures shorea trees remains plentiful.