In 1797 Samuel Bentham applied for patents covering several machines to produce veneers. In his patent applications, he described the concept of laminating several layers of veneer with glue to form a thicker piece – the first description of what we now call plywood. Bentham was a British naval engineer with many shipbuilding inventions to his credit. Veneers at the time of Bentham were flat sawn, rift sawn or quarter sawn; i.e. cut along or across the log manually in different angles to the grain and thus limited in width and length.
About fifty years later Immanuel Nobel, father of Alfred Nobel, realized that several thinner layers of wood bonded together would be stronger than a single thick layer of wood. Understanding the industrial potential of laminated wood, he invented the rotary lathe.
There is little record of the early implementation of the rotary lathe and the subsequent commercialization of plywood as we know it today, but in its 1870 edition, the French dictionary Robert describes the process of rotary lathe veneer manufacturing in its entry Déroulage.One can thus presume that rotary lathe plywood manufacturer was an established process in France in the 1860s. Plywood was introduced into the United States in 1865 and industrial production started shortly after. In 1928, the first standard-sized 4 ft by 8 ft (1.2 m by 2.4 m) plywood sheets were introduced in the United States for use as a general building material.
Artists use plywood as a support for easel paintings to replace traditional canvas or cardboard. Ready-made artist boards for oil painting in three-layered plywood (3-ply) were produced and sold in New York as early as 1880.
In India, plywood is more commonly called “Kitply” after a leading brand which pioneered the concept of waterproof plywood in the early 1970s