Where to buy Weldtex combed, striated plywood — for ceilings, walls, siding and more


Exciting news — readers Marty and Flip tipped us off to a source for Weldtex — a type of plywood with a striated effect milled into its top ply that was a popular, affordable decorative treatment for siding, ceilings, wall coverings and more in the 1950s. Thanks to the folks at Eichler Siding, you can buy this popular material again today — in 2012, the company began producing Weldtex, making it available for the first time since the 1970s. Now, let’s learn more about Eichler Siding… the fascinating history of Weldtex.. and look at photos — old and new — in homes.

weldtex plywood

Marty and Flip’s original Weldtex ceilings.

Weldex — an authentic decorative finish for vintage homes

We first learned about Eichler Siding from readers Marty and Flip, who have original Weldtex ceilings in their 1950 home. They wanted to add more Weldtex ceilings in other rooms in their home and after some searching, came upon Eichler Siding.

Marty writes:

We purchased the house my parents built in 1950 and have been working hard on the renovation. Wanted to share the ceiling story and a supplier website that we found in California. Can’t wait to get the new ceiling up downstairs.We have some pics of the original striated ply ceilings from upstairs that we are going to continue with through more of the house.

weldtex plywood

We are so pleased to hear you’re doing a story on the striated plywood and Eichler Siding. Jeff and his wife provide a quality product and are fellow small business folks. They were easy to work with and it was a coast to coast shipment that arrived in good shape to us in Florida from San Fran! Attached are some photos of the original ceiling in our house and we found a huge bonus surprise behind some junky wall paneling, pickwick pine paneling!!!! Our ceiling project is still a work in progress so we don’t have any of the new stuff up yet but we can tell it will be a fantastic match.

I researched the history of the striated plywood and it is a very interesting story. The old advertisments for it are awesome, gave us some cool ideas.

Looking forward to your article and as always I will continue to ‘renovate safely’ 🙂

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Photo courtesy of Photography by Leslie LLC.

Coinkindinkly, we also just spotted Weldtex ceilings in a 1960 time capsule in Tulsa, Oklahoma — this time with a natural wood finish. Stunning!

Where to find Weldtex wood panels today

Eichler Sidingot its start in 1987 after owners Jeff and Annette Nichols noticed a niche they could fill in the market. At the time, homeowners looking to repair and restore the original grooved siding on their Eichler and other midcentury homes couldn’t find a source for the specialty grooved plywood they needed to get the job done. Eichler Siding came to the rescue — manufacturing several popular siding patterns as well as taking custom orders.

In 2012, the company began producing Weldtex striated plywood again — the first time this style of plywood had been produced since the 1970s.

From the Eichler Siding website:

PRODUCERS OF MID CENTURY MODERN PANELS EICHLER, STRENG BROS., CUSTOM SIDING
And Now Weldtex, Combed, Striated Plywood

For over 25 years we have produced Eichler style siding for San Francisco Bay area homes and beyond. We deliver locally, and we ship nationwide via common carrier. We also can produce a variety of custom grooved interior and exterior plywood panels for both mid-century modern homes in the Eichler style or replicate plywood groove patterns that are no longer available.

weldtex

Additionally, as far as we know, we are the only producers of “Weldtex” also commonly known as “Combed or Striated Plywood.” Invented in the 40’s, Weldtex is a very unique panel that was used as accent walls, wainscot, or even an entire room. We have shipped Weldtex to New York, New Jersey and Southern California.

weldtex

Weldtex, Combed Plywood
Available in plywood panels and solid stock lumber (oak, birch, ash, etc.) for door panels or milled into clear cedar or redwood for tongue and groove exterior siding.

Weldtex Panel Weldtex, which was originally manufactured by U.S. Plywood, has not been made since the 1970′s until now!

Sizes available in 3/8″ thick panels:

  • 15 7/8″ x 96″
  • 23 7/8″ x 96″

Note: Though we do not produce a 48″ wide panel, due to the nature of the unique Weldtex, or combed pattern, when you join two long edges together the joint appears to be seamless. So in reality you could cover an entire wall with the panels and never know that there were narrower than 48″

“Weldtex panels let you arrange horizontal or vertical stripes: checkerboard, diamond, and even herringbone patterns. You’ll discover countless decorating schemes!” (from Life Magazine ad, circa 1957)

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Edge view of 3/4″ solid stock walnut showing the depth of the Weldtex pattern.

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Edge view of 3/8″ plywood, these are available in 23 7/8″ x 96″ sheets.

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Here’s a sample of 1×6 tongue and groove clear “A” grade redwood with the Weldtex texture milled into the face. We also added a V-groove at each joint to match the existing pattern a customer in Tulsa, OK has. The same material can be milled without the V-groove for a more continuous look. We can also mill this out of clear western red cedar, or pine for an interior application, like a wainscot installation.

weldtex-plywood

History of Weldtex: ‘The antithesis of the sleek modern look’

Weldtex was developed by Donald Deskey — a talented American furniture, graphic and industrial designer — and was introduced commercially in 1940. While it was originally marketed as a low cost, decorative material for post-war prefabricated housing, the combed plywood became popular in the 1950s as a do-it-yourself, inexpensive way for homeowners to gain valuable living space by finishing and decorating their attics and basements or as a quick and easy way to cover and repair up cracked plaster ceilings.

weldtex-plywoodAs a designer, Deskey had a reputation for experimenting with new materials throughout his design career, for example, working with cork, asbestos and plastic laminate.

Advancements in the process of plywood production — namely the invention of a resin that remedied the material’s ability to stand up to moisture, combined with its low cost and utility — made plywood an attractive material to Deskey. By this point in his career — even after having been a successful “modern” designer himself — Deskey had grown tired of the sleek modernist aesthetic and believed that Americans wanted to return to more traditional, rustic look in their homes. After experimenting with inexpensive Douglass Fir plywood samples for several years, the idea for Weldtex came to Deskey. By cutting groves in the face of the plywood, Desky could both mask the less attractive grain or the cost effective Douglas Fir veneer while also creating “scratches” in the surface — the very antithesis of the sleek, modern look.

More on Weldtex from a paper written by Mary Ottoson, M.S. Historic Preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

According to a 1945 excerpt from the profile of Lawrence Ottinger, then President of the United States Plywood Corporation, Deskey felt that, “since scratches were the bane of modernism, he got the idea of scratching all surfaces so thoroughly that generations of careless housemaids and cocktail parties could do nothing but improve them.”

The name “Weldtex” was chosen as it directly refers to the resin adhesive used that allowed for the plies to be welded together as well as to the texture created by Deskey‘s gouged striations.

Weldtex offered three main physical advantages. The first advantage was that the “expansion and contraction” were “minimized” because the striations relieved surface tension. Second, was the inherent advantage that the resin adhesive and hot-press offered, which rendered the wood “impervious to rot…alcohol, oil, mild acids and alkalis” as well as to “bacterial deterioration.” A 1941 USP catalog prominently listed the advantages of Weldtex. Third, the surface striations masked imperfections such as grain irregularities, warping and checking, joint lines and attaching materials such as nails. Though traditionally cut Douglas Fir was frequently used as varnished trim, Douglas Fir veneer was not considered handsome. In fact, its grain was typically considered rather distasteful. The striations that Weldtex provided allowed for a cheap face ply with highly decorative and attractive results. The vertical striations created a textured panel which played with light and shadow. Also, by rotating or installing the panels in alternating directions or diagonals, interesting and unique patterns were created.

weldtex-plywood weldtex-plywood

After joining forces with the Unites States Plywood Corporation, Deskey set to work coming up with ideas to use Weldtex in prefabricated housing as a decorative and utilitarian feature instead of as a strictly structural element as plywood had normally been used in the past. Deskey also wanted to change the way people saw prefabricated housing. Instead of thinking of prefab homes as a solution to an emergency like a housing shortage, Deskey developed a prefab vacation home called ‘Sportshack’ that could be easily and inexpensively erected in rural areas as a hunting cabin, ski lodge, etc. Deskey’s use of Weldtex as siding on his prefab Sportshack mimicked the rough bark of trees in the forest surrounding it. Sportshack was part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Contemporary American Industrial Show” in 1940, and the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair receiving wide acclaim.

weldtex-plywoodweldtex-plywoodDuring the same time, Weldtex had been prominently installed in the Collier’s House of Ideas in New York City — a model home located in Rockefeller Center. With so much excitement building around Weldtex and Sportshack, Deskey decided to start his own company — Week-End Cabins — to sell Sportshack plans. Unfortunately, it was not to be — as the manufacturing of Weldtex was halted due to wartime regulations during WWII, putting an end to Deskey’s dream.

weldtex-plywoodThough Deskey’s Weldtex personal projects ultimately failed, United States Plywood Corporation continued to produce and widely market Weldtex, which greatly appealed to residential consumers for use on their everyday DIY projects.

weldtex-plywood

I can think of about a hundred ways you could use Weldtex — from building furniture, to using it as siding or wall treatments. Heck, I bet it would even look good in a tiki bar. It is so exciting to have this vintage material with such an interesting history available to buy again.

Mega thanks to readers Marty and Flip for sharing their photos and source for Weldtex with us and to Archive.org for making this great vintage brochure available to the public.

Links:

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Comments

  1. says

    I am so excited. I have a 1950s house and the ceiling in my sunroom is made out of this plywood. I have always thought is was very cool, My husband thought we needed to take it done because some of the tiles have been damaged over the years and it looks bad in several places. We can now replace them! Yeah!

  2. Joe Felice says

    Back in the ’50s, there was a company who used this process on shingles for cedar exterior siding. My ’52 ranch had that siding. It actually held up well as long a it was kept painted, but painting was a pain, because it had to be done by brush to get in all the little grooves. Took me 4 months to paint my house in 1978. Of course, that was just on weekends. It was actually therapeutic and I enjoyed doing it, though I could have spent the time doing other things.

  3. Pam S says

    Our 1952 house in Vancouver, WA is sided entirely with 3/4 inch solid tongue-and-groove combed cedar; there is also a large planter/room divider that is covered with 16″ squares set at right angles. I’ve looked online often, trying to find a source or reference to it. Agreed with previous poster that it’s all over out here in WA, several 50’s houses on this street alone have it for exterior siding, or decorative elements. We believe it was originally stained, but has been painted since. Some of our neighbors still have the stained versions visible, which is a beautiful effect. Anyway, it’s great to know it’s being produced again and that we know what to call it when we need some! Thank you.

  4. V. W. says

    I’ve seen Weldtex used in a wide variety of ways in older houses. It’s a very interesting, durable, and versatile product.
    The house I lived in as a kid (built in 1956) had this product as an accent wall in the spare bedroom. My bedroom had a wall with a different pattern with small diamonds cut into the plywood instead of lines. Has anyone seen the pattern I’m talking about? My bedroom was the only place I ever saw it.

  5. Pam says

    Love Weldtex. I’ve seen older homes with it used. I’d love to purchase for our game room ceiling. Nice durable stuff!

  6. Greg says

    Haha, that sample of siding for Tulsa, OK is something Jeff put together for my house. Some of our Lortondale houses in Tulsa have this finish.

  7. Justin says

    Any tips for refinishing Weldtex would be greatly appreciated. I have some in my house that has been painted and I would like to strip and reurn it to the natural finish. Thanks.

  8. Stacy says

    I have a whole new appreciation for this siding in my home. After reading this article, I think I will make it the focal point of my upcoming redecoration! Any tips on restraining would be appreciated. sdlane@aol.com

  9. says

    Am in the middle of doing a major renovation and addition to a home that originated in Calgary, Alberta, and was relocated in 1998 to a new site about 160 miles from where it was built. The complete exterior siding finish was weldtex plywood finish- cut to 16″ by 48″ panels with 12″ to the weather. The original framing was all boards with shiplap exterior sheathing. The old exterior of weldtex was removed to add Dow SM exterior cladding/PWF furing strips as required for the installation of Hardie Exterior Products. Very nice product, but requires more labour to install. The old weldtex panels, installed in 1949 and painted when the home was relocated in 1998 were in imaculate condition from top to bottom all around. The structural of the home was also perfect. Very easy product to work with, and looks amazing. Am hoping that the product regains a market, because it is truly an excellent exterior-far superior to many of the products that are being used to finish exteriors of homes today, many of which leave a lot to be desired.
    Sincerely
    Brian Johnson
    Alberta, Canada

    • Joe Felice says

      That last sentence is an understatement! Homes built in the last-40 years leave a lot to be desired in many respects, and this is just one of them. We’ve got vinyl siding in the HOA in which I live, and, as far as we’re concerned, it’s nothing-but trash. Of course we’re in Colorado. The lack of humidity, the temperature extremes, and the proximity to the sun all wreak havoc on vinyl. It comes with a “lifetime warranty,” but because of our unique conditions, which I’m sure are shared by some of our neighbors up north in the Rockies, the courts have ruled that “lifetime” means 7 years. As far as we are concerned, vinyl siding should be outlawed in Colorado. Maybe it’s suitable in other places, but certainly not here.

      But James Hardie–now there is indeed a good product, and the 50-year warranty holds, even in Colorado. If you get the pre-painted version, you get a 25-year guarantee on the paint, as well.

  10. says

    Brian. It’s interesting to us that several folks have purchased our product who live in Canada and used it on the exterior of their homes most often to replace pre-existing

    Thanks for the update on your project if there’s anything we can do to help, keep in mind we do ship our product.

    Jeff Nichols

  11. Dana says

    My grandmother’s century home in Wisconsin (unfortunately remodeled over the years) had this throughout her kitchen and huge pantry. My parents current home with addition from the 50’s has a den/music room with this on the walls and fabulous cork floors! Love this stuff – many memories.

    • Marty Tetlow says

      Hi Dana
      I’d love to see some pictures of your parents home and the look of this on their walls. Maybe I can get some ideas from them.
      Thanks
      Marty

  12. Deb says

    Thanks for the info! We had this as paneling in our living room in the rancher I grew up in. It was painted. I always liked it , but never saw it anywhere else. Would love to be in that house now!

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