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I love wood!
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me on the subject of solid wood cabinetry? My understanding is that the way most typical cabinetry is made is that there is a box made of a particle board type material and then it's covered in a kind of laminate or wood veneer...and then the same process is done for the doors. But a friend has cabinets that are made from solid teak wood. Can you get solid wood cabinets made in any type of wood or is it limited? How common/uncommon are solid wood cabinets? Are there disadvantages to solid wood cabinets/doors? (I have heard certain types of solid wood doors can warp if they're too big, etc.) It seems like solid wood cabinets would be preferred to MDF and wood veneers, etc. but I'm not sure...thank you! :smile:
 

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In History is the Future
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You can get solid wooden cabinets in any lumber choice.

You should find a furniture builder to build them though. I would be leery of a "Cabinet Shop" willing to build them for two reasons: it's likely a foreign process to them and the plywood joinery used in cabinet shops will not last for solid wood.

It's not uncommon to have cabinets made of MDF, but also plywood. In terms of modern cabinets Plywood is a good choice because it's stable.

Also, most raised panel cabinet doors (at least mid-range and up) are solid wood.

ps, I have my doubts as to your friends cabinets, they are probably made with teak plywood sides and solid teak face frames and doors.
 

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I agree with what Jean says. Solid wood creates expansion and contraction issues that plywood or other engineered wood do not.
 

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I wouldn't prefer them, plywood is an awfully good material for cabinets (though I despise particle board and MDF in them). In any case, they may be more common than I know...but I've never seen any that were solid wood in my life (and I'm 65).
 

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Old School
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It wasn't that long ago that all cabinetry was made with solid wood. With the advent of plywood, cabinets became more stable and the materials more predictable. When the economy improved, there was a drop in solid wood and metal cabinets, in favor of the use of plywood. With plywood and other composite substrates, came the popularity of plastic laminate finishes.

A good cabinetmaker makes use of traditional joinery to be used with making solid wood fixtures. Fabrication is more of a frame and panel construction. In today's market, with solid wood being as unpredictable as it is, and it's initial cost, and machining requirements, plywood provides a better cabinet.






.
 

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There's a difference between custom cabinets and box store cabinets. A custom cabinet shop would be more likely to use a better method of construction. Many only offer a few different species of wood for their cabinets but there are a lot would let the customer choose.

In my own shop I normally build cabinets with the faceframes, doors and exposed ends out of solid wood and use birch plywood for interior parts and shelving. I offer to make cabinets for my customers in any wood and finish they wish however nobody as ever proposed anything as expensive as teak but I would be happy to do so if they asked. Teak if you could get past the sticker shock would make excellent wood to make cabinets out of with perhaps the exception of wear on cutting knives. I personally think plywood is more stable for the interior parts but I would make the interior parts out of solid teak if someone wished.
 

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There you go - birch plywood cases and solid wood face frames. The reason being is that wood moves with the seasons and you have to understand that it moves across its' grain, not the length. That's why the cases are plywood and you can get away with solid wood face frames because they usually are not wide pieces of solid wood. Doors have a frame with a large panel in them that actually floats in channels cut into the inner sides of the door frame. This allows for the wood movement. In modern day frame and panel construction, space balls are used which are very small rubber balls pushed into the channels to prevent the door from rattling.

Drawers on the other hand are built a bit smaller then the cavity in which they will slide in and out and the face you see is screwed onto the drawer from the inside which allows it to move.

Don't be fooled by birch plywood construction with face frame cabinets. They are solid to the eye and touch and if you know nothing about cabinetry, they are solid to you.
 

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This reminds me of the old Singer sewing machines in the solid oak cabinets...

That are STILL seen today (in some places) and look just as good as new...

They did not 'need' plywood to build good, solid cabinets for their machine back then... :no:
 

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I would not even think of using what I call artificial materials (MDF, particle board, etc) in anything I build. If I must use a laminated product it is always a good quality plywood.

I too highly doubt your friends cabinets are solid teak. However, if they are on a boat/ship they may be. Teak is just too expensive a material.

George
 

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Sawdust Creator
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Plywood for the boxes is a better choice in my opinion due to the stability of it.
 

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Cowboy up and do just it
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OnealWoodworking said:
This reminds me of the old Singer sewing machines in the solid oak cabinets...

That are STILL seen today (in some places) and look just as good as new...

They did not 'need' plywood to build good, solid cabinets for their machine back then... :no:
Singer sewing machines were made with all metal parts. Then in 1981 or 1982 Singer followed most of the other sewing machine companies and started building some of their machines with internal plastic gears. This helped keep the cost down since they were one of the most expensive sewing machines at the time and allowed them to compleat with their competition; however, the quality went down. An old Singer that has all metal parts can still be made to run just as good as it did when it was new. The newer Singers run great but do have a life span that is not as long as the old ones. It used to be, if you bought a Singer you would never need another sewing machine the rest of your life and you would be able to pass it down. To day a young person could expect to buy two or so in their life, still good but not as good. I personally think this is true about cabinets. Plywood is great and strong while making it easier to use. Put two cabinets that were built on the same day, one out of solid wood and one out if plywood, and I personally feel 100 years later there will be a difference that can be seen as the plywood starts cracking with bubbles under the first layer of wood. The real question comes in, how long to you want to keep a specific set of cabinets in your home, 30 years or 100? Styles change and in 30 to 40 years you might want different cabinets anyway to keep up with times.

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I know how to build with solid, although I never get to do it. It is like dovetailed drawers, no one wants to pay for these skills anymore.
SO, to build total kitchens I still use plywood for all my cabinets. Sure we use solid for face frames and other parts but there is no way my customers will pay for solid construction.
 

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In History is the Future
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I know how to build with solid, although I never get to do it. It is like dovetailed drawers, no one wants to pay for these skills anymore.
SO, to build total kitchens I still use plywood for all my cabinets. Sure we use solid for face frames and other parts but there is no way my customers will pay for solid construction.
So how would you?
 

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bzguy
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If you want to build with solid wood you have to use completely different techniques.
Expansion across the width of the boards has to be taken into consideration.
Breadboard ends on counter-tops, floating raised panel doors and finished end panels, etc.
A big problem with this is building 5 sided boxes (doors 6th side)that never have grain running perpendicular.
They will expand/contract across the grain and break the joints if they are glued up solid.
Sliding dovetail joints if you have the patience.
 

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I love wood!
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
You guys are awesome, thank you!

Really helpful and informative forum here, thanks so much for the replies, you guys definitely know your stuff! :thumbsup:
 

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Singer sewing machines were made with all metal parts. Then in 1981 or 1982 Singer followed most of the other sewing machine companies and started building some of their machines with internal plastic gears. This helped keep the cost down since they were one of the most expensive sewing machines at the time and allowed them to compleat with their competition; however, the quality went down. An old Singer that has all metal parts can still be made to run just as good as it did when it was new. The newer Singers run great but do have a life span that is not as long as the old ones. It used to be, if you bought a Singer you would never need another sewing machine the rest of your life and you would be able to pass it down. To day a young person could expect to buy two or so in their life, still good but not as good. I personally think this is true about cabinets. Plywood is great and strong while making it easier to use. Put two cabinets that were built on the same day, one out of solid wood and one out if plywood, and I personally feel 100 years later there will be a difference that can be seen as the plywood starts cracking with bubbles under the first layer of wood. The real question comes in, how long to you want to keep a specific set of cabinets in your home, 30 years or 100? Styles change and in 30 to 40 years you might want different cabinets anyway to keep up with times.

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I'm not sure that I agree that plywood is more likely to fail over the years than solid wood.

Curtis
 
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