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Jack of too many trades..
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Hello All,
I'm gearing up to start a new cabinetry project, which will include my first attempt to built true frame-and-panel top cabinets. I'm a bit concerned about the strength and joinery in the carcass panels and the strength of the wood itself after the the cabinets are built, hung, and have a lot of weight in them. While I use a matched set of rail and stile cutters, and both quality glues and pocket joiner, these are not mortise and tenon joints and I worry about the stress pulling the joints apart, or worse - the wood itself failing.



I was hoping to get some recommendations concerning the best wood species to use for paint-grade construction. It would need to be wood that I could get from either local home improvement places, or a specialty store like Rockler or Woodcraft for something less than and arm and a leg.



If you're unsure what I mean but true frame-and-panel, I'm talking about building cabinets whose carcasses are made from panels similar to the way we make cabinets doors these days. It is historical style from a time before plywood was widely available. I think you still see it commonly in nicer pieces of furniture. The design is also lighter-weight than plywood but just as strong if done correctly.



I have done frame-and-panel carcasses for lower cabinets several times, but I've always gone with plywood for the uppers because the concerns about strength and structure. This has always led to my upper and lower cabinets looking subtly different.





Here's some relevant considerations that influence the material and design choices...

To maximize space, I build my top cabinets as large single units. Essentially, I build a single large box instead of multiple 12", 24", and 30" units. My old upper cabinets were built in-place as a single unit, but I've now successfully experimented with two-part upper cabinets and this is what I've done for my first-draft plywood upper cabinets.



I paint my cabinets so that they look to be period-appropriate from the early 20th century "Sanitary Movement". I don't need to invest in fine-figured hardwoods, but I do need the wood itself to not fail in an upper cabinet application. I'm feeling that for top cabinets I probably need to up my game beyond clear pine to at least poplar, but that's a somewhat "cheap" excuse for a hardwood. Ultimately, I don't want the frame wood splitting under the weight of the dishes, glass doors, etc.



For reference, these are my cabinets from my old home.




On these lower cabinets,I used easily-available clear 3/4" pine and 1/4" plywood to make the carcass frames, and 1" pine stock cut from stair treads to make the face frames and doors, and 3/4" birch ply for the bottoms. I have a couple sets of matched rail and stile router bits, and I both glue and use pocket screws to assemble the finished carcass. They sat on the floor so they were not subject to downward pull.



Those old upper cabinets were made from 3/4 birch plywood with poplar face frames of 3/4" stock. I used 3/4" red oak stock for the the glass-panel doors which features mortise and tenon lower joints and saddle joints on the top, reinforces with 18ga, pins. That cabinet unit was also built in-place using 3/4 "L" cut plywood for the shelves. After I had some sagging issues, I also anchored them the to ceiling to pull everything back into square.





Here is the elevation of the cabinets for the new kitchen.




As you can see, the top cabinets are going to be close to 4' tall (no wasted space). Because of the narrow width, I am planning to make single tall cabinet doors instead of the separate top cabinet doors. The ceiling here is 5" shorter than the old place, so separate doors just wasn't coming out right in proportion.


This is the plan for this part of the kitchen - a basic "C" shape layout. As you can see, I've got two upper corner cabinets to build.









So... bottom line. If I want to do frame and panel construction for the upper cabinet carcasses, what wood species should I be going with? I'm using matched router bits for the frame and panel, I'll probably used beadlock loose tenons for additional strength, plus I'll glue and pocket screw it all together.



I'd like to develop and master this aspect of cabinetry and furniture.. but I also need to not destroy all my wife's dishes on the process.

I may just stick with plywood and try to dress it more, but any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 

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There is any number of woods you could use. I would just check the availability and prices in your area. A good paint grade wood that is usually cheap is poplar. You might also use soft maple. Hard maple would paint just as well but is usually very heavy. Alder paints very well but often has a lot of knots. Pine could be used but is difficult to kill the sap bleeding through the paint at the knots. It's also a bit soft so it dents easily.

In a kitchen I would refrain from using any MDF. It's literally a sheet of paper, the same paper they make grocery sacks out of. You already know what paper does when you get it wet. I normally use birch plywood for the cabinet boxes and make the faceframes and doors out of poplar.
 

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Jack of too many trades..
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Discussion Starter #3
Oh.. I absolutely detest MDF. No worries there.



Appreciate the suggestions. I was seriously considering investing in poplar this time as it's pretty common, and I can get 5/4 slabs of it from one of the few proper lumberyards in the area. I was worried that it might not hold up structurally as it's a kinda-sorta hardwood. I have had good luck using it for face-frames
 

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Poplar has been used in furniture for paint grade and as a secondary wood in walnut furniture for centuries. A lot of times they would use walnut veneer for the top and make the rest of the parts out of poplar. It would stain to match the walnut pretty good.
 

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Jack of too many trades..
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Discussion Starter #5
Maybe I've gotten too hung up on poplar being "technically" a hardwood and the softest category of hardwood widely sold. I have heard that it can also be finished to resemble cherry.


I really just want to avoid the sort of brittle, easy to splinter and split problems I see when I use clear pine. I've seen that stuff fail in the wood around careful joiner and tight glue joints. I was imagining that top cabinets under all that load and shear force would risk the wood splitting and splintering apart along the grain and then whole cabinet would come crashing down - unless I picked the right wood.



I have a lot of poplar stock kicking around, so I'll give it a try and report back. Thanks again for the advice!
 

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Oh.. I absolutely detest MDF. No worries there.



Appreciate the suggestions. I was seriously considering investing in poplar this time as it's pretty common, and I can get 5/4 slabs of it from one of the few proper lumberyards in the area. I was worried that it might not hold up structurally as it's a kinda-sorta hardwood. I have had good luck using it for face-frames
I use yellow poplar for all my paint grade projects. It is inexpensive, reasonably hard, stable, machines well, and takes finish well. For my boxes I use birch or maple plywood. For raised panel doors I use poplar stiles and rails, and mdf panels. I disagree that MDF (Mucho Dust Flying) is garbage. For panels inside a frame it is an excellent product. You do have to prime/buff/prime machined edges, but it finishes beautifully, is flat and stable, and not subject to as much movement as you can get with a glued up panel. You can also do larger panels since it does not move as much as solid wood. I have never had an issue with a MDF panel, but I have had movement issues with wood and on more than one occasion, on passage doors I did not make, had panels actually crack and others pop the stiles and rails.
 

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Another vote for soft maple. (y)
 

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Hello All,
I'm gearing up to start a new cabinetry project, which will include my first attempt to built true frame-and-panel top cabinets. I'm a bit concerned about the strength and joinery in the carcass panels and the strength of the wood itself after the the cabinets are built, hung, and have a lot of weight in them. While I use a matched set of rail and stile cutters, and both quality glues and pocket joiner, these are not mortise and tenon joints and I worry about the stress pulling the joints apart, or worse - the wood itself failing.



I was hoping to get some recommendations concerning the best wood species to use for paint-grade construction. It would need to be wood that I could get from either local home improvement places, or a specialty store like Rockler or Woodcraft for something less than and arm and a leg.



If you're unsure what I mean but true frame-and-panel, I'm talking about building cabinets whose carcasses are made from panels similar to the way we make cabinets doors these days. It is historical style from a time before plywood was widely available. I think you still see it commonly in nicer pieces of furniture. The design is also lighter-weight than plywood but just as strong if done correctly.



I have done frame-and-panel carcasses for lower cabinets several times, but I've always gone with plywood for the uppers because the concerns about strength and structure. This has always led to my upper and lower cabinets looking subtly different.





Here's some relevant considerations that influence the material and design choices...

To maximize space, I build my top cabinets as large single units. Essentially, I build a single large box instead of multiple 12", 24", and 30" units. My old upper cabinets were built in-place as a single unit, but I've now successfully experimented with two-part upper cabinets and this is what I've done for my first-draft plywood upper cabinets.



I paint my cabinets so that they look to be period-appropriate from the early 20th century "Sanitary Movement". I don't need to invest in fine-figured hardwoods, but I do need the wood itself to not fail in an upper cabinet application. I'm feeling that for top cabinets I probably need to up my game beyond clear pine to at least poplar, but that's a somewhat "cheap" excuse for a hardwood. Ultimately, I don't want the frame wood splitting under the weight of the dishes, glass doors, etc.



For reference, these are my cabinets from my old home.




On these lower cabinets,I used easily-available clear 3/4" pine and 1/4" plywood to make the carcass frames, and 1" pine stock cut from stair treads to make the face frames and doors, and 3/4" birch ply for the bottoms. I have a couple sets of matched rail and stile router bits, and I both glue and use pocket screws to assemble the finished carcass. They sat on the floor so they were not subject to downward pull.



Those old upper cabinets were made from 3/4 birch plywood with poplar face frames of 3/4" stock. I used 3/4" red oak stock for the the glass-panel doors which features mortise and tenon lower joints and saddle joints on the top, reinforces with 18ga, pins. That cabinet unit was also built in-place using 3/4 "L" cut plywood for the shelves. After I had some sagging issues, I also anchored them the to ceiling to pull everything back into square.





Here is the elevation of the cabinets for the new kitchen.




As you can see, the top cabinets are going to be close to 4' tall (no wasted space). Because of the narrow width, I am planning to make single tall cabinet doors instead of the separate top cabinet doors. The ceiling here is 5" shorter than the old place, so separate doors just wasn't coming out right in proportion.


This is the plan for this part of the kitchen - a basic "C" shape layout. As you can see, I've got two upper corner cabinets to build.









So... bottom line. If I want to do frame and panel construction for the upper cabinet carcasses, what wood species should I be going with? I'm using matched router bits for the frame and panel, I'll probably used beadlock loose tenons for additional strength, plus I'll glue and pocket screw it all together.



I'd like to develop and master this aspect of cabinetry and furniture.. but I also need to not destroy all my wife's dishes on the process.

I may just stick with plywood and try to dress it more, but any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
3/4 Shop birch plywood for the boxes, poplar or maple for te face frames
 

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3/4 Shop birch plywood for the boxes, poplar or maple for te face frames
I would suggest 3/4" birch ply for the boxes. The top gets rabbeted into the sides and the bottom gets set in a dado. The top edge of the dado should be about 1/8" below the top edge of the lower face frame rail. This makes it neat and will also stop glasses and the like from sliding out. The back gets 1/4" plywood dado set in 1/2", reinforced with 1/2 plywood where the mounting screws will go. For the face frames yellow poplar. I like to rabbet the side panels and set them in a 1/4" dado cut into the face frame, but I have seen others just use glue and pocket screws without issue.
 

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3/4 Shop birch plywood for the boxes, poplar or maple for te face frames
If you are concerned about appearance of the side panels, where visible, I only use a frame and panel side panel on the ends. If you want an awesome look attach the panel to the face frame using a lock miter joint. It is strong and self squaring. I bit of a pain to set up on the shaper until you are used to it. It eliminates seeing the side of the face frame and makes it look like the stile of the face frame and stile of the end panel look like a solid piece of wood.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I have previously built my upper cabinets out of birch. I've disguised it by gluing/nailing 1/4" trim to mimic a stile and rail design and it worked okay. The upper cabinets in my "old house" photos are all made from 3/4" birch.

If it is feasible and safe, this time around I would like to do real frame and panel for my upper cabinets. I;d like to do this to both reduce overall weight and to improve my cabinetry skills. It's also challenging to work with 4/8 sheets of birch plywood in my current workshop- though I could have it cut down a bit at the store before bringing it home.
 

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Hello All,
I'm gearing up to start a new cabinetry project, which will include my first attempt to built true frame-and-panel top cabinets. I'm a bit concerned about the strength and joinery in the carcass panels and the strength of the wood itself after the the cabinets are built, hung, and have a lot of weight in them. While I use a matched set of rail and stile cutters, and both quality glues and pocket joiner, these are not mortise and tenon joints and I worry about the stress pulling the joints apart, or worse - the wood itself failing.

I was hoping to get some recommendations concerning the best wood species to use for paint-grade construction. It would need to be wood that I could get from either local home improvement places, or a specialty store like Rockler or Woodcraft for something less than and arm and a leg.

If you're unsure what I mean but true frame-and-panel, I'm talking about building cabinets whose carcasses are made from panels similar to the way we make cabinets doors these days. It is historical style from a time before plywood was widely available. I think you still see it commonly in nicer pieces of furniture. The design is also lighter-weight than plywood but just as strong if done correctly.

I have done frame-and-panel carcasses for lower cabinets several times, but I've always gone with plywood for the uppers because the concerns about strength and structure. This has always led to my upper and lower cabinets looking subtly different.

Here's some relevant considerations that influence the material and design choices...

To maximize space, I build my top cabinets as large single units. Essentially, I build a single large box instead of multiple 12", 24", and 30" units. My old upper cabinets were built in-place as a single unit, but I've now successfully experimented with two-part upper cabinets and this is what I've done for my first-draft plywood upper cabinets.

I paint my cabinets so that they look to be period-appropriate from the early 20th century "Sanitary Movement". I don't need to invest in fine-figured hardwoods, but I do need the wood itself to not fail in an upper cabinet application. I'm feeling that for top cabinets I probably need to up my game beyond clear pine to at least poplar, but that's a somewhat "cheap" excuse for a hardwood. Ultimately, I don't want the frame wood splitting under the weight of the dishes, glass doors, etc.

For reference, these are my cabinets from my old home.


On these lower cabinets,I used easily-available clear 3/4" pine and 1/4" plywood, which I bought here sheetmaterialswholesale.co.uk to make the carcass frames, and 1" pine stock cut from stair treads to make the face frames and doors, and 3/4" birch ply for the bottoms. I have a couple sets of matched rail and stile router bits, and I both glue and use pocket screws to assemble the finished carcass. They sat on the floor so they were not subject to downward pull.

Those old upper cabinets were made from 3/4 birch plywood with poplar face frames of 3/4" stock. I used 3/4" red oak stock for the the glass-panel doors which features mortise and tenon lower joints and saddle joints on the top, reinforces with 18ga, pins. That cabinet unit was also built in-place using 3/4 "L" cut plywood for the shelves. After I had some sagging issues, I also anchored them the to ceiling to pull everything back into square.


Here is the elevation of the cabinets for the new kitchen.



As you can see, the top cabinets are going to be close to 4' tall (no wasted space). Because of the narrow width, I am planning to make single tall cabinet doors instead of the separate top cabinet doors. The ceiling here is 5" shorter than the old place, so separate doors just wasn't coming out right in proportion.

This is the plan for this part of the kitchen - a basic "C" shape layout. As you can see, I've got two upper corner cabinets to build.



So... bottom line. If I want to do frame and panel construction for the upper cabinet carcasses, what wood species should I be going with? I'm using matched router bits for the frame and panel, I'll probably used beadlock loose tenons for additional strength, plus I'll glue and pocket screw it all together.
I'd like to develop and master this aspect of cabinetry and furniture.. but I also need to not destroy all my wife's dishes on the process.

I may just stick with plywood and try to dress it more, but any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
MDF can be used for face and end frames. Some carpenters use it for door panels, but it can be tricky to finish. Because of this, other wood varieties are often used for rails and stiles. MDF remains popular as it is dimensionally stable and therefore good for larger pieces. Prefinished plywood or birch plywood, which you can buy here sheetmaterialswholesale.co.uk is another candidate for these longer sections.
 

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I respectively disagree, Poplar isn't too soft for kitchen cabinets. Our kitchen cabinets are made of Poplar and are in great shape for 18 year old cabinets. View attachment 420495
Not to argue but, painted (typically white) poplar cabinets tend to show accelerated wear on the leading edge of most peices. Open shelves show the worst. The high usage cabinets just get dinged up and ive seen it in happen in under a year it a house with ho kids.

Given the relative insignificant cost variance between poplar and maple (especially once you factor in labor) I would never recommend poplar. Maple will still get dings, but not anywhere as easily.
 

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Wood either dings or chips. Hard or soft, poplar or maple.

It's either birch,poplar or soft maple. In Alabama Bass wood is used a lot.
 
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