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need advice on cabinet quality standards

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Forum topic by CraiginSTL posted 02-11-2016 02:51 AM 827 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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CraiginSTL

8 posts in 300 days


02-11-2016 02:51 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question cabinets quality

New to cabinet making but not to woodworking in general. I’m having a bit of a hard time determining what different “quality construction” levels exist in the cabinet making world.

For example I know particle board, no matter where used, is considered lowest quality.

Regarding drawers, where my main question is today – what is the high quality option for drawer construction? Plywood with edging as good as solid poplar sides and back?

And the drawer front – my customer wants this bathroom vanity painted white. So is using MDF as a drawer front considered just as good as solid wood since it’s painted anyway?

Your thoughts, please. Thanks!


21 replies so far

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MadMark

978 posts in 916 days


#1 posted 02-11-2016 03:36 AM

I use 1/2” Oak & 7/32 oak ply for drawer boxes. My ‘go to’ finish wood is jatoba (about 1/3 more than oak $). Birch ply for the carcase, 3/4” for the lower & 1/2” for the uppers. Uppers have tinted glass inserts. Drawer fronts sequenced. Each door made from 1 piece of wood for color match. Soft close euro hinges & slides. Untouched by human hands – we have a gorilla in the clamping department. LOL

Ply carcase:

Drawer fronts and test doors:

Drawer & door colors darken to burgundy

Custom silverware inserts. Ditto for spice racks, knife holders etc.

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

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CraiginSTL

8 posts in 300 days


#2 posted 02-11-2016 06:53 AM

Some really nice looking work! Thanks for the info. To make sure I understand – you said the upper cabs are all 1/2” (case and doors) and the lower cabs are all 3/4”, right? I ask because I’m seeing a lot of door kits with panel bits that say 5/8 is the max width material… I’m a little surprised at that. Thanks again
Craig

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MadMark

978 posts in 916 days


#3 posted 02-11-2016 07:07 AM

I’ve also added remote control LED lighting and other modern touches like a secret compartment behind a short drawer.

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

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tomsteve

394 posts in 682 days


#4 posted 02-11-2016 01:37 PM

on drawer fronts(and face frames), if its getting painted i use poplar.
i wood stay away from MDF, especially in a high humidity area

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2193 posts in 944 days


#5 posted 02-11-2016 03:12 PM

Most people assume PB = cheap and it is with furniture but in cabinet making it is perfectly fine.
I built a rather large kitchen using double sided melamine (3/4 on bases 5/8 on uppers).
I am totally happy with them and so is the wife. The inside is nice and bright easy to clean.
The edges have iron on wood to the fronts.
The money I saved on the boxes I put into quality wood for the doors and drawer fronts.
The drawers are made of the same material including slide outs in the bases.

I used the 32mm or frameless system to build them following the book by Danny Proulx.

It will be fine for a bathroom although an argument can be made against using in a sink base.

My first choice would be poplar for a painted cabinet but you can also use maple or pine (no knots!).

For drawers, I would use the same poplar milled to 1/2” but you can also use pine or cedar or any soft wood.

I’ve built a lot of drawers out plywood and it is fraught with tear out issues. A lock rabbet joint is a good alternative to DT’s, but again, in plywood there are tear out and delamination issues. Scoring helps reduce tear out. OK for shop cabs, but I wouldn’t use it for a customer’s cabinets. If you do use ply cover the edges with iron on edging.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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MadMark

978 posts in 916 days


#6 posted 02-11-2016 03:51 PM

PB / MDF has no place in a quality kitchen. It dissolves when wet and who would expect water in a kitchen?!

I try to get marine grade ply and I build carcase’s with tops.

The drawer boxes are oak, not crappy poplar / pine. In a high end kitchen even 2ndary woods are quality hardwoods.

There are no shortcuts to quality in either materials or workmanship.

There are also no metal fasteners to hold the carcase together.

The doors & faceframes on the uppers are 3/4” real wood. The upper boxes are 1/2” ply. The upper doors have glass inserts instead of wood.

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

View OggieOglethorpe's profile

OggieOglethorpe

1212 posts in 1573 days


#7 posted 02-11-2016 04:21 PM

Prefinished plywood is a fantastic box material, and labor saver to boot! I buy it both sides finished, it’s also available finished one side. A finished side goes IN, your frames, edging, and panels, of hardwood or suitably finished composites, go on the outside.

There is a waterproof MDF product available, it’s greenish in color when I get it. I can’t remember a brand name. If you use the proper screws with quality MDF, it can make an excellent cabinet.

Step away from home centers, check out a local sheet goods distributor. There are lots of suitable options to build very high quality stuff, and many also distribute fasteners and adhesives to match the sheets they sell.

I like Baltic or Finnish birch ply for drawer boxes, suitably edged. It’s super stable, easy to get, and the 5×5 sheets are pretty efficient for typical cabinet drawer boxes. Companies like Blum publish all kinds of engineering data on laying out the boxes depending on side thickness and the slides in use. I’m a big fan of the soft closing undermounts with Blumotion.

View jbay's profile

jbay

814 posts in 362 days


#8 posted 02-11-2016 04:32 PM

Most custom cabinet companies will use 3/4” material for the uppers and lowers.
(Plywood core with veneer of choice on surface)
Drawers would be 5/8” maple dovetailed with soft close slides
Quality Doors are solid 7/8” thick.

-- My “MO” involves Judging others, playing God, acting as LJs law enforcement, and never admitting any of my ideas could possibly be wrong or anyone else's idea could possibly be correct -- (A1Jim)

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CraiginSTL

8 posts in 300 days


#9 posted 02-11-2016 04:33 PM

Thanks for the help guys.

Mark, would your comments be different if you had noticed I am talking about a bathroom vanity?

So part of the answer to my quality ranking question seems to be that poplar isn’t on equal par with other hardwoods for drawer construction?

jbay – you’re talking about the panel being 7/8” ?

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JBrow

818 posts in 383 days


#10 posted 02-11-2016 04:49 PM

CraiginSTL,

Some features that suggest quality to me in cabinetry are: Ease of installation, durability over time, function, and appearance. These are translated into the final cabinet by the materials and joinery and hardware used, and the finish. Quality goes to mostly what the customer does not see.

Obviously there are cost trade-offs in your time, the installers time, and cost of materials. I am a hobbyist and only build pieces for my home, so time and material are not the concern for me as they are for you. I have built cabinets and am now building cabinets for my kitchen. The things I am doing to ensure the highest level of quality that my skills and tools allow are:

Hardware:

I am adding the EZ-Level cabinet levelers to the kitchen cabinet. These allow the installer to level the cabinets (or runs) from the front of the cabinet and without shims.

I am using self-close/soft-close European hinges. The cup and pocket attachment make for strong and durable hinge to door attachment.

I like self-close/soft close Knapp and Voigt MUV-34 under mount drawer slides. These accommodate ¾” to 5/8” thick drawer boxes. Other brands are available for thinner drawer box material.

Carcase:

I am using cabinet grade ¾” plywood on the sides, divides, bottom, and back. Perhaps ¾” is overkill, but it makes joinery and even installation easier. One set up during joinery. Plywood creates less dust when cutting than MDF and accepts glue better and is easier on your blades than particle board – neither hold screws very well.

I find cabinet grade plywood takes glue well, has few voids, holds screws well, is very strong, and looks good. I am using red oak because I have a lot of red oak lumber on hand for shelving and drawer boxes. I want the interior of the cabinets to match. Many high end manufacturers seem to choose hard maple.

I join the carcase pieces with tongue and groove joinery. Butt or rabbet joints and screws would probably work; but, without tight fitting tongue and groove joinery, these are a little more difficult to assemble. Square in all directions, attachment points for a countertop included, and dead flush top edges to accept countertops are features of a quality cabinet.

Face Frame:

I like to use solid wood and mortise and tenon joints on the face frame and attach it to the carcase with tongue and groove joinery. If I were to paint the cabinets, I would use hard maple rather than poplar because popular dings up too easily.

I strive for the carcase bottom to be flush with the bottom face frame rail. I like the carcase divide or carcase end panels to be flush with the face frame stiles wherever drawer slides are mounted. This allows for easier installation of the drawer slides, with no shimming or back drawer slide mounting brackets required.

Doors, Drawer Fronts, and Exposed Ends:

I like raised panel door and end panel construction. If I were to paint, I would use hard maple for durability. Wherever the drawer front is large enough, I like a raised panel rather than a flat panel. I integrate the end panels into the carcase with joinery, however attaching end panels with screws during installation would work.

Drawer Boxes:

I prefer ¾” drawer boxes, though many manufacturers seem to go with ½” drawer boxes. I have built drawer boxes with ¾” plywood and rounded over the top edges. The drawer boxes looked good with a clear varnish. However any voids in the plywood would have to be filled. Also, a locking rabbet joint would be needed to assemble a durable box.

I like solid wood drawer boxes with half-blind dovetails for their mechanical strength. I use ¼” plywood bottom when the drawer box is not too big. Otherwise ½” plywood is better.

Drawer slides, especially under mount slides, require a fair level of accuracy when building the drawer boxes.

Shelfing:

I like solid wood shelfing. I find applying a strip of solid wood to plywood to be difficult. I am afraid edge banding would not hold up over time. Since I am using ¾” plywood for the carcase and therefore have less worry about racking, I make all shelfing adjustable. An intermediate anti-racking fixed shelf is not needed.

But, as I said, in the end it is a set of trade-offs in time and material costs, what the customer wants, and is willing to pay.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2193 posts in 944 days


#11 posted 02-11-2016 05:09 PM


PB / MDF has no place in a quality kitchen. It dissolves when wet and who would expect water in a kitchen?!

I try to get marine grade ply and I build carcase s with tops.

The drawer boxes are oak, not crappy poplar / pine. In a high end kitchen even 2ndary woods are quality hardwoods.

There are no shortcuts to quality in either materials or workmanship.

There are also no metal fasteners to hold the carcase together.

The doors & faceframes on the uppers are 3/4” real wood. The upper boxes are 1/2” ply. The upper doors have glass inserts instead of wood.

M

- MadMark

Marine grade plywood??? I guess if your washing down your kitchen with a water hose…..and quality ww’ers usually save primary wood for something other than drawers.

Opinion does not = fact.
That’s obvious to anyone reading this post.

I’m sure STL will figure out poplar is his best choice…and that’s a fact!

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View MadMark's profile

MadMark

978 posts in 916 days


#12 posted 02-11-2016 05:09 PM

You’ve never had a sink overflow, or drippy drain, or a dishwasher back up or someone spill a drink into a drawer unnoticed?

In my shop, oak is a secondary wood. The primary wood is jatoba or something else high end. Remember that the question was “what goes into high end cabs” and the answer is the best you can get, no stinking poplar or MDF of any type.

The material cost difference between poplar & oak is negligible in a $5000 remodel, don’t cut corners.

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO QUALITY.

Old saying:

Projects involve, time, materials, and quality. You can control any two, but not all three.

If you want it: Fast & good, it won’t be cheap. Fast & cheap, it won’t be good. Good & cheap, it won’t be fast.

Anyone who promises all 3 is a liar, a fool, or (most common) both.

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

View CraiginSTL's profile

CraiginSTL

8 posts in 300 days


#13 posted 02-11-2016 06:22 PM

Thanks guys I love all this input I actually was asking in the beginning how do you rank different levels of quality not just what is the top quality. I have some clients with homes that are upwards of several million dollars and I would spare no expense at quality level for things I build for them. However for somebody who’s budget conscious and their home is only worth something in the medium price range they often talk to me about where can they exchange budget for acceptable quality. So Mark for example to them poplar might be an acceptable cost-cutting measure over oak for drawers. So when I have anything other than the top quality client there’s always some windows I find I have to work within. Yet I’m seeing there’s also some absolutes no matter what – for example 3/4 inch material for the cases Thanks again everyone I’m learning a lot in this discussion

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jbay

814 posts in 362 days


#14 posted 02-11-2016 06:33 PM

My opinion for medium quality Paintgrade Cabinets.
3/4” melamine (thermal fused, not cold rolled) for boxes
3/4 Poplar for Face Frames, Doors and Drawer Fronts
(1/2 mdf for a flat shaker style door panel)
(3/4 poplar glued up for a raised door panel)
1/2” Baltic Birch for drawer boxes with side mount full extension guides.

An easy up grade would be 3/4” pre-finished maple ply boxes instead of melamine.
No reason to EVER use regular particle board for boxes unless it’s for your shop, and still?

Drawer box joint:

-- My “MO” involves Judging others, playing God, acting as LJs law enforcement, and never admitting any of my ideas could possibly be wrong or anyone else's idea could possibly be correct -- (A1Jim)

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CraiginSTL

8 posts in 300 days


#15 posted 02-11-2016 06:50 PM

Yes thanks for reminding me I’m talking PAINT GRADE cabinets in this one. I know, I know some of you would never touch a job like this. So let the rest of us fight over this one and don’t muddy the waters with gold inlay Lol

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