handmade panels to replace plywood

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Forum topic by trsnider posted 04-23-2016 03:37 AM 736 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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43 posts in 1976 days

04-23-2016 03:37 AM

May be the wrong forum—point me in the right direction if so.
I have the wood, I have the tool ( a Laguna 1212 bandsaw), and might have the skill.
I’m making a bed and thought I’d use handmade panels instead of the normal crappy plywood. I thought about veneering but decided against that. The panels are fairly small ~ 15×24 on the foot board and a bit larger for the headboard.
What are the downsides / problems with resawing red oak to 5/16” or 3/8” (rails are 5/4” thick) and using that for panels to replace 1/4” panels in the headboard and footboard?
I’d like some education before I plunge into this.

11 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1348 posts in 886 days

#1 posted 04-23-2016 04:26 AM


5/16” or even 3/8” thick headboard and footboard panels are fairly thin. Probably not a problem so much with the footboard, but I could see myself leaning a pillow or two against the headboard panel to catch a little TV or read a book at bedtime. I would like a little more thickness to the headboard as insurance again flexing, cracking or breaking.

Gluing up solid wood panels that are 5/16” to 3/8” thick would be a real challenge for me. My concern would be getting the right clamping pressure to bring the joints together without introducing a bow in the panel.

Coming off the bandsaw, there is a pretty good chance at least one face will be fairly ragged. Plus the glue joints need to be flushed up. Therefore, if all goes real well, there may still need to be an 1/8” of material removed from the faces of the panel (1/16” each side), perhaps a little more.

If you are going for a thin looking panel with large setbacks from the edges of the rails, a finished panel at least ½” would be the thinnest I would go for, although my preference would be a finished thickness of ¾”. The pieces being glued together would need to be thicker than the finished thickness whichever way you go.

So long as the solid panels are not glued in the receiving dado in the rails and posts of the headboard and footboard, left to simply float, and sufficient space allowed for the panels to expand, the panels should not crack over time.

View rwe2156's profile


2881 posts in 1446 days

#2 posted 04-23-2016 07:06 PM

+1 on what Jbrow said re: thickness.

For something like a bed (not fine furniture usually) plywood is perfectly acceptable and , as previously mentioned, will be much stronger. Remember a bed is a type of furniture subject to weight and subject to stresses (ahem) beyond just leaning your head back to watch TV.

You just need to find a hardwood supplier there you will find high quality plywood.

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

View trsnider's profile


43 posts in 1976 days

#3 posted 04-23-2016 07:12 PM

That’s the problem. Wichita Ks. isn’t a mecca for quality wood suppliers. We used to have some but they all sold out years ago. I got lumber for this project off of Craigs list. What about gluing ~1/8” (or maybe a bit thicker) panels to MDF on both sides using contact cement? It’s not veneering but close. That way I could book match the panels and it’d be a bit nicer than plywood. I knew gluing up solid panels would be loaded with issues – now and in the future.

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3097 days

#4 posted 04-23-2016 10:15 PM

What about gluing ~1/8” (or maybe a bit thicker) panels to MDF on both sides using contact cement?

Absolutely not. The panels will almost certainly split with seasonal moisture changes.

If you want to use solid wood, glue up thicker panels and rabbet them to fit in dadoes in the stiles and rails.

-- Gerry,

View bondogaposis's profile


4683 posts in 2317 days

#5 posted 04-23-2016 10:38 PM

Why not make raised panels? It would be easier and stronger.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View splatman's profile


586 posts in 1365 days

#6 posted 04-23-2016 10:55 PM

How would it split? What he’s talking about is essentially making his own MDF-core plywood. If it will split, then plywood would have long ago been swept into the dustbin of history for the same reason.

I was thinking homemade plywood (all wood, no MDF), when I read trsnider’s post. If that wood still not work, then run the crossgrain layers at a shallow angle (say, 20, maybe 30 degrees) to the outer layers. Not as strong as actual plywood, but probably still strong enough to hold up to bedtime stories, and the layers would not be so much fighting one another through the seasons. Sounds like something I should put to the test.

View ksSlim's profile


1274 posts in 2855 days

#7 posted 04-23-2016 11:08 PM

>snider…Intermountain Hardwoods on South Edwards, North of Pawnee, West of meridian streets.
Members of the Sunflower Woodworking Guild get special pricing.

btw..Next guild meeting is Tuesday 26 April the downtown senior center.
social time 6;30-Meeting Starts
7:00 or 19:00 if you prefer. out by 9:00 or 11:00.
We welcome visitors. Probably hook you up with some local sawyers. And other craftspeople.


-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View trsnider's profile


43 posts in 1976 days

#8 posted 04-24-2016 02:59 PM

slim—Thanks for the tip. Wonder why I hadn’t run across Intermountain Hardwoods before. I’ll give them a call tomorrow.

View JBrow's profile


1348 posts in 886 days

#9 posted 04-24-2016 03:02 PM


You are on to something, laminating wood to MDF. However, your approach is not the direction I would go. I suspect that as the 1/8” or slightly thicker solid wood pieces expand and contract, the solid wood could develop cracks or checks, especially if the glue does not have highly elastic properties. The solid wood veneer of MDF manufactured panels is extremely thin, which I suppose holds together better with seasonal movement. Even if seasonal wood movement is not an issue with more or less 1/8” stock, trying to get perfectly tight joints, especially with contact cement, I think would be very difficult. One would have to be really on his game throughout the veneering process.

Another option to consider is to buy veneer and apply it as a single sheet to the MDF. There are several varieties of veneer including self-adhering veneers, some easier to work with than others. Also since the veneer is very thin, little surface work can be done in preparation for finish. I think even large veneer sheets can be mail ordered. But bear in mind, I have never done veneer work, so other than ensuring a good glue bond and exercising care in surface prep, I can be of no further help with this technique.

View trsnider's profile


43 posts in 1976 days

#10 posted 04-25-2016 02:32 AM

Ok—decided to go with 3/4” solid wood panels. They’ll probably be raised, or maybe knot. :)

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3543 days

#11 posted 04-25-2016 02:47 AM

You use the term “crappy plywood” Plywood in a good grade is not crappy at all and has many advantages over solid wood in some uses. I’m sure if done properly solid wood will work fine but the thinner you make it, the stronger the case for a good grade of plywood is.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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