Plywood Rails and Stiles--kitchen cabinet doors

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Forum topic by KevinBlair posted 01-13-2012 04:15 PM 11438 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 2350 days

01-13-2012 04:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plywood rails stiles paolini kitchen cabinet doors question

This question has probably been asked and answered, but I didn’t find anything specific when I did a search.

Can plywood (3/4” Baltic birch) be used to make the rails and stiles for Shaker style kitchen cabinet doors?

My wife wants wider rails and stiles. I made a series of samples and she liked ones with 4” rails and stiles best. This width matches a door she saw at IKEA.

I would glue an edge band on the out side edges before assembly and use 1/4” Baltic birch for the panel. Given the width of the rails and stiles, I believe the doors should be hefty enough without going to a thicker panel.

Am I correct that I can glue the panel in when using plywood for all of the parts?

Lastly, I plan to follow Gregory Paolini’s Kitchens Made Simple book; anyone have any experience with his approach and thoughts on his methods?



9 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4765 posts in 2376 days

#1 posted 01-13-2012 04:45 PM

I’m sure you can do it but I’m not sure why you would want to. The function of rails and styles is to provide strength and allow for wood movement of the panel. If you are going to use plywood, a dimensionally stable product, you could just make a solid plywood door. If you like the look of styles and rails and want to use ply wood for the panel, I would go with solid wood for the styles and rails and use stub tenon construction in conjunction w/ a 1/4” plywood panel and yes this whole thing can be glued up panel and all.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View dannelson's profile


193 posts in 2396 days

#2 posted 01-13-2012 05:06 PM

MDF maybe plywood no way , by the time you figure ripping and edge banding you could use the real thing,the plywood will not stay straight if used on styles and rails .Also you cannot treat the inside edge of the styles and rails where they meet the panel We use MDF only if the budget is nill, that being said MDF does make a nice paint grade door if you apply lots of lacquer to it. and it machines well . just be aware of the edges ,sand them well because the material will absorb differently than the field.

-- nelson woodcrafters

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3673 days

#3 posted 01-13-2012 05:15 PM

no it cannot.

plywood panels rely on their width and length to maintain stability (warping/twisting). once you cut it into narrow strips it loses that ability as it doesn’t have enough long grain in the long direction and there really isn’t any structural grain structure in any direction to begin with.

speaking from experience, rail&stiles made of plywood will warp beyond your wildest dreams.

you could try to stabilize it with a THICK panel, but you’re better off going with hardwoods to begin with and not take that chance

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View KevinBlair's profile


56 posts in 2350 days

#4 posted 01-13-2012 05:33 PM

Thanks! My thinking was that plywood would be more stable and with 4” for the rails and style, more cost effective. Sounds like it is actually less stable if used for rails and stiles and I would be adding to my workload (the extra step to edge band everything) and then find myself remaking the doors after a short while.

I will need to find a source for birch hardwood.

Any thoughts on Paolini’s approach to making kitchen cabinets?

View CampD's profile


1674 posts in 3511 days

#5 posted 01-13-2012 05:43 PM

Not sure why, if you were painting them sure
Baltic Birch plywood may be able to handle it, but I wouldn’t bother.
For less cost and less machining and if their going to be painted I’d use popular

-- Doug...

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3022 days

#6 posted 01-13-2012 05:57 PM

Not sure what kind of plywood people are talking about when they said it would warp all to heck ? Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s WE used plywood all the time for making our web frames. They were cut 3” wide and mortise and tenons were used. These web frames supported the top of base cabinets, a second web frame was spaced 6” below to support drawers.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3672 days

#7 posted 01-13-2012 06:40 PM

You could do it – but I would be wary of doing so if using
a floating door panel. Glue the panel (only if using ply
or similar for the panel) in and then the door is effectively
a slab door with some detailing.

Baltic birch in 3/4” is not as torsionally stiff as most solid
woods, so if you’re going to do this I’d recommend getting
1” thick ply for the door frames.

View KevinBlair's profile


56 posts in 2350 days

#8 posted 01-13-2012 07:13 PM

Thanks everyone.

My wife likes the look of natural birch. We have an island from IKEA that is mostly birch with melamine doors that she likes.

There isn’t a particular reason for making them out of plywood other than convenience and I thought they would be stronger than hard wood. I can get the baltic birch at a reasonable price and the 5’x5’ dimension makes it easy to transport home. I may have to use mail order to get birch hardwood.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2379 days

#9 posted 01-13-2012 07:16 PM

You could do it, but why do it wrong if you can do it right? If you know how to make rails and styles, use a suitable hardwood.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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