Cherry Plywood for Cabinet Panels?

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Forum topic by Ben posted 12-23-2012 03:14 AM 7363 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Ben's profile


387 posts in 3061 days

12-23-2012 03:14 AM

Is there a place for plywood flat panels in a “high end” stain grade kitchen?

I’m wondering if the plywood takes a finish the same as the solid wood door frame and face frame.
Also wondering just how nice the plywood is?

Would it be better to get my own veneer and apply it to 1/4” MDF?

How to design my cabinet doors is really making my head spin. Flat or raised? Cope and stick or find a way to do real mortise and tenon?
I’m a bit leery of the tiny stub tenons on all the cope and stick sets, so if I do cope and stick with a plywood planel, I could theoretically glue the panel into the door frame, making it totally rigid, right?
If I decide to do a raised panel, I want to do real mortise and tenon joints, and either find a stile and rail set that can do the extended tenon (anything except the freud set which frustrated me too much), or just do square edged door frames.

But the short question here is how nice can a plywood panel look? Would you guys be able to walk into the room and immediately tell it’s plywood?


18 replies so far

View RogerM's profile


799 posts in 2603 days

#1 posted 12-23-2012 04:10 AM

You do not indicate where you are located so I don’t know if this will work. I got several 1/4” and 3/4” cherry plywood sheets (4X8) two years ago from Peachstate Lumber in Atlanta. Excellent people to work with. The panels were defect free and I used them to make the bodies and the back panels of a set of book cases. They finish well and were an excellent match with the cherry face frames.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5177 posts in 2697 days

#2 posted 12-23-2012 01:31 PM

A woodworker would look at a panel and see the (most common) rotary cut grain pattern…but most of the world does not. Plywood has a lot of advantages, IMHO. Gluing it into the door frame as you mention is one of them, but it does limit you to flat panel doors. If you want to dress the flat panels up you can use an applied molding around the edge. A good grade of plywood is just that: good. I’ve had good luck with Columbia Forest Products stuff, or maybe look for State Industries.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2491 days

#3 posted 12-23-2012 01:34 PM

Be prepared. I bought a 4×4 piece of cherry ply for 54$. Thats a lot of money for one 4×4x1/2”.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3190 days

#4 posted 12-23-2012 01:43 PM

The price Russel quotes is right on par with what I regularly spend for cherry plywood. However, IMO, it’s worth every penny.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2565 days

#5 posted 12-23-2012 01:57 PM

For one of the most inherently beautiful solid woods, rotary cut cherry veneer is as boring as boring gets.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2405 days

#6 posted 12-23-2012 02:07 PM

Also you mentioned ply, which can be a layered plywood, or you can go MDF core which is usually cheaper, Dress them up with Applied Mouldings or Fancier Rail and Style design as well.

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3684 days

#7 posted 12-23-2012 02:15 PM

Nothing wrong with using a good grade cherry plywood for the boxes of the cabinets. We are involved with a kitchen upgrade at my house, and some of the most hi-end cabinets out there use plywood for the cabinet boxes and solids for the face-frames and doors. Use a cabinet grade plywood and you will be just fine.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3054 days

#8 posted 12-23-2012 03:06 PM

The choices are, in cherry ply, rotary cut or plain sliced. Your taste dictates your preference.

As for cope and stick, we’ve been doing it for many years and it works just fine. Gluing the panel in is possible, but squeezeout can be annoying and even heartbreaking. Production shops typically angle some brads in to keep the panel from rattling. You could go one better and putty the nail holes : )

Bear in mind that the skinny ply you get will be 5.2mm, not 1/4 in, so your shaper setup needs to plow that dimension for you.

I can’t see the benefit in going to mortise and tenon for the doors unless you really like to sand frames.

Here is a piece with plain sliced red oak ply panels:



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Ben's profile


387 posts in 3061 days

#9 posted 12-23-2012 03:20 PM

That’s a nice looking piece, Lee.

Thanks for all the other good replies.
I think I’m leaning towards a raised panel in solid wood, honestly.

View dannelson's profile


194 posts in 2575 days

#10 posted 12-23-2012 03:52 PM

The only place I use cherry ply is in a exposed upper cabinet with glass doors, uppers flanked by the range hood and refridge end panels.3/4 inch stuff works well in these areas .1/4 ply for door panels sound cheap when closed. We use space balls to stop the rattle and soft close hinges.We tried to double the thickness of the panels and then you have to go to 1 inch styles and rails= retooling =PIA.I still recomend out sourcing your doors. 12 bucks for a 12×12 raised panel soild door 100’s of choices for style and rail ,panels and outside edges, sanded ready to finish. Add up material costs and REAL time to build and I dont see how you can go wrong. Dan

-- nelson woodcrafters

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2559 days

#11 posted 12-23-2012 06:15 PM

there are a few kinds of plywood you can substitute in IF you are good enough at color matching which is in itself an art.
But yeah cherry is expensive plywood, and flat panels are accepteable. The base style of the flat panel door is called shaker so… I’m guessing that’s what you meant.

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

View Stargazer's profile


49 posts in 3144 days

#12 posted 12-24-2012 03:20 AM

I wouldn’t. If you’re going through the time and expense to make cherry panel doors I’d use hardwood for the panels so it will perfectly match the frames.

You DO NOT want a rigid, glued in panel, it will crack your glue joints eventually. Cut the panel 1/4” overall smaller than the dado and use rubber space balls to act as expansion joints and will stop rattle.

Plywood is always smaller than it’s advertised size. Thus a piece of cherry ply would be loose in the dado unless you glued veneer to it to make it a full 1/4 thick.

You also do not need to use mortise and tendons in the joints unless you want to for looks. A well glued and clamped rail/cope joint will be stonger than the wood itself.


View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3017 days

#13 posted 12-24-2012 04:59 AM

Just buy premium cabinet grade plywood, not rotary peel plywood. Just glue the ply panels in your door frames, and it will be solid as a rock.
You can make solid wood panels, but it is a lot more work. If you want flat panels, they both look the same.
I disagree with stargazer, the plywood will not be loose in the groove because you will cut the groove with a flat grind blade to fit the plywood exactly.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2559 days

#14 posted 12-24-2012 10:00 AM

you are’t supposed to cut the panels to match exactly, you are supposed to leave soem space. I use a product called space balls to space my panels in their dados, so that they don’t move, but also won’t crack the frames, cheap, but the only source I have for them is a company from california called cabinetmaker’s suply, which is online, but the shipping usually doubles my cost on them :/

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

View ronbuhg's profile


121 posts in 2352 days

#15 posted 12-24-2012 01:56 PM

I live in Marietta,Ga. and I too go to Peachstate Lumber and highly recommend them .. just ask for Keith,he is very knowledgeable and helpful… the cherry plywood looks very nice and stable… should work for you very nicely

-- the dumbest question is the one you dont ask !!

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