Solid Wood Kitchen Cabinets
I am going to attempt to build our home’s kitchen cabinets. At first I thought I’d try not to use plywood and maybe build from pine. But I constantly see designs and builds that utilize plywood for the carcase.
Does anyone build kitchen cabinets without plywood these days? Pros / cons (outside of maybe price and stability for wider stock?)
What are the concerns of I only use solid pine (or any solid wood for that matter)?
No concerns. But why on earth would you. It would be a lot more time and work, gluing up 24 inch wide stock for case sides. And much wider for case backs, if you are truly going all solid wood.
The work and expense are just way too much for kitchen cabinets. Put your effort and money into the parts that show.
I recently built new cabinets for my home's (quite small) kitchen. Frankly, I cannot imagine trying to construct the carcases from solid wood. It would add a huge amount of work to what is already a very big project for a hobbyist and introduce a bunch of design complexities.
Just prepping the stock will be a major job, then you've going to need to glue up two, three or four board wide panels to fabricate the carcase pieces (which will be 12 to 24 inches wide)--do you have a wide belt sander to clean those up, because they won't be perfect and doing it with a plane or belt sander will take forever. It's pretty much a certainty some or most of those wide glue-ups will cup while they sit days in your shop, until you have time to start assembling them into carcases--and, btw, you'll need to figure out and execute a time-consuming joinery detail to hold them together, since half of every joint will be end grain. Then there is the question of allowing for wood movement across the grain of the lower carcases, while still attaching the counter in some way.
So, basically, solid wood is just the wrong material for the application of making kitchen cabinet carcases--at least the kind of cabinets most people are looking for. (I can see an argument for solid wood if the goal is a deliberately rustic, dirt-simple design that look appropriate in a backwoods cabin.) Plywood is the right material, and pre-finished maple or the like is ideal.
I have to agree with the other posts, just not worth the effort. I would get plywood that is pre-finished on 1 side. That way the interior of the cabinets will be done. Focus on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, those can be solid wood. I wouldn't use pine. A nice hardwood will look and wear much better.
I would echo everything you've already been advised here, adding that you should get plywood prefinished on both sides. Interior should be the most durable - e.g., melamine or the like. Exterior should be the same material used to trim and for door construction. I'll attach a vanity cabinet that is an example where I used plywood for the carcass (back, bottom, sides, and dividers). Here you see I added inset doors and drawers and used cherry plywood and door/trim stock.
Sheet goods are really THE only choice for cab boxes, going back probably at least 60 years.
Solid wood is much more expensive, labor intensive, not to mention the lack of stability (wood movement). Now doubt sooner or later you will get a warped or cupped panel somewhere.
The two main choices for kitchen cabs are prefinished maple ply and melamine.
Often poo-pooed by many, melamine is a great product for kitchens for a few reasons: cost, like the bright interior and resilience to cleaning.
A big decision to make is frameless or face frame. Personally, frameless is the only way to go. If you are interested in learning more about this method, there is an excellent book by Danny Proulx.
A kitchen is a huge project to tackle. The boxes are easy. Material handling and storage is another factor (where do you put all those boxes???)
But having been there I would advise you to think about at least having the doors and drawer fronts fabricated and finished. This is a huge part of the project involving joinery and finishing, and what everybody sees!
Not to discourage but my experience was a love/hate affair mostly due to stupid mistakes/unanticipated issues along the way. I was so burned out by the end of it I didn't go in my shop for 6 months......
A sheet good for the cabinet boxes is both economical and reduces the wood movement issues. Keep in mind, you won't see much of those carcases since they will be covered by doors, drawers and face frames. Some things to think about:
- The carcase when it reaches a wall should not but up to the wall, instead the face frame should but to the wall and be scribed. 2" or 2.5" is common.
-Keep in mind doors in and out of the room and whether they will be hit by a drawer opening.
-If you are doing drawers having the face frame flush with the inside of the carcass can make drawer slides much easier for you.
-The carcase at the end of the row of cabinets can have a faux door put on it that wraps into the front face frame. Out here in California they call them 'Special Finished Ends'. 45 deg miter to the face frame dresses up the cabinet and gives it that custom feel.
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