Author Topic: Plywood face frames?  (Read 2326 times)

Offline phillamb168

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Plywood face frames?
« on: December 15, 2013, 07:55:18 AM »
So originally I was going to be milling all the face frames for our kitchen redo myself, from cherry stock (same for the door rails & stiles). However that precluded getting a table saw, and for the moment I think we're holding off on that purchase.

I am wondering if anyone knows of any reason other than aesthetic that I could not use birch plywood for cabinets, face frames, rails and stiles and panels all together? The cabinets would be getting painted, face frame assembly is with biscuits and pocket hole screws. The face frames on the drawer side will get a 3/16" radius beaded edge, so I will need to be routing the faces of the ply. Should I be concerned about chip out on the router cuts? Is there any reason why I can't get away with 100% ply for the whole kitchen? I am thinking to use 20mm ply for the whole project.

As an FYI/reminder, I'm in France, there are no such things as lumber supply stores, and plywood is $75 a sheet, which is still way cheaper than pre-milled precut hardwoods.
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Offline yso191

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2013, 09:07:03 AM »
If I understood what you are asking, you are right.  Using a router on plywood will be ugly as sin no matter how fast the blade is spinning or how slow you go with the cut.  You will get chipping; but even if you didn't the shaped edge would look nasty and wouldn't evenly stain.

Plywood is often used as a non-shaped panel though.  One just routes an edge on the rails and stiles that the plywood panel sits in.  So really one only needs to use solid wood on the frame of the doors.  To use solid panels would be an upgrade, but if you are looking to save money go with plywood.

Also, I'm not sure I would attempt the project with a router (handheld), but would try to find a shaper (a table version of a router) that I could use.  Just a thought to avoid ruining a bunch of material because you can't secure it well enough.
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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2013, 09:35:50 AM »
Phil, you are contemplating the thing that I just did for cabinets in my bar and basement. I used 3/4" oak and 3/4 birch plywood. For the painted cabinets, the birch was fine. The red oak cabinets came out very nicely after staining and sealing. Excepting for corner areas where the plywood edge is visible, you would have to look pretty hard to know they are not lumber faces.

When you consider that a ply face frame is more structurally sound than lumber pieces, it is easy to go that route. I gulped at the $50 per sheet cost of the oak plywood, but quickly calmed down when I considered the cost for finished oak lumber and the need to employ biscuits and other means to bring the frame together. I also had concern with the waste from having to cut out and waste the plywood for drawer and cabinet openings. But I couldn't argue with the cost and structural soundness.

I did 'route' the edges to create receiving channels at the corners and cabinet floors to enhance the structural joints. All joints were glued and finished nailed. I do not have a working router, but I do have my circular table and hand saws. I wanted to use a Dado blade to form the channels, but my table saw arbor was too short. So I had to make the channels the hard way with multiple parallel saw cuts and then chiseling out the channel to final depth and finish. It was a pain, but did not degrade the appearance of the finished product.

Regarding the ply edges, I could have planned for applying oak or birch veneers over those areas. But those edges are so hidden, a visitor would probably never see them. 

Go for it.
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2013, 10:49:27 AM »
Martin, did you do any routing on the face of the boards? I really want that detail and am worried that it'll be just like Steve is talking about. Here's a pic of what I'm trying to do FYI if this helps:

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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2013, 02:45:39 PM »
You can do some very cool finishes with plywood.  Including routing and edge finishing.  I grew up in a farm house where all the kitchen cabinets were plywood.  As long as you are using good finished, 7 layer plywood you can do some beautiful work.  It's not cheap but it works well and is completely stable.

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2013, 06:37:45 PM »
No fancy moulding with a router. My basement is in a Craftsmen/Mission styling, so the woodwork is fairly square and blocky. By the way, all my cabinet doors and drawer faces were bought from a cabinet shop, so it looks professional.
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2013, 06:29:07 AM »
My mom's house (the one I grew up in) has birch plywood cabinetry in the kitchen.  My grandfather built it (he was a cabinet maker).  The lines are simple, but all the edges are rounded. They are stained and still look nice after 55 years.  I believe it is 7 ply.
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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2013, 12:10:08 PM »
My mom's house (the one I grew up in) has birch plywood cabinetry in the kitchen.  My grandfather built it (he was a cabinet maker).  The lines are simple, but all the edges are rounded. They are stained and still look nice after 55 years.  I believe it is 7 ply.

Same design in the farm house I mentioned.  7 layer birch w/ the outside edges turned with a 1/4 round bit.  Ours had a natural finish, no stain, just poly and looked as good the day my folks sold the acreage as the day we moved in.  30 years and some combo of all 8 kids later they were still going strong.

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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2013, 12:47:06 PM »
When my dad redid our kitchen cabinets when I was a kid he used oak finish ply for the faces and edged in natural oak lumber. This approach saved lots of money as the whole face didn't need to be solid lumber but he could still put a lot of detail around the edges.

With the left over oak lumber he bordered the counter and made some thresholds for the door ways.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2013, 01:31:40 PM »
When my dad redid our kitchen cabinets when I was a kid he used oak finish ply for the faces and edged in natural oak lumber. This approach saved lots of money as the whole face didn't need to be solid lumber but he could still put a lot of detail around the edges.

With the left over oak lumber he bordered the counter and made some thresholds for the door ways.

Don't they make cabinet grade plywood for exactly this purpose?

IME, it's not used for the face frames, though, as you can see the plys (plies?).

Phil - I understand it's not as easy as going out to Lowe's to buy a sheet of plywood, but I'd do a few tests with the router before you decide that's the route to go.  Even if you can get a clean cut, you may not like how the exposed plys (there we go again) look.
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Offline MDixon

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2013, 06:19:57 AM »
I'd still get a table saw. You don't have to get the best one in the world to have great results. I think mine was a contractor grade and was less than $100 and I've used it on tons of projects. It would be nice to have a great table saw, but it just isn't necessary IMO. Of course I don't even see a cheapy cheap table saw listed on the home improvement big box websites. If you do get one, spend the money on the blade.

I'd make the frames and edges out of wood and then rabbet them for the plywood boxes. You also might want to take a look at getting a Kreg set or the French equivalent. http://www.kregtool.com/pocket-hole-jigs-prodlist.html
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2013, 03:27:05 AM »
Thanks guys. Believe it or not the idea of just trying out a piece of spare ply on the router did not occur to me. Not enough coffee these days.

I have also considered getting a contractor saw, but they're still on the order of 500 euros for a basic dewalt (~$750). But the problem is not ripping, the problem is planing them down to an appropriate size.

Still I have plenty of plywood primer, off-white paint and spare bits of ply so I guess I'll just give it a go and see how it looks.

Thanks!
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2013, 05:03:35 AM »
Plywood is the thickness it is.  You can't plane it so I can understand your concerns a bit more.  I would love a planer but have not found the right justification for it yet.

Good luck and have fun with the project.

Paul
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2013, 02:02:19 AM »
Should have clarified, my problems related to planing and whatnot are due to stupid wood dimensions here. You cannot buy "standard dimensions" (even EU standard) because hardwood isn't sold to the general public in pre-cut form, it's only available in specialty shops as rough sawn wavy planks. Hence my need of many, many tools...

Plywood is the thickness it is.  You can't plane it so I can understand your concerns a bit more.  I would love a planer but have not found the right justification for it yet.

Good luck and have fun with the project.

Paul
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Plywood face frames?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2013, 06:14:37 AM »
Should have clarified, my problems related to planing and whatnot are due to stupid wood dimensions here. You cannot buy "standard dimensions" (even EU standard) because hardwood isn't sold to the general public in pre-cut form, it's only available in specialty shops as rough sawn wavy planks. Hence my need of many, many tools...

Plywood is the thickness it is.  You can't plane it so I can understand your concerns a bit more.  I would love a planer but have not found the right justification for it yet.

Good luck and have fun with the project.

Paul

I can definitely see the problems then.  That presents quite a barrier to entry to the home woodworker.  To work with rough cut, undimensioned lumber means minimally having a band saw, table saw and thickness planer which are all expensive.

Good luck with your project.

Paul
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