Cabinet material advice

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wbwufpack

New User
Brian
I am going to be building some built in cabinets and shelves for our playroom soon. The cabinets will be painted white with a stained poplar top. This is my first shot at making "real" cabinets so I am using them as a learning experience before I build nicer cabinets for a kitchen. I have worked up what I think is a good design in Sketchup so it is time to start picking up materials.

These are going to be painted so I am considering using the 3/4" Sande plywood sold at Home Depot since one side is already primed. I have used that product for some shop furniture and it seemed decent for $45 per sheet.

Do you all think rough cut poplar is the best (most cost effective) choice for the cabinet face frames and door rails and stiles? I do not have a jointer but I do have a planer along with a sled to flatten and another sled to rip a straight edge. Milling all of the necessary lumber is going to be time consuming but the finished stuff, including pine, at HD or Lowes is just too dang expensive. Is there another product I should be considering since these are going to be painted?
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
For the boxes themselves, I would use white melamine, 5/8" thick. Backs could be 1/2" melamine. You would have to purchase it from somewhere other than BORGS. Simple butt joints with screws, including the overlay back panel. Wurth sells assembly screws just for this purpose. Because face frames are going to be painted, I would look at HD for some 1 X 6, or 1 X 8 white pine that could be ripped to yield the needed parts for face frames. Doors could be plywood, edge banded, and painted. Remember that the only part of your cabinets that show are the FF and doors. I find HD to have a better selection of "white wood" boards than Lowes
 

Canuck

Wayne
Corporate Member
If you plan on using birch plywood from HD, have a look at Columbia Forest products ply. (from Western NC.) A few dollars more but much better quality- flat and literally no voids. Have had Sandeply actually delaminate on me in the past.

Wayne
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
+1 on the Home Depot hardwood plywood. Flat, no voids, and decent veneer. As good or better as plywood I've purchased from specialty lumber stores. More than adequate for paint.

So why not buy something a little cheaper since its going to be painted anyway? Nothing more frustrating than working with plywood that's bowed or twisted. Very difficult to get a square box when you're fighting it every step of the way.

MDF is definitely flat, but quite heavy.
 

wbwufpack

New User
Brian
For some reason I didn't really consider MDF but it makes sense for the boxes in this application. I don't mind the extra weight and nobody will be able to tell once it is all painted. The inside of the cabinets won't be as pretty but something tells me my kids toys won't complain too much.

The white wood and pine from HD is really pricey, like $5 per board foot pricey. I am leaning towards making a trip to the hardwood store to pick up a load of poplar. It runs $2.20 per BF and it looks like they will flatten it for $.40 extra per BF. I have never been there before but I have always heard good things so I can justify the hour drive from Wake Forest.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
Don't use MDF despite all of its good properties. MDF is hard to fasten together into a 5 sided box with special screws and wood glue. Just an opinion and plywood is much easier to work with and fasten with wood screws.

You'll like The Hardwood Store for many reasons.
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
They were in short supply last time I was there (to get a sheet of oak plywood) but I've used half a dozen sheets of a Pine plywood HD sells. It used to be only $30/sheet but was also up in price recently. I've used it for shop stuff but also a painted cabinet for my bathroom. I sprayed it with a primer sold by Hood Finishing and tinted Resisthane. You can't tell it's even plywood. It is sturdy, easy to join together (I used pocket screws and either filled the holes before painting or put them where they can't be seen (on the top and bottom and also a couple biscuits which really helped with the tendency of pocket screws to pull the piece out of position). If you can still get it and the price seems good, I think it is better than the plywood you were thinking - which I have also used.

The oak plywood I got most recently had poplar inner plys. Never gotten that good a plywood at HD. The sheet before it had softwood inner plys but almost no voids.
 

Herdfan2005

Jason
Senior User
They were in short supply last time I was there (to get a sheet of oak plywood) but I've used half a dozen sheets of a Pine plywood HD sells. It used to be only $30/sheet but was also up in price recently. I've used it for shop stuff but also a painted cabinet for my bathroom. I sprayed it with a primer sold by Hood Finishing and tinted Resisthane. You can't tell it's even plywood. It is sturdy, easy to join together (I used pocket screws and either filled the holes before painting or put them where they can't be seen (on the top and bottom and also a couple biscuits which really helped with the tendency of pocket screws to pull the piece out of position). If you can still get it and the price seems good, I think it is better than the plywood you were thinking - which I have also used.

The oak plywood I got most recently had poplar inner plys. Never gotten that good a plywood at HD. The sheet before it had softwood inner plys but almost no voids.
Yeah this is the decent pine plywood, seems like just last year I could get it for $29 a sheet which was a good deal. I thing it is like 36 now. I did have to deal with some good warpage with some but for shop cabinets it was a good value. Seems like as soon as it saw the outdoors it warped sometimes.
 

Gofor

Mark
Corporate Member
If you can find some MDO (medium density overlay), it makes great cabinets. It is hardwood ply with one face covered by a thin layer of MDF. This makes the outside easy to paint, but gives a natural wood interior.

When I was building my garage cabinets, I lucked out and found some 3/4" MDO at Builders Discount Center for $11 a 4'x8' sheet.

Sorry, no pics because the gallery won't come up.

Go
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
Sandeply is OK you have to watch the surface not always consistent lift to lift. I recommend 2 coats of primer if painting sand with 320 between coats. Birch has a better surface for painting. MDF even better.

I would never build cabs of MDF simply due to the weight. I use it for panels, tho.

IMO melamine is an excellent choice for this application. Get it from a supplier, not HD.

Poplar is ok just be aware of variations in pigment I stay away from the really dark green areas. I use BIN shellac based primer.

Personally I wouldn't even attempt to make doors without a jointer. That said, if you have nice straight boards you may get away with just a planer. Otherwise, I would hand plane one face flat.

A good alternative method is frameless cabs. Avoids a face frame entirely. For me, its the only way to go. I like the cleaner look you can use any type of door. I like the 32mm system and concealed hinges. Danny Proulx has an excellent book if you're interested.
 

shawn

shawn
Senior User
Pre-finished maple ply is great for cabinet boxes. Light weight and fairly durable. Saves a ton of time. White or maple melamine provides a very durable surface, but it's heavy. Finishing cabinet interiors is a drag! spend the time on the doors and drawer heads, trim etc.
 

wbwufpack

New User
Brian
I called The Hardwood Store and that does seem like a great place. I am within the RDU delivery area so I think I am going to take that route since the charge is very reasonable. The will also surface the poplar on 3 sides for a reasonable fee which will also be a huge time saver for me.

They do not have any paint grade plywood so I think MDF may be the way to go here. I have seen several folks mention that MDF may be too heavy for this application. Is the weight still a concern even if the cabinets are not going to be hung on the wall? I don't plan on moving these things!

The other concern I saw is that it can be tricky to build the boxes with butt joints. I plan to use rabbets and dados to fasten the boxes together. That is probably making things more complicated than they need to be for this application but I want the practice.

Now on to finding a good supplier for the drawer slides and hinges.....
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
Cshardware.com. If you want economical full extension ball bearing slides, it's hard to beat their price. SKU 39.1150.22. They also have a full range of Euro hinges. They're not soft close though.

I think rabbets and dadoes is fine for construction. It makes it easier to line everything up during glue-up. I'd still use some screws to reinforce the joints though.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
If you're intent on building the floor cabinets from MDF using dados and rabbits (standard case construction) then you'll need special screws for MDF. Spax MDF screws or Confirmat screws.

https://www.ncwoodworker.net/forums/showthread.php?t=66210

Although 3/4" t plywood is about twice as expensive as 3/4" MDF you can make your life easier by using plywood and plain old wood screws even though the case pieces are going to painted. :eusa_thin

Now on to finding a good supplier for the drawer slides and hinges.....
More trouble on your horizon. How're you going to fasten the slides and hinges to MDF? Another good reason to use plywood and wood screws in my opinion.
 
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Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
You're right rabbets and dado add a lot of time for very little benefit. Besides the fact rabbets are not necessary, I don't recommend them in MDF. IMO it will weaken the joint. Plus, you're shop will end up coated in the dust.

Its really not tricky to use butt joints. In fact its kind of the "industry standard" in building cabs. Clamp, flush them up & screw. Glue optional I don't even use glue most of the time (with melamine you can't glue anyway).

You're painting so just fill the holes and you'll be fine. I like Bondo for this. Lately I've been using the GRX trim head screws in plywood they really hold. I'm wondering how they would do in MDF.

A word of caution on the surfacing. If you check I think you'll find they do not joint boards, they just run them through the planer to 13/16". That leaves NO room to correct a slight warp or twist, which is not good for door making.

Personally I always buy rough lumber and mill it myself. Your project won't take that long to do.

I buy from either Woodworkers Supply or CS Hardware, but lately I've bought some cheapo slides on Amazon and they seem ok.

BTW another option for cabs is to make the sides raised panels like the doors with MDF or plywood panels.
 
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