Plywood Versus Solid Wood for Recessed Panel Cabinet Doors

      A discussion of door construction material and methods. November 29, 2014

I always feel that a solid wood panel in a recessed panel cabinet door is better than a plywood panel. But in fact, the plywood panel makes a better door reducing panel movement, warping, etc. I think that 99% of customers don't really know or care. What are your thoughts? Is a plywood panel considered ok in a middle of the road type of job (not super high end, but custom and not budget)? Does AWI specify anything?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
For me it depends on grade mostly (FAS and Select). I prefer MDF Core 1/4" panels. If itís rustic and requiring knots I use wood.

From Contributor B:
What does better mean? If the panel is not raised/profiled on the edges, plywood or MDF core is a much more stable and less expensive method. There isn't a client I've met who would be able to tell the difference (and I'd bet majority of woodworkers wouldn't know either after assembled.) AWI allows solid panels if the width does not exceed the standard.

From contributor F:
My two problems with plywood are:

1. Most of the time it stains or takes color differently than the solid frame around it.

2. The weight makes is seem like a weak, flimsy door.

From contributor T:
AWI Spec:
Edge glued solid lumber is permitted if .5'' in thickness and width across grain is 13.75'' or less. Custom Grade. (Stay under 13.75'' in cross grain width and over .5'' thickness and it passes custom grade,)
Solid lumber is not permitted in Premium Grade.

Contributor F is right, the color of laid up panels does not usually match solid stock. One trick I have used in the past is to stain some cutoffs of the solid and veneer stock. Usually the veneer is lighter than the solid wood. Pre-treat a piece of the veneer with a wash coat or light stain then apply normal stain over panel until the color of the panel is the same as the solid stock. This is similar to priming panels before assembly so you won't see expansion or contraction. Apply wash coat to all panel stock then carefully assemble doors and use stain over panels and solid stock as normal.

Or mix up toner to even out veneer after. This is pretty typical with face frame cabinetry. Solid frames look different then the carcass. We use .375'' MDF core for many of our flat panel stile and rail doors. We mill our solid stock thicker usually around .925. We use .375'' groovers with our standard freeborn door sets. This way there is no back cut on the panel. These doors end up around .875'' after going through the wide belt. This makes a rugged door. I would stay away from using veneer core for doors. It's light and is apt to cup both ways. We will use it our exterior doors but that's only for .75 flat panels and in a marine grade ply. Usually paint grade.

From contributor L:
Contributor T is correct on all points. For flat panels use MDF core, itís better than plywood or solid! You will get a better finish by wash coating. I've personally never seem AWI Premium used in residential. We've done it for boardrooms, corporate offices, churches, a Chancellor's office and a museum.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Cabinetmaking

  • KnowledgeBase: Cabinetmaking: Cabinet Door Construction

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2020 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article