Best Panel Materials for a 32mm Frameless System

A question about plywood versus particleboard sets off a discussion about frameless layout preferences. October 22, 2005

Our two man shop is in the process of converting to a 32mm system, and so far we're having a ball and love the simplicity. Anyhow, is there anyone that consistently uses plywood in their 32mm cabinets? The issue is the consistency of thickness, meaning that slight variations will end up in trouble at the end of a long run of doors. The 3mm gap between then doesn't add up. Are there any suppliers of plywood that are consistent enough in their tolerances to use effectively in 32 mm systems consistently?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
We only build frameless and only use pre-finished plywood. I tried using melamine but regardless of how you slice it, it is particleboard. PB is just an inferior product when compared to plywood. We use our own system, not the 32mm system, although we do borrow from it. As far as the 3mm reveal, if you look at 32mm system cabinet companies in Europe, you will find most reveals at 4-5mm. On ours, we use an overlay of 9/16 on sides and topmost and bottommost. On the shared parts the overlay is 1/4". This will account for the ply being undersized. We always cut for the true measurement to be the inside of the box to ensure that the drawers and other pullouts work properly.

From contributor M:
I use Russian birch. I use .700" (17.78mm) as a standard number. I measured some today and it was 17.98mm, or about .008" greater. I have had little problem with it. I did have one unit that was .688 and under and they replaced it. Unless you are building lockers for a school, I think you should be fine.

From contributor U:
Russian birch is the way to go. We use 18mm BB/B. That is good on one side. We put the good side inside the box and always attach ends in the field. You can get it 60" x 60", 4' x 8' or 8' x 4. As far as the 3mm gap goes, you balance the doors for each box. It will come out the same if you have one cabinet or ten. On a two door cab you have three 3mm gaps. If you are off 1mm with the ply it still comes out to no more than 1/3 mm per gap. I have never had a problem that.

From contributor M:
Not to be picky, but I want to clarify something. Let me offer this caveat - there are many ways to do 32, and each must find what works best for their situation. In a situation where we have 2 doors on one unit, I would have a total of a 6mm reveal. The reveal on the left and right sides would be 1.5mm each, and a 3mm gap between the doors. This way when a unit is hung next to this one, it will have a 1.5mm gap, making the gaps a uniform 3mm where there are doors. It also helps me for sake of consistency to subtract 3mm from the exterior dimension for a single door unit, or 3mm from half of a double door unit.

From contributor U:
What you say about the 1.5mm on each side so that you end up with 3mm when you put two units together is absolutely correct. However, we place a 18mm filler on edge between each unit and we hold that filler flush with the front face of the doors. That way we match the 18mm end panel that we attach on each finish end. Using the 18mm filler also helps us keep the upper and lower units lined up as well as matching the 18mm filler that we use at each end that runs into a wall.