Ipe For Cabinet Construction

Ipe's coloration, oiliness, irritating dust, and density are disadvantages when it comes to building cabinets. October 27, 2009

I have a customer requesting Ipe cabinets. They will be face frame with raised panel doors and finished ends. She is supplying the lumber. Does anyone have experience with this species? From what I have researched, the wood is very dense and hard on tooling and machinery. Any input would be helpful, such as finishing characteristics, treating glue edges, machining, etc.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
What does she want for a finish?

From contributor B:
How do you plan on gluing it? It doesn't like most glue and likewise with finish.

From contributor C:
I'd check the M/C also as it's not always kiln dried. Plan on replacing tooling when you are done, and you will have to use epoxy or poly glue.

From contributor D:
Use a dust mask whenever you cut it or sand it. It will burn your throat and make your eyes water. Paraffin and oil finishes will work the best on it and you might want to go to the store now and get all new tooling.

From contributor E:
I don't have much to add to what's already been said. It does machine very nicely with sharp tooling, and it will dull tools quickly. Also, if you get any splinters remove them immediately. I also agree on the dust mask advice. It puts out a yellow dust that you really don't want to breathe in.

From contributor F:
You will need to either use piano hinges or ball bearing interior door hinges. Those doors are going to weigh a ton. The material is almost definitely decking material. It is air dried in a container ship and may be full of checks, cups, bows, etc. It may be wet when you receive it.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all for the quick responses. Fortunately, the customer has since decided to use a different material.

From contributor G:
I discourage Ipe as a cabinet wood. It has very non-uniform color, from yellow to khaki to purple to black. You can't gun nail it, as it mushrooms like MDF. Titebond 3 works ok, but best use biscuits, and glue to fresh cut wood as it's very oily. Drill bits self eject with mini-explosions. I had to replace all my socks and t-shirts. The micro needle splinters will lodge permanently in any knit material. Also, I had to re-paint the finished drywall because the dust stained the painted surfaces yellow. It takes 2 guys to lift a contractor's trash bag filled with ipe fine sanding dust into a pickup. In other words, it is dense.