Material for Doors with False Drawer Fronts

Furnituremakers discuss whether to use solid wood or MDF and veneer for a set of vanity doors with fake drawer fronts. April 27, 2011

I am getting ready to start on a sink console very similar to the one pictured below. The 3 drawers on the far left and far right are actually doors. I assume these are MDF cores with veneer front and back with edge banded veneer. Do you see any possibility in using solid wood to make these doors?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor J:
Not if you want it to look right or behave well. The horizontal grain direction would force you to have large gaps at the top and bottom to accommodate movement, and the hinges would constantly be wrenched out of position by that same movement.

From contributor L:
I don't like using MDF around water. Any damage to the finish can cause damage, though if veneered it should be okay. To make them out of solid wood, you might make a frame and panel door, e.g. a door with 3 panels so the rails looks right, then apply drawer fronts to the panels - a lot of work, but deals with the expansion issues.

From contributor P:
If the doors are supposed to look like the adjacent drawers, there should be gaps in between. Make the false drawer fronts 1/2" thick and attach them to matching 1/2" (or 3/4") thick edgebanded ply. Attach each drawer front only in the middle to allow for movement. Edges may not look the greatest, but they're hidden anyway.

From contributor L:
I think you can make the solid wood frame and MDF with veneer. If you use the solid wood to produce the door, you have to keep the shrink and swell gap. You also need to adjust the grain direction. It is not easy to find the right material.

From contributor C:
I would make it from MDF. Use a veneered panel and add saw kerfs to simulate the banded area. With a little stain and some glaze it will come out exactly like what they have in the picture.

From contributor M:
Don't forget - they make moisture resistant MDF.

From contributor I:
Try 1/4 sawn wood with back battens. Glue the center drawer head and let the top and bottom float with screw slots. The 1/4 sawn wood will move very little and the battens will just help to keep them flat.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. What would be your take on this approach? Build the basic door frame with tongue and groove approach. Make this frame the actual door dimensions. You can see in the picture that there are 3 false drawers and 2 false front rails that make up the door. What if I made these five parts from solid wood, then milled the outer edges that meet the door frame with tongues that would move freely in the grooves on the door frame? I would mill that tongue on the back side, then on the front they would overlap the door frame and fill out the dimensions of the entire door. I was even thinking about making all five pieces (drawers and rails) with tongue and grooves where they met on the edges. I would allow for expansion in the design.

From contributor H:
Medex or Medite, not MDF, is what I have been using for vanities that are veneered.