What is hardwood plywood and aren’t all plywoods the same?

Plywood is a panel composed of layers of inner plies or other core material, joined with an adhesive to a face veneer of the specified wood. They aren’t all the same. “Hardwood” indicates the veneer but not always what is composing the plies. Your cabinetmaker should be glad to discuss the products he’s using.

What are the differences in hardwood plywood?

The differences in hardwood plywood all revolve around the interior plies, since the outer hardwood veneer can be applied over any core material and still be called “hardwood plywood”. * Veneer core is composed of actual wood plies, crosshatched (the grain of each ply at a right angle to the previous ply) and glued up to form the core. It glues up well, takes and holds screws well, and provides good strength. * Hardwood plywoods may also have an engineered panel at the core, such as particleboard or MDF board (medium density fiberboard). Engineered panels are being used more and more as they are more cost effective than veneer core. Particleboard is manufactured from pressed sawmill shavings, resin and wax. MDF is composed of pressure-cooked wood fiber, resin and wax. While offering excellent flatness characteristics, they do not take or hold screws as well as veneer core.

Why aren’t cabinets built from solid wood panels instead of plywood?

Plywood panels offer many advantages over solid wood panels. Solid wood reacts to changes in temperature and humidity by periodically swelling and contracting. Plywood doesn’t. Therefore, a large panel of solid wood is likely to buckle, warp, and split within a short amount of time. Plywood resists these temperature and humidity changes, giving it stability over time.

What do you mean by “custom” woodworking?

Custom woodworking can include anything from kitchen cabinets to fireplace mantels, bookcases to bathroom vanities. It is any project built specifically for you and your needs. No two projects are alike and you won’t find its twin in your neighbor’s house or in a catalog.

What is the difference between that and what can I get at the store?

Quality, character and your input. Retail stores mass-produce products, so your piece cannot be unique. When a large store offers custom cabinets, they often are offering a reconfiguration of pre-built boxes. Many people are surprised to discover that some of the most common names in furniture such as Drexel Heritage, Lexington, Broyhill, Hammary and Ethan Allen manufacture their products overseas.

What does “Made in the USA” mean?

You may think the answer is pretty obvious, but it isn’t. Items can be properly labelled “Made in the USA” even when they’ve been shipped here from overseas. According to Russell Batson, VP of governmental affairs for the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA), as quoted in Modern Woodworking, June 2002, “the ‘Made in the USA’ label recognizes that some components are coming from other places but final assembly takes place here.” To qualify for this label the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) requires that the product has been substantially transformed in the US. Did you know that the following labels indicate that a product has NOT undergone any substantial transformation after reaching the US? “Made in USA with foreign parts,” “Produced in USA with imported raw materials,” or “Manufactured in USA with sub-assemblies from {xyz}.” In this case, “made”, “produced” and “manufactured” may be used to represent final packaging or marketing. If it’s important to you that the product is entirely made here in the US (not just substantially changed), ask your cabinetmaker. He or she should not hesitate to inform you of their practices.

What should I look for in a quality cabinetmaker?

A. Expect a portfolio showcasing some of his or her work. B. Expect to be able to see a sample of his or her work that you can look at to get an idea of the construction methods and materials used. C. Expect a list of references. D. Expect a contract. It is your best insurance that you will get what you are paying for. It should contain details of the project, such as who is responsible for items like electrical, plumbing, and installation work, as well as a payment schedule.

Do you have any other industry-related questions?   We’d be glad to answer them! Drop us an email at info@woodshopartisans.com or give us a call at 417.379.2229.