Author Topic: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?  (Read 1747 times)

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Offline Bugsysiegals

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Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« on: September 16, 2020, 06:02 PM »
I bought several sheets of Birch plywood to make drawer boxes for several shop cabinets.  I'll eventually move onto kitchen cabinets and wonder whether you all use plywood with edge banding or hardwood for your cabinet drawer boxes?  If plywood, what edge banding do you recommend?

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Offline rjboch

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2020, 06:29 PM »
I think it may be a preference/design thing, but I like using a high quality 1/2" (9 ply) baltic birch for drawer sides and I leave the plies exposed on most cabinets. This is more of a design preference since I like that style. However, if I was building what some would define as 'fine woodworking' (whatever that means), I may consider hardwood. Its really up to you and/or client (if applicable). Included a photo of an in-progress closet built-in (drawer faces have not been installed yet)...1/2" BB sides and 1/4" bottom. 

Offline rmhinden

  • Posts: 357
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2020, 06:47 PM »
Plywood can be a design feature on high end cabinets.  We had cabinets made for our kitchen remodel by a company called Henrybuilt in Seattle.   They made the plies on the wood a design feature.



We love them.  Wish I had a source for this quality of plywood.  We visited their manufacturing facility one, it was very impressive.   

Bob


Offline afish

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2020, 07:44 PM »
Count me as a exposed ply drawer box guy also.  Not so much for the face but my drawer boxes are Russian birch (cant find baltic birch by me) and I join the boxes with "exposed" Dominos.  I feel they give a clean modern look to the drawer without the complexity of dovetails with rock solid results.   

Offline Bugsysiegals

  • Posts: 375
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2020, 08:11 PM »
Count me as a exposed ply drawer box guy also.  Not so much for the face but my drawer boxes are Russian birch (cant find baltic birch by me) and I join the boxes with "exposed" Dominos.  I feel they give a clean modern look to the drawer without the complexity of dovetails with rock solid results.   

I had the chance to get Russian Birch for $35 per sheet or Baltic Birch from a buddy who owns a cabinet shop for ~$30.  I opted for the Russian Birch as I don't want anybody feeling I'm using them.  That said, besides some initial rough edges, it seems like decent plywood ... how would you know the difference between the two?

Offline kevinculle

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2020, 08:58 PM »
I also use high quality prefinished maple ply for my drawer boxes and leave the edges visible.

Offline afish

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2020, 09:03 PM »
"Typically" the baltic birch comes in 5x5 sheets I think you can get it pre finished too However since I cant seem to find any Baltic birch in my area I cant really say.  The russian I get does have some face patches I usually try to work around. 

Offline StanB

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2020, 10:14 PM »
Unless I am making furniture I’d go 9 ply Baltic/Russian birch ply. It is consistent, looks good, no voids/cracks and I don’t have to dimension it to thickness. Just cut to width and length and get the drawer done. I like to do the concealed dominos and nice clean sides. Quick and easy.
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Offline Bugsysiegals

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2020, 11:10 PM »
The Birch I bought is 9 ply and did come in 5x5. I will say it has football looking piece in it which I’m not sure if is the case on Baltic Birch. Also, I do remember now that there are some bad areas with cracks that I either avoided or will make the back side of the drawer box.

Offline Bugsysiegals

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2020, 11:15 PM »
I do like the 9 ply appearance, at least for shop cabinets, but will likely not leave them exposed for kitchen drawer boxes. That said, is the iron on edge banding strong enough to hold up for kitchen, dining, bathroom, laundry room cabinets or do you guys rip thin strips of hardwood, glue, and trim it instead?

Offline jcrowe1950

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2020, 11:55 PM »
I do like the 9 ply appearance, at least for shop cabinets, but will likely not leave them exposed for kitchen drawer boxes. That said, is the iron on edge banding strong enough to hold up for kitchen, dining, bathroom, laundry room cabinets or do you guys rip thin strips of hardwood, glue, and trim it instead?
There are two kinds of "easy to use" edge banding. The iron on edge banding can be good if correctly applied. In my experience, you want to buy fresh product and store it properly. When it gets old, the glue does not seem to melt and adhere as well. You will also want to sand the surface to be edged and then clean up the dust really well. When you heat up the glue start at one end, and get a steady pressure and rate of  movement on the iron.....then use a block of flat wood to burnish it (or perhaps a J roller). Burnish the edges as well at say a 30˚ angle. Another challenge is trimming it. The two-edge simultaneous trimmers have never worked well for me and many of our customers agree with that experience. I am lucky in that I can use the MFK 700 which excels at that task. The Conturo works well but that is, for me, a real stretch. I know the store has sold one or two in the past because we order supplies for them periodically. I got to use one in a class and it's sweet....just not justifiable for me. One other approach if you want to leave your plies showing is to put a slight bullnose profile on the top edge with a router.
Festool Specialist at Woodcraft, Chattanooga, TN

Offline afish

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2020, 07:17 AM »
Ahh, iron on edge banding is like torture for me.  I hate doing it and why I spent the money for the conturo.  There is no way I would put it on drawers.  The fastcap edge banding has a flaw too.  The adhesive edge tends to stay sticky ( yes its only a couple thousands) but tends to create a black line since it attracts dirt.  This was white on white project so it was the worst possible scenario.  It might be better if it was real wood edge banding that was going to be finished and would seal the edge of the tape.  I do hit the drawer with a small round over just to soften the edges. 

Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2020, 10:18 AM »
I am lucky in that I can use the MFK 700 which excels at that task.

@jcrowe1950 Thank you.  I am interested in this information.  I have been doing a lot of edge banding on birch for garage cabinets.  How does the MFK as a trim router do the edge banding better than your basic trim router?  Does it fare well out of the box or do I have to buy a few accessories to get the most out of it?

Offline Bugsysiegals

  • Posts: 375
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2020, 10:34 AM »
Ahh, iron on edge banding is like torture for me.  I hate doing it and why I spent the money for the conturo.  There is no way I would put it on drawers.  The fastcap edge banding has a flaw too.  The adhesive edge tends to stay sticky ( yes its only a couple thousands) but tends to create a black line since it attracts dirt.  This was white on white project so it was the worst possible scenario.  It might be better if it was real wood edge banding that was going to be finished and would seal the edge of the tape.  I do hit the drawer with a small round over just to soften the edges.

It seems better to buy the Birch hardwood in the case of the cabinets which I will not want ply's exposed.  Thanks, I've never edge banded and am not familiar with the effort.

Offline afish

  • Posts: 80
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2020, 01:40 PM »
Ahh, iron on edge banding is like torture for me.  I hate doing it and why I spent the money for the conturo.  There is no way I would put it on drawers.  The fastcap edge banding has a flaw too.  The adhesive edge tends to stay sticky ( yes its only a couple thousands) but tends to create a black line since it attracts dirt.  This was white on white project so it was the worst possible scenario.  It might be better if it was real wood edge banding that was going to be finished and would seal the edge of the tape.  I do hit the drawer with a small round over just to soften the edges.

It seems better to buy the Birch hardwood in the case of the cabinets which I will not want ply's exposed.  Thanks, I've never edge banded and am not familiar with the effort.

Its not that its laborious but its slow going and if your not careful or try to rush it and dont heat the glue good enough you can get spots that dont fully adhere and bubble or the edge lifts.  This of course typically isnt noticed until you spray a coat or two of finish.  It happens more with a MDF core and the very porous edges.   

Offline kevinculle

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2020, 08:19 PM »
It's also an option to edgeband plywood with solid stock but it adds considerably to the effort.  I find the iron-on edgebanding to be dodgy at best.

Offline jcrowe1950

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2020, 08:29 PM »
I am lucky in that I can use the MFK 700 which excels at that task.

@jcrowe1950 Thank you.  I am interested in this information.  I have been doing a lot of edge banding on birch for garage cabinets.  How does the MFK as a trim router do the edge banding better than your basic trim router?  Does it fare well out of the box or do I have to buy a few accessories to get the most out of it?

    The MFK 700 kit comes with a base that is used specifically to do edge banding trimming. Hard to describe how it works but you take the motor off the default base and mount a horizontal base which allows you to route a 1.5˚ bevel on your edge banding and with .1mm adjustability in depth of cut, it's pretty easy to dial the trim in. The only caveat is that if you have two cabinet edges adjacent to each other the 1.5˚ bevel becomes visible between cabinets, but Festool, of course has an answer..the 0˚ bevel base. I'm fairly certain that Sedge covers it briefly in one of the Festool Friday videos. Suffice it to say, my description is inadequate but if you are ever in Chattanooga I can demo it for you... 8)
Festool Specialist at Woodcraft, Chattanooga, TN

Offline jcrowe1950

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2020, 08:35 PM »
It's also an option to edgeband plywood with solid stock but it adds considerably to the effort.  I find the iron-on edgebanding to be dodgy at best.

   In my opinion, I like solid edge banding a lot more than veneer edge banding. This is especially true if you are making a "better than Ikea" class of furniture. I have used tongue and groove for solid edge banding and there are also router bit sets that cut a V in the sheet goods and the matching profile for the actual edge banding....if you trim it really carefully to the hardwood plywood...it can appear to be solid wood.....tricky but doable. 8)
Festool Specialist at Woodcraft, Chattanooga, TN

Offline afish

  • Posts: 80
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2020, 09:23 PM »
I am lucky in that I can use the MFK 700 which excels at that task.

@jcrowe1950 Thank you.  I am interested in this information.  I have been doing a lot of edge banding on birch for garage cabinets.  How does the MFK as a trim router do the edge banding better than your basic trim router?  Does it fare well out of the box or do I have to buy a few accessories to get the most out of it?

With a typical trim router when you trim the edge banding you have to balance the trimmer on the narrow edge of the stock.  The main benefit of the MFK is the horizontal base allows the tool to register off the side and provides a much more stable platform.  It also has special bits for for perfect round-overs on 1mm, 1.5mm or 2mm edge banding.  If you are just looking for a quick (cheaper) alternative fastcap has the lil'lipper that attaches to a standard trimmer.  It wont give you all the bells and whistles of the MFK but will provide 90 degree edge banding trimming without having to try and balance the trimmer on the 3/4" edge.

Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 257
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #19 on: September 17, 2020, 10:42 PM »
The MFK 700 kit comes with a base that is used specifically to do edge banding trimming. Hard to describe how it works but you take the motor off the default base and mount a horizontal base which allows you to route a 1.5˚ bevel on your edge banding and with .1mm adjustability in depth of cut, it's pretty easy to dial the trim in. The only caveat is that if you have two cabinet edges adjacent to each other the 1.5˚ bevel becomes visible between cabinets, but Festool, of course has an answer..the 0˚ bevel base. I'm fairly certain that Sedge covers it briefly in one of the Festool Friday videos. Suffice it to say, my description is inadequate but if you are ever in Chattanooga I can demo it for you...

Thanks for the description, I appreciate it.  I actually grew up in Chattanooga but don't get back there much. 

Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 257
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #20 on: September 17, 2020, 10:46 PM »
With a typical trim router when you trim the edge banding you have to balance the trimmer on the narrow edge of the stock.  The main benefit of the MFK is the horizontal base allows the tool to register off the side and provides a much more stable platform.  It also has special bits for for perfect round-overs on 1mm, 1.5mm or 2mm edge banding.  If you are just looking for a quick (cheaper) alternative fastcap has the lil'lipper that attaches to a standard trimmer.  It wont give you all the bells and whistles of the MFK but will provide 90 degree edge banding trimming without having to try and balance the trimmer on the 3/4" edge.
Thank you.  Does it come with those special bits you mention.  I had forgotten about the "Lil-lipper" but I can see a lot of edge banding in my future so a more solid choice (like the MFK) makes sense.  Just have to make sure $600 is worth it.

Offline Bugsysiegals

  • Posts: 375
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #21 on: September 17, 2020, 11:47 PM »
I am lucky in that I can use the MFK 700 which excels at that task.

@jcrowe1950 Thank you.  I am interested in this information.  I have been doing a lot of edge banding on birch for garage cabinets.  How does the MFK as a trim router do the edge banding better than your basic trim router?  Does it fare well out of the box or do I have to buy a few accessories to get the most out of it?

    The MFK 700 kit comes with a base that is used specifically to do edge banding trimming. Hard to describe how it works but you take the motor off the default base and mount a horizontal base which allows you to route a 1.5˚ bevel on your edge banding and with .1mm adjustability in depth of cut, it's pretty easy to dial the trim in. The only caveat is that if you have two cabinet edges adjacent to each other the 1.5˚ bevel becomes visible between cabinets, but Festool, of course has an answer..the 0˚ bevel base. I'm fairly certain that Sedge covers it briefly in one of the Festool Friday videos. Suffice it to say, my description is inadequate but if you are ever in Chattanooga I can demo it for you... 8)
I ended up buying the OF1010 and adapters to use it to trim 3/4” hardwood edge banding I glued to some shop cabinets.  It worked good enough to get it close and then I finished with a hand plane. The only downside was the kids were making noise upstairs and I lost focus for a second which caused me to forget to support the weight and it caused a bit of a gouge on a small section. This probably wouldn’t have happened with the MFK but I didn’t think the MFK could handle 3/4” edge banding ... is it true the max depth it can handle is 1/2”?  I know Paul Marcel did a mod which allows a longer depth but am not familiar with whether that opened it up to 1” or not?
« Last Edit: September 18, 2020, 04:43 AM by Bugsysiegals »

Offline afish

  • Posts: 80
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2020, 07:49 AM »
With a typical trim router when you trim the edge banding you have to balance the trimmer on the narrow edge of the stock.  The main benefit of the MFK is the horizontal base allows the tool to register off the side and provides a much more stable platform.  It also has special bits for for perfect round-overs on 1mm, 1.5mm or 2mm edge banding.  If you are just looking for a quick (cheaper) alternative fastcap has the lil'lipper that attaches to a standard trimmer.  It wont give you all the bells and whistles of the MFK but will provide 90 degree edge banding trimming without having to try and balance the trimmer on the 3/4" edge.
Thank you.  Does it come with those special bits you mention.  I had forgotten about the "Lil-lipper" but I can see a lot of edge banding in my future so a more solid choice (like the MFK) makes sense.  Just have to make sure $600 is worth it.

Unfortunately no, It doesnt come with any bits.  The standard flush trim bit is an extra $55 and then each profile bit is another $150 and the knives are not interchangeable between the profiling bits so hopefully you dont switch back and forth between different thicknesses of edge banding since the bits will add up fast. you do get the vertical base and the 1.5 degree horizontal base if you want the 0 degree horizontal its another $150   

Offline afish

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2020, 08:08 AM »
It's also an option to edgeband plywood with solid stock but it adds considerably to the effort.  I find the iron-on edgebanding to be dodgy at best.

   In my opinion, I like solid edge banding a lot more than veneer edge banding. This is especially true if you are making a "better than Ikea" class of furniture. I have used tongue and groove for solid edge banding and there are also router bit sets that cut a V in the sheet goods and the matching profile for the actual edge banding....if you trim it really carefully to the hardwood plywood...it can appear to be solid wood.....tricky but doable. 8)

I know we are talking mostly drawers here and agree the solid hardwood edgeband can be a good choice it isnt always the best choice.  It wont work well when doing door and drawer fronts with hardwood plywood unless you are veneering the face on after you have glued on the edgebanding.  Since it will create a picture frame effect.  This is where the veneer edgebanding shines.  For drawers I would either use solid hardwood or 9 or 13 ply on anything other than fine furniture.  Unless I had access to a good edgebander and even then the biggest draw would be so I could use prefinished and save the hassle of applying finish to the drawers.

Offline Bugsysiegals

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2020, 10:28 AM »
This brings up another point ... the Birch is unfinished and I'm wondering if I'd spray it before assembly or after assembly?

Offline afish

  • Posts: 80
Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #25 on: September 18, 2020, 11:47 AM »
I have been finishing my drawers after assembly but its not my favorite.  Between sanding in the corners and the blow back when spray finishing.  I have started to question my workflow.  On one hand I like the exposed dominos and rounded edges on the top of the drawers so using prefinished sheets doesnt work well since I would still have to touch up the dominos and the top edges or edgeband them and then they would be square edges too, not the end of the world but not my fav. either.   

Offline jcrowe1950

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #26 on: September 24, 2020, 09:52 AM »


I know we are talking mostly drawers here and agree the solid hardwood edgeband can be a good choice it isnt always the best choice.  It wont work well when doing door and drawer fronts with hardwood plywood unless you are veneering the face on after you have glued on the edgebanding.  Since it will create a picture frame effect.  This is where the veneer edgebanding shines.  For drawers I would either use solid hardwood or 9 or 13 ply on anything other than fine furniture.  Unless I had access to a good edgebander and even then the biggest draw would be so I could use prefinished and save the hassle of applying finish to the drawers.

Afish speaks the truth on this one.....thanks for the contribution. Boy do I wish I had access to a Conturo sometimes. If I did this for money, I'd definitely have a Conturo and a Sys Vac.
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Online Cheese

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #27 on: September 24, 2020, 12:42 PM »
I'll eventually move onto kitchen cabinets and wonder whether you all use plywood with edge banding or hardwood for your cabinet drawer boxes? 

For a built-in chest with 20 drawers, I purchased the drawers completely assembled. That was the cheapest method I could come up with.

The drawer sides are 5/8" maple and the bottom is 1/4" BB ply. Everything came dovetailed, assembled & sanded with cutouts for Blumotion slides along with the 75º holes for the Blum locking devices. A 28" wide x 21" deep x 5" tall drawer was $50.

I purchased them locally from Fleetwoods in Ham Lake Minnesota, so they are not that far from you. I think it only took a week for them to produce the order. I'd be willing to bet that if you asked them, they'd flat pack them for you and then you could do the assembly.

http://www.fleetwoods.net/#
http://www.fleetwoods.net/media/pdf/STANDARD_DOVETAIL_DRAWER_BOXES.pdf

Here's a drawer as received.




The same drawer after a very very light sanding and 1 coat of Surfix.


 

Offline Bugsysiegals

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #28 on: September 24, 2020, 01:50 PM »
Thanks Cheese, those look nice!

Offline FestitaMakool

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Re: Birch Plywood vs Hardwood for Drawer Boxes?
« Reply #29 on: September 24, 2020, 02:31 PM »
Smart to buy the drawers ready built, or indeed flat packed ready to assemble.
I’ll totally remodel my kitchen later, and the drawers are not tempting to do by myself, as I ideally want them dovetailed. This would be time consuming, and I’d rather focus on the fronts and the cabinet with facia. I’m sure gonna ask for a quote with some who has the machinery to do drawer carcass fast and easy.
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