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I am getting geared up to start my kitchen cabinets however I am pondering about one item. My plan is to follow Norms process for building the cabinets with exception to the prefinished plywood. He uses a lot of this stuff throughout his kitchen project claiming no finishing is required once assembly is complete. It makes complete since coming from him with all the shiny smooth services he works on. I have checked around Berea, Ky and this stuff is $80 a sheet! and no one can show me a sample of what I get for that price, it has to be ordered. This is compared to $42 a sheet unfinished that I can touch, rub, and see locally. I feel fairly confident If I use the prefinished it will get scuffed up and need touch up once assembly is complete. I guess my questions are one- if it gets scuffed how easy is it to touch up? two- does anyone have any experience with the prefinished that may sway me this direction? any help would be appreciated.
 

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Using prefinished ply can be a real time saver if you want your cabs to have a "natural" finish. A couple of obvious downsides, however, are the need to avoid dings while you're working with it, and dealing with the raw edges. Face frames, and/or edge treatments will still need finishing.

I don't think that I would buy $80/sheet ply (finished or not) without being able to pick my sheets. I use prefinished 1/2" baltic birch for drawer boxes, and have to do a bit of cherry picking to get consistent pieces.
 

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Greg, if memory serves me correctly Hardwood Specialties in Lexington sells prefinished 3/4 maple. The cost is $52.50 for one-sided and $60.00 for two sided sheets. I have used it in the interior of cabinets I have built. I really don't have much of a problem with scuffing but I am careful when handling it. I have more of a problem with getting finish on it and then having to smooth it out. But this is easily solved by putting down painters tape where the maple plywood meets the carcass.

If you are interested Hardwood Specialties phone number is 859-226-5687
 

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Hardwood Specialties is the place for your plywood needs. A little bit of a drive from Berea, but worth it if you are buying sheets goods for an entire kitchen. As far as durability, you would really have to run it over something very sharp and/or hard to scratch or ding the stuff. I load right off the forklift into the truck and never have any issues with quality. I do know that they prefer the public to buy on Saturday mornings since they are trying to get trucks out during the week.
 

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Like Scott, I've found that the premium here is closer to $15 for finished versus unfinished. I've started rethinking my projects to use the pre-finished stuff. It requires a little planning, because glue won't stick to the finished surfaces, but it cuts way down on my finish time (my sweety likes matte finishes, so I usually hit it lightly with 220 or 300 and add another coat, since I've got to finish the beauty strip edging anyway). And glue spills are really easy to clean up, at least from the plywood bits.
 

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Hi Greg. I DVRd that kitchen series Norm did and have watched it a few times in preparation of one day making my own kitchen cabinets. Norm kept raving about the pre-finished ply for several reasons, some of which are mentioned above. At one point he was making a cabinet that was to hold cookie sheets, pizza pans, etc. It had a lot of tight spaces and he commented how convenient the pre-finsh was as it would be difficult to get into the tight spaces to finish them. Another reason he mentioned was durability. His claim was that the material had several coats of sprayed on finish that was very durable. Anyway, I sort of resolved, if I accept the concept of pre-finished being the way to go, why not buy unfinished and put the finish on myself before making any cuts? That way I have a similar product but I am not paying the extra $$. Just a thought.
 

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Hey Jagwah...nice beard, almost as nice as Mark's but I digress, lol. Yeah, I don't question that it would be better, tougher finish. I'm just thinking if Greg were to resolve not to spend the extra bucks, he could at least use the concept of pre-finished by applying it himself. Catalized huh? Sounds painful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hey fellows,
Wow I love this site! All very good information and thanks for all the responses.
I like I am sure everyone else has a really big problem paying that kind of price for something they cant inspect prior to payment. I work in Lexington and stopped by Manny's Woodworking shop and got the same $80/sheet price for the prefinished and thought this would be the norm in my area. I greatly appreciate the information for Hardwood Specialties and will likely stop by this week to take a look. I thought I had searched the web extensively for suppliers in that area however I have been proven wrong, thanks! $15/sheet difference has a much better ring to it than $35. For this difference I can see using prefinished in other projects as well, especially if the durability of the finish is good. I also noticed when you have a little glue squeeze out wipe with a wet sponge and your done. I myself thought about buying the unfinished and doing one or the other, spraying finish on the whole sheet or cutting all my pieces parts and finish them prior to assembly which on the other side would require masking off areas that needed glue. With the difference in price, durability, and cleanup mentioned above I believe I am sold on the prefinished assuming I can pick good pieces. I will let you guys know in the next couple days, thanks for all the responses.

Lenny, did you find the video for Norm's deluxe router table? I searched around for you and couldnt find it on the web. But I didnt find Hardwood Specialties contact listed above either, I will do better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hey Scott,
I work just off of Sandersville road and the mapquest claims Hardwood Specialties is about 7 mins away. Thats a easy lunch trip and will definitely check them out soon. Thanks for the info
 

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Thanks, rhett!

Also wanted to mention to Greg that all plywood is not the same, there may be other differences between the unfinished and finished that he's looking at: count plies, look at the edges to see what kinds of voids you're dealing with, ask if the finished uses formaldehyde free glues, and so forth.

Make your decisions at whatever price point works, but there's a reason I sometimes pay over $120 a sheet for "maple veneer plywood", and sometimes I pay $40.
 

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Greg, I found my tape of the first router table he made but not the deluxe or second one. I still have some tapes to look through though. Thanks for asking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
For you guys around the lexington, ky area Scott B. turned me onto a hardwood supplier that I checked out today(thanks scott). They have a very large selection of sheet goods - mdf, melamine, plywood, oak, maple, birch etc… in all the thicknesses you would need. As mentioned above I was debating using prefinished plywood for my kitchen cabinets and have made a decision after my trip today. Hardwood Specialties in lex had 3/4" birch sheets finished on both sides for $42. It looked to be 7 ply and what looked to be a very good finish and the sheets were nice a clean. The quality of the sheet goods I seen there will be perfect for my cabinets and drawers. I was very impressed with the materials they have and will be picking up my sheet goods this weekend. Now on to guides - soft close? undermount? side mount? Thats a different story and another forum. Thanks for everyones help.
 

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Go with the prefinished.. I'm building a kitchen with unfinished maple right now.. what a pain in the butt… so much work to finish it, and you really are not saving anything. the first kitchen I did with Prefinished.. quick to make. very little finishing…

Keep in mind.. what it costs for you to finish, you will pay the same price for the prefinished, and save yourself a lot of time.

My local supplier says it's like an epoxy type coating, and It's really hard to scuff up under normal use.

Next kitchen i am planning on building will be prefinished again. none of this messing around for a week or two finishing stuff that doesn't need to be finished.
 

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My take is:
If your finish is going to be better, nicer, and tougher or eye catching go with unfinished and finish it yourself.
If your finish is not going to be an improvement on the prefinished stock buy the prefinished plywood. You will save time and money going the prefinished route any day.
Remember that finishing supplies, labor, expertise, down time, and nasty fumes are very expensive in the long run
 

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IMO use either pre-finished plywood or melamine. The time and trouble finishing cabinet boxes isn't worth the savings.

Both materials have a much tougher finish than you can achieve without a real spray booth and knowledge most hobby don't have.
 
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