Salvaging Material From a Screwup

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Forum topic by Mary Anne posted 01-28-2011 05:18 PM 1304 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4265 days

01-28-2011 05:18 PM

In an attempt to be a nice person and help out a friend, I gave her husband a job to build some simple cabinets in a walk-in closet. He professed to be a cabinet guy for 30 years, so it sounded like a good way to help them feed their kids and take care of a job I had been putting off. Among myriad other screwups, he made several doors 84” tall by 20” wide out of 1/2” ply. Surprise, they are horribly warped and twisted!

So, my question is, can I salvage the 1/2” ply to use as panels in rail and stile doors? If so, can I use a 1/4” rabbet on one side? Since they are already stained, I am thinking this way would not mess up the front surface. Or do I need to do an 1/8” off on both sides? Or should I just buy 1/4” ply and start from scratch? If you have any other suggestions on remaking these doors, they would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much, LJs!

9 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5275 days

#1 posted 01-28-2011 05:24 PM

Mary Anne, I think your method would work. One of the main consideration in regular frame and panel doors is wood movement. Since plywood is more dimensionally stable, you have a lot more options in making doors.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View childress's profile


841 posts in 4598 days

#2 posted 01-28-2011 05:58 PM

Yes, I think it would work too. Rabbeting the back is the way I would do it and glue the panels to the stiles and rails. Like Charlie said, since it’s plywood, you don’t have to worry about movement as if the panels were solid wood.

-- Childress Woodworks

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4939 days

#3 posted 01-28-2011 06:43 PM

Seems like a good plan with the rabbets.

Those sound really tall to me. Maybe cut the panels in half and add a cross piece in the middle of the door? I guess it just depends on how warped the ply is.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View patron's profile


13717 posts in 4398 days

#4 posted 01-28-2011 07:24 PM

it has been my experience in using warped panels
that if you frame them
the frame will follow the warp
and wind up lifted from flat too

when i laminate ply (or thin wood together)
they must be done so as to counter each other
and glued on a flat surface so the warps ‘slide’
and remain flat

if both are warped and glued that way
then the warp predominates
and the frame follows that
making one corner of the door ‘higher’
than another
if you glue the rails and styles to the panel
as suggested
you may have to ‘shim’ under the two
lower corners and clamp the upper corners
to a flat surface to get any twist out of the panel

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4265 days

#5 posted 01-28-2011 08:10 PM

So, David, does that mean I should just start over with non-warped 1/4” ply? Or is ply just not a good idea, even with frames? I was thinking, as Steve suggested, to divide them into three panels. Shouldn’t they be floating, rather than glued?

View Wes Giesbrecht's profile

Wes Giesbrecht

155 posts in 3868 days

#6 posted 01-29-2011 06:55 AM

The reason that the plywood is warped is almost certainly because of unbalanced moisture content on the opposing sides. Typically the side that has less moisture barrier (paint, stain or whatever) will take on moisture causing it to expand, relative to the opposite side. (Causing it to bow.) If you can place the panels flat and weighted down on a sealed surface, like a finished floor (not raw wood, definitely not unsealed concrete) and expose the opposite side to warm dry air, for example with a small heater blowing across them, you can probably remove most if not all of the warp.
Then, quickly finish that side to match the other.

If you cut them in thirds and make 3 panel doors, how well they’d stay straight would depend on how substantial your frames are. 1” pine (planed to 3/4” from the lumberyard (so called kiln dried) construction grade is only dried to 20% moisture content. It will almost certainly go wonky.
1” (or 4/4) kiln dried furniture grade oak, properly jointed and planed would probably be able to restrain the panels.
I would never glue a panel into a frame regardless of whether it’s plywood or solid wood.

-- Wes Giesbrecht

View xtian's profile


1 post in 3730 days

#7 posted 01-31-2011 02:47 AM

What a wonderful site of knowledge and are providing a superb service. I am very thankful for your upcoming involvement with the Marla project.
In admiration of your work,


View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 3887 days

#8 posted 01-31-2011 03:01 AM

My thoughts are along the line with David. Placing a warped panel into a door will produce a warped door. I hate to say it but don’t reuse the existing 1/2’ ply. If you are going to the stage of a rail & stile paneled door then get new 1/4”.
Can you split the opening so you can get a smaller door that will less prone to twisting? i.e. 42” tall

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

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Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4265 days

#9 posted 01-31-2011 04:46 PM

Thanks to a few generous PMs from David and some research on my own, I have decided the doors will be done over starting with all new materials. There is no sense in risking a repeat of the warp by reusing the 1/2” ply. I’ll be using 1×3 poplar and 1/4” birch ply. The doors will be divided into 3 floating panels in a rail and stile frame.

The guy who originally screwed it up is due to be here 15 minutes ago. If he shows at all, we’ll see if he can refrain from another violent tantrum, and if he is willing to redo the work on his time. Otherwise, he’s getting the boot and I’ll just do it myself. It is going to cost me about $250 more in new materials, plus what it already cost for the wasted wood.

I so much appreciate all the help and advice you guys have given. It isn’t over yet!

Wish me luck!!

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