Suggestions: which wood to use for cabinet carcass that will be painted outside, but will look nice

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Forum topic by Winny94 posted 03-08-2018 08:08 PM 3552 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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23 posts in 1219 days

03-08-2018 08:08 PM

Im going to try my hand at replacing my kitchen cabinets, but im getting a lot of conflicting info on the wood to use for our situation. We are painting everything on the exterior, but I want the shelves and inside to look “nice” and they won’t be painted. For the doors , im planning on doing the stiles & rails with poplar.(shaker style panel door).

Is poplar durable enough for the face frame?

17 replies so far

View LesB's profile


2559 posts in 4221 days

#1 posted 03-08-2018 09:21 PM

Get ready for more conflicting information….

Birch or Maple plywood would be good for the cases. I think I would use Baltic type birch for the shelves drawers and trim the exposed plywood edge with glued on strips of solid birch. Finished with a clear poly produces a nice clean look. For drawer bottoms I like Melamine coated masonite with Baltic birch sides.
For the stiles, rails and face frames I would not use popular because is is soft and easily dented so it is back to Maple, Birch, or Alder.

For the cases, if you want to save some money there are sheet goods made of MDF with hardwood veneers that make them smooth and paintable. I haven’t checked but you may find some that have white Melamine coating on one side you could use for the inside of the cabinets and similarly for the shelves. If you don’t expect to live with these cabinets for a long time I might go that way.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Bill_Steele's profile


708 posts in 2510 days

#2 posted 03-08-2018 09:35 PM

I think Poplar is a good choice for painted face frames. I would consider using pre-finished 3/4 plywood for the cabinet—which will mean that you don’t have to do any interior finish work.

View Ripper70's profile


1377 posts in 1687 days

#3 posted 03-08-2018 09:56 PM

I made this stand alone kitchen credenza with 3/4” birch plywood. The edges of the shelves were concealed with birch iron on edge banding and iron on melamine was used for the door edges.

Four coats of poly on the natural interiors of the cabinets and several coats of the same poly over the painted outer surfaces. The paint I used was the Sherwin Williams Alkyd Latex. Goes on nicely and levels well.

I will say that the Chinese made Birch ply was of questionable quality. Extremely thin veneer and some unacceptable voids which were discovered after ripping the pieces to size. Frustrating. If you can get the real deal Baltic Birch ply, and don’t mind spending the extra cash, it’ll save you plenty of frustration and result in a top quality finished product.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1677 days

#4 posted 03-08-2018 10:00 PM

Pre finished maple or birch ply (domestic not import) for interiors.
Poplar is ok for face frames, maple would be better.
Same for door stiles and rails. I’ve used both, higher end jobs I use maple

View John_'s profile


251 posts in 2484 days

#5 posted 03-09-2018 02:29 AM

Pre finished maple or birch ply (domestic not import) for interiors.
Poplar is ok for face frames, maple would be better.
Same for door stiles and rails. I ve used both, higher end jobs I use maple

- jbay

I agree

Poplar is pretty soft and can be dented and dinged fairly easy. Soft maple would be a step up. Of course it is a tradeoff of $$$ versus durability

View ArtMann's profile


1480 posts in 1594 days

#6 posted 03-09-2018 02:41 AM

To answer your original question, Poplar takes paint well and will make good panel doors. I agree with others regarding the superiority of Maple. Soft (Red) Maple is a little cheaper than hard Maple and is still harder than Poplar.

I have made rails and stiles for panel doors out of MDF just for practice and use in my shop. They painted nicely and still look great but they haven’t been hit or abused.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4103 posts in 3887 days

#7 posted 03-09-2018 02:48 AM

I don’t know what the cabinets in my current home are made from. I’ll bet they are original from 1968. They are painted off-white, and appear to have been distressed when new. If you like the distressed look, just use poplar and clean them up and touch up the dents as time goes on. My wife loves the look. I’ve gotten used to it, since she isn’t asking me to replace the things as they get more distressed. Win-win!

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View Winny94's profile


23 posts in 1219 days

#8 posted 03-09-2018 08:36 PM

I went to the local high-er end shop today to check out prices, and they seem rather high, but I wanted to get other opinions as my other options are Menards and Home Depot. Now, this was very nice plywood – all domestic, thick veneer, no voids, etc. (also, there is a 10% discount for 5+ sheets bought)

3/4” Rotary Maple $87.99/sheet
3/4” Pre-finished Maple $88.69/sheet
3/4” Rotary Birch $79.99/sheet
3/4” Baltic Birch (60” x 60”) 49.39

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4103 posts in 3887 days

#9 posted 03-09-2018 08:57 PM

That is the kind of price I pay for the BB ply. I haven’t used the others but know people who have, and these are much better quality than you can get from the BORG and others like it.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View jonah's profile


2122 posts in 4077 days

#10 posted 03-09-2018 09:12 PM

Pre finished maple ply for the insides. Regular birch plywood for the outsides, or possible single side pre finished maple ply (with the pre finished side facing in, of course). Single side pre finished is not that common, but it is available some places. Poplar or maple for the face frames, both will work great.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1698 days

#11 posted 03-10-2018 02:32 AM


I prefer plywood from my local Menards over that from my local hardwood dealer for price and convenience. Menards stocks plywood in my local store which seems to be of slightly lower quality than their special ordered plywood. Their more expensive special ordered plywood compares favorably with that I have purchased from my local hardwood dealer. There seems to be a little more crosscut tear-out with the store-stocked plywood than with their special ordered plywood.

I have no experience with Home Depot or Lowes hardwood plywood.

View Jimintomahawak's profile


73 posts in 1254 days

#12 posted 03-10-2018 02:29 PM

+1 for Baltic Birch plywood finishes nicely and very consistent. Make sure your tools are sharp. The glue seems hard on bits and blades compared to regular box box plywood.

-- Laziness drives creative thinking...

View AlmostRetired's profile


221 posts in 1492 days

#13 posted 03-10-2018 02:52 PM

Do you by chance have a Wurth Woodworks or a Central Wholesalers locally? I have been going to these places for a while and their prices are great. They carry finished single and double sided sheets of a few different species of ply.

If not one of these doo a Google search for cabinet wholesale or distributer.


View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2264 days

#14 posted 03-10-2018 04:18 PM

Use alder

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View BurlyBob's profile


7624 posts in 3043 days

#15 posted 03-10-2018 04:42 PM

Use beech or alder! Both are denser than poplar and take paint very well.

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