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1/2" ply for cabinets?

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Forum topic by MartyZ posted 09-30-2019 12:14 PM 697 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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MartyZ

26 posts in 73 days


09-30-2019 12:14 PM

Ok, so being new to woodworking and trying to keep the costs of my first project low, because I know I will mess something up, I decided to use plywood for all of it. The first project is a small closet organizer with shelves and drawers.

So I figured I would use 1/2” ply for the drawers with 1/4” ply for the drawer bottoms, and using pocket holes for all of it.

The entire project will be painted so wood color and grain pattern don’t matter.

So, the drawers came together just fine but they feel flimsy and I have a feeling they won’t last long. Should I be using ply for drawers at all or should I be using solid wood, either hard or soft?

As a newbie i’m pretty sure i’ll be making a lot of mistakes and I really do appreciate all the help you all can provide.


26 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5832 posts in 3052 days


#1 posted 09-30-2019 12:21 PM

Your problem may be the pocket holes instead of glued joints. I’ve built drawers out of 1/2” ply for the shop (lots of weight) and they worked quite well. The 1/4” ply for the bottoms is good as well. Try building one with tongue and groove joints at the corners and glue it together to see if it’s as stiff as you want. Also bear in mind that all 1/2” ply isn’t, well, that good from the start. If you bought the cheapest you could find at the Borg, that may also be part of the problem.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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MartyZ

26 posts in 73 days


#2 posted 09-30-2019 12:39 PM

Thanks, I have a lot of 1/2” ply left, I will try some test tongue and groove joints. And yes, I bought the cheap HD sande ply.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

4285 posts in 1133 days


#3 posted 09-30-2019 01:19 PM

Go to the BORG, and start opening drawers in the cabinets there. From low end to the best they have you will likely see all 1/2 or 5/8” on all the drawers. Back when, solid wood was used exclusively, today you will see as many ply drawers as not. Many will have laminated exteriors, so you may not know they are plywood.

Grade of plywood is certainly a factor in longevity, ease of use, and probably feel. IOW cheap ply would feel flimsier than BB Ply.

With the pocket screws are you also gluing? Once dried the glue should increase the rigidity of the frame you are creating. Pocket screws alone, never really feel strong to me, if approached from all angles. That could be some of your flimsy.

-- Think safe, be safe

View tomsteve's profile

tomsteve

983 posts in 1778 days


#4 posted 09-30-2019 01:19 PM

did ya use any glue on the joints? also, fine or course thread screws? ply seems to like course thread although 1/2” is a wee bit thin for pocket holes ,imo. i built all of the drawers in my shop with 1/2”,simple butt joints, and 1” narrow crown staples. all joints glued. theyve held up great for 5 years now and get quite a bit of use-it might be less if i remembered what the hell i pulled the drawer out for but thats a different thread. :)

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GR8HUNTER

6679 posts in 1271 days


#5 posted 09-30-2019 01:20 PM

you failed to mention the size of the drawers :<((

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

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pottz

6992 posts in 1543 days


#6 posted 09-30-2019 01:54 PM

i build all my drawers for cabinets out of 1/2 baltic birch ply with 1/4 bottoms with no problems,just butt joints glue and finsih nailed.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

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firefighterontheside

20678 posts in 2415 days


#7 posted 09-30-2019 02:05 PM

Use glue with every pocket hole joint that you do. The only reason not to is if you want to take it apart for some reason. The pocket holes are fine for carcass construction, but I wouldn’t use them for drawers. For drawers you could just use screws right thru the face, better yet use a lock rabbet joint. You can make that at the table saw or router table.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

366 posts in 2293 days


#8 posted 09-30-2019 02:34 PM

I build all my shop furniture out of the cheapest plywood i can find. All of my drawers use 1/2” ply, even for the bottoms. I use pocket hole screws in each corner of the drawers and to hold the bottoms on. I do not use any rabbets or dadoes.

How are you connecting your 1/4” bottoms? Nailing/screwing to the bottom of the drawer sides? I don’t think there is a way to use pocket holes on 1/4” material.

My method uses the 1/2” bottom inside the sides, taking up a bit of the depth of the drawer, and the pocket holes are drilled into the bottom and the screws go into the sides.

Because I use the cheapest plywood that tends to have a bow in it, the bottom forces them all (fairly) straight. And since I use the tablesaw to cut the bottoms, it forces the sides to be square (the diagonal measurements match). I glue all of my joints, including around the bottom.

I’ve used these drawers with drawer slides and on plywood cleats. I’ve never had a problem with them falling apart. This is the fastest and cheapest (accounting for time, as well) way of building strong drawers that I could find.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View MartyZ's profile

MartyZ

26 posts in 73 days


#9 posted 09-30-2019 03:31 PM

The drawers are 12”d x 16”w x 5 1/2”h. Yes, I did use titebond 3 on all the joints. Using kreg 1” coarse screws. The drawer bottoms are in dados in all side, 1/4” from the bottom, so they are floating.

when I say they feel flimsy I don’t mean the joints are week or flex, I mean the entire drawer feels light and I feel any abusive use of these drawers will tear them apart, this is for the kids room so they will be pulling on them hard and slamming them back in.

As far as BB goes, I have not yet found a place to get it locally, so if anyone knows where I can get BB in south Jersey please let me know.

View SoCalBonnie's profile

SoCalBonnie

35 posts in 268 days


#10 posted 09-30-2019 08:06 PM



I build all my shop furniture out of the cheapest plywood i can find. All of my drawers use 1/2” ply, even for the bottoms.
- Tony1212

Off-topic question ahead…

Tony1212, your comment is very interesting to me because I got 4 sheets of 1/2 plywood for practically free (they’re old—date stamped 1996) and I’m wondering what I can do with them.

Have you made any other shop furniture (besides drawers) with 1/2 plywood?

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

4285 posts in 1133 days


#11 posted 09-30-2019 09:35 PM



The drawers are 12”d x 16”w x 5 1/2”h. Yes, I did use titebond 3 on all the joints. Using kreg 1” coarse screws. The drawer bottoms are in dados in all side, 1/4” from the bottom, so they are floating.

I would call that a BIG drawer

when I say they feel flimsy I don t mean the joints are week or flex, I mean the entire drawer feels light and I feel any abusive use of these drawers will tear them apart, this is for the kids room so they will be pulling on them hard and slamming them back in.

Any drawer will fail under the correct criteria. Like loading a car, dishwasher, or clothes washer, if you put in bricks, and blocks of heavy metal, they won’t last too long. With the construction you are using, your bigger drawers would be great to hold rolls of sandpaper through router bits, but in a woodworking environment you could easily wreck them filling that size with saw blades.

As far as BB goes, I have not yet found a place to get it locally, so if anyone knows where I can get BB in south Jersey please let me know.

I do not know New Jersey at all, but I do know that 90% of the plywood I have purchased in my life that had any shipping info on it, came off boats docked on it’s shores, so somewhere you are at, or near to is the Motherload. I’d Google, Baltic Birch plywood, and put you zip code behind it. I’m sure it’s there, maybe just not where you have been.

- MartyZ


-- Think safe, be safe

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

4285 posts in 1133 days


#12 posted 09-30-2019 09:50 PM


I build all my shop furniture out of the cheapest plywood i can find. All of my drawers use 1/2” ply, even for the bottoms.
- Tony1212

Off-topic question ahead…

Tony1212, your comment is very interesting to me because I got 4 sheets of 1/2 plywood for practically free (they re old—date stamped 1996) and I m wondering what I can do with them.

Have you made any other shop furniture (besides drawers) with 1/2 plywood?

- SoCalBonnie

Bonnie for full sized cabinets I use 3/4” for the sides, but have many a time put 1/2 faces, and almost always make drawers from it. Also think small chests, and cabinets. Things for router bits, and such. Think of things that are vertical, it has great strength that direction, horizontally it is much saggier than 3/4”

For large case construction, or cabs. you can use it. It’s just easier, and faster to Dado a 3/4” piece of plywood, rather than a 1/2”. It can be done, but depth of cut for the Dado to work, starts to take away from the vertical strength.

Now if you want to make jigs, sleds, of fences it’s great. If it’s not strong enough to do what you want it to, layer it and glue it up. + – 1” plywood is really strong. Stack it for a fence, and 2 1/2” thick plywood is pretty stable, and sure won’t defelect if on it’s side stacked, and cut to about 2 to 3” wide.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

4266 posts in 2547 days


#13 posted 09-30-2019 09:53 PM

It would be helpful to have a picture of the drawers and the joints. How was the bottom attached?

I have built a lot of drawers out of 1/2” BB with no issues.

View NoSpace's profile

NoSpace

170 posts in 1799 days


#14 posted 09-30-2019 10:26 PM

My first projects took me on a similar journey. I made a book shelf with 1/2” ply and a Kreg Jig, and it worked pretty well, but note I’m pretty sure the ply was slightly less then 1/2” and it was really, really close. Not going to happen with 1/4”. The last think I used for drawer bottoms is MDF. 1/4 plywood seems like an overkill for a drawer bottom and the MDF might stay flatter.

I think that book shelf looks much better with 1/2”, but as I’ve gone down the path with a table with a larger top that’s 1/2”, the larger the surface area, stability issues arise, the board can warp or be a little wavy.

View MartyZ's profile

MartyZ

26 posts in 73 days


#15 posted 09-30-2019 11:38 PM

Again, these are for kids’ closet, not shop

showing 1 through 15 of 26 replies

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