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Solid wood side panels and plywood bottom/inside case?

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Forum topic by MarkCh posted 06-07-2021 03:27 AM 519 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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MarkCh

29 posts in 345 days


06-07-2021 03:27 AM

Hi, I’m planning a vanity that will be similar to the pictured one. I’d like the sides to be solid white oak panels with full-length boards glued together, i.e. not a frame-and-panel. I was originally thinking of gluing the two through a rabbet joint, but the glue could be unstable with the panel expanding and the plywood not. What are your suggestions?


14 replies so far

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

6629 posts in 3426 days


#1 posted 06-07-2021 07:23 AM

All you need is straight square/mating edges on your stock. They must fit well together. Don’t rely on clamps to pull gaps together. Some people like to add biscuits or some other alignment aid, but it’s not mandatory. I seldom use anything but well-prepared edges and my Bessey clamps.

There are many videos on YouTube that covers the hows, whys and ways of glued up panels. Watch a few videos and pick a method that fits your skills and tools.

This is a good video. https://youtu.be/Y3oFRbPsB7Y

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View CWWoodworking's profile

CWWoodworking

1878 posts in 1296 days


#2 posted 06-07-2021 09:42 AM

Just don’t use plywood. The only place you would need to is the bottom. And you only need a half sheet. White oak is over 100$ a sheet. You can glue up one panel for that.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7023 posts in 3610 days


#3 posted 06-07-2021 10:31 AM

Consider putting a cleat on the bottom edge of the hardwood panel with some arrangement to allow movement, like elongated holes and expansion washers (or whatever trick you like), then screw the cleat solidly to the plywood bottom.

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

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

531 posts in 2852 days


#4 posted 06-07-2021 01:04 PM



Hi, I m planning a vanity that will be similar to the pictured one. I d like the sides to be solid white oak panels with full-length boards glued together, i.e. not a frame-and-panel. I was originally thinking of gluing the two through a rabbet joint, but the glue could be unstable with the panel expanding and the plywood not. What are your suggestions?

- MarkCh

Why do you want them to be solid wood panels? Why not oak veneered plywood? There is a face frame on that sample that would cover the edge plies.

A vanity will be in one of the most humid rooms in the house and a solid panel will need to move a lot. If you already have the oak boards and don’t want to buy plywood right now (can’t blame you), use cleats with oversized holes that will let the screws move a bit.

Though that brings up a good question about how the face frame will react to being attached to the plywood on the bottom and the panel on the side. Unless you plan on not using a face frame, then you need to consider how the doors will behave.

Old school furniture was built with all solid wood panels so the whole piece would expand and contract at approximately the same rate.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View Robert's profile

Robert

4591 posts in 2598 days


#5 posted 06-07-2021 01:59 PM

Once upon a time, there was no plywood :-D

As long as you build it with wood movement principles, you’ll be ok. IMO humidity in bathroom isn’t a big issue. Exhaust fans, etc. Humidity would be a temporary issue at most.

Siimilar construction to a dresser. The battens on the doors should have elongated holes. The sides can be jointed to the bottom, as both will move equally. Dovetails would be traditional, but other methods will work, such as floating tenon.

It will be beautiful. I would go clear finish and natural aging.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View ibewjon's profile

ibewjon

2478 posts in 3910 days


#6 posted 06-07-2021 02:16 PM

Before I really knew about wood movement, I built a bathroom vanity from solid red oak. Veneer plywood is ugly and will not be used in anything I build. The vanity is next to the tub and under the sink.3 coats of varathane oil base inside and outside. No elongated holes, just glue. No cracks or problems in over 30 years. Maybe not knowing the rules is a good thing.

View MarkCh's profile

MarkCh

29 posts in 345 days


#7 posted 06-07-2021 03:11 PM

It pains me to think of hiding white oak on the bottom panel—is it ok to have a birch panel (not ply) for the bottom panel and oak on the sides? The center panels could just be oak frames.

It will be all drawers, no doors.

View SMP's profile

SMP

4148 posts in 1023 days


#8 posted 06-07-2021 03:44 PM



It pains me to think of hiding white oak on the bottom panel—is it ok to have a birch panel (not ply) for the bottom panel and oak on the sides? The center panels could just be oak frames.

It will be all drawers, no doors.

- MarkCh

Yeah you can use whatever you want. But if gluing solid panels you may want to look at the wood movement calculators to make sure that their movements are similar.

View MarkCh's profile

MarkCh

29 posts in 345 days


#9 posted 06-07-2021 04:48 PM

Thanks—seems most woods I’m considering have similar movement. However, come to think of it, I’ll be attaching a porcelain sink to the top. I figured I’d be using some sort of construction adhesive to do this, but are there issues to consider with that as well?

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

1599 posts in 2077 days


#10 posted 06-07-2021 04:51 PM

A plywood, mdf, etc is a more stable product than solid. If you use solid you only need be concerned about shrinkage from front to back. If you use the correct lumber you shouldnt see much shrinkage….

What wood shrinkage calculator? Never heard of that in woodshop in the late 70’S

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7023 posts in 3610 days


#11 posted 06-07-2021 05:09 PM

For the sink I’d use silicon, that will have enough give to accommodate movement and still hold securely.

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

View MarkCh's profile

MarkCh

29 posts in 345 days


#12 posted 06-10-2021 02:57 PM

Thanks, Fred. That simplifies things a lot.

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

531 posts in 2852 days


#13 posted 06-11-2021 01:08 PM


Before I really knew about wood movement, I built a bathroom vanity from solid red oak. Veneer plywood is ugly and will not be used in anything I build. The vanity is next to the tub and under the sink.3 coats of varathane oil base inside and outside. No elongated holes, just glue. No cracks or problems in over 30 years. Maybe not knowing the rules is a good thing.

- ibewjon

As long as you built the entire thing out of solid wood (including the ‘floor’ of the cabinet), then there wouldn’t be any issues with wood movement. They would all expand and contract at around the same amount at around the same time.

But when you glue solid wood panels to plywood, you run a much higher risk of the panel cracking or splitting since the plywood is not moving with the wood panel. For instance, if the wood wants to shrink but the plywood won’t let it, it could+ crack the panel and it becomes a very difficult repair.

+I say ‘could’ since I’ve seen enough stories where items are built without wood movement considerations and they last decades++ or more. So it’s not a certainty that your panel will fall apart into tiny, little pieces, but the risk is most definitely higher.

++I say ‘decades’ because that is only how long plywood has been easily available to the general DIY-er. Before that, as Robert points out, plywood was mainly used by professionals and most cabinets and furniture was built out of glued up wood panels that expanded and contracted together. Also, before conditioned home interiors became a thing, most items built incorrectly were either trashed or pulled apart to make something else once cracks started to appear.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View MarkCh's profile

MarkCh

29 posts in 345 days


#14 posted 06-11-2021 03:06 PM

Solid wood it is! Cheaper than a whole sheet of plywood that I’ll only need 50% of. Shame to hide it on the floor, but I may make the joints dovetails to show it’s there

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