Attaching hardwood accents to plywood - movement?

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Forum topic by BinghamtonEd posted 11-19-2012 09:02 PM 3239 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2298 posts in 3002 days

11-19-2012 09:02 PM

So my wife tells me the other day that she would like a mobile island for our kitchen for Christmas, and if I can do that, I don’t need to get her anything else (don’t worry, I’m not stupid, I know that’s a trap). Basically a rolling cabinet with a butcher block top. Anyways, given the short deadline, and the fact that this is not going to be an heirloom piece, I have a design question or two :

The plan :
- Create a cabinet box out of 3/4” maple ply
- Create a face frame out of solid black walnut, decorate the rest of the box to make it look like the sides and back are black walnut frame w/ maple panel
- I have a 2” thick edge-grain maple butcher block top that used to be on my parent’s island, they replaced it with granite (hooray for free butcher block top).
- Finish with wipe on poly (mineral oil & beeswax on top)before final construction.
- Get praised as “best husband ever” (not that I’m aware that she’s had any other husbands).

Questions :
- The black walnut pieces that I plan on using to create the frame/panel effect on the back and sides will be about 1/2” and 1/2” thick, by 2-3”. Given that the plywood will not expand (or is negligible) and the solid walnut will, is the thickness of these pieces such that I will run into issues (such as cracking) down the road with expansion if I simply just glue the pieces on? I could, alternatively, run a thin bead of glue down one side of the walnut, and screw into it on the opposite edge from the inside of the cabinet with over-sized holes in the plywood to allow for some movement.
- 3/4” plywood braces across the top of the box under the butcher block, oversized holes in the ply, screws with washers into the butcher block from below. Sound good for mounting the top?

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

11 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2172 posts in 3483 days

#1 posted 11-19-2012 09:50 PM

I think it’s all there. Go for it. Proceed. It’ll be fine.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Charlie's profile


1101 posts in 2919 days

#2 posted 11-19-2012 10:40 PM

Plywood bottom carcass with hard maple face frame. Poplar (edge glued) top section. Walnut counter top and facings on the shelves. Even with the oven in there nothing is showing any signs of cracking.

The maple face frame is glued but there are some 4d finish nails in it. The walnut facings are glued to 3/4 plywood shelves (13 ply good birch plywood). The counter top is attached as you describe. Oversized holes in the stretchers with a screw up from the bottom and TWO washers.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3002 days

#3 posted 11-19-2012 11:15 PM

You think gluing the whole 3” wide strip would be fine, instead of screws? Not so much concerned about the top as I am gluing the strips of walnut on to create the frame&panel effect. I’m not sure if the expansion would be enough to cause it to crack or deform.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 2919 days

#4 posted 11-19-2012 11:18 PM

If cracking the joint is a concern, try some dowels. They are great for decoration too. You can use any size you like. I like 3/8 for my stuff. Poplar would look good on walnut.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3002 days

#5 posted 11-19-2012 11:27 PM

I’m not worried about any of the joints, I’m probably just not describing it well. Lets say you have a piece of walnut, 1/2” thick, 3” wide, 4 feet long. Just smear some glue on the back and clamp it to a piece of plywood. Ok or not ok?

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View a1Jim's profile


117950 posts in 4210 days

#6 posted 11-19-2012 11:33 PM

I would just shoot them on with 18 ga nails from behind. What little wood movement you get on that size of strips the nails will flex, if your going to add glue just put a little down the center of the 3” but with nails I doubt you will need it. Gluing moving to non moving parts can cause problems but using nails or screws with elongated holes work fine


View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3791 days

#7 posted 11-20-2012 12:48 AM

It’s okay. Did the same thing with oak to trim out my kitchen cabinet ends. No problems.

If you were talking about a wider board, then you might have issues.

-- jay,

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3918 days

#8 posted 11-20-2012 12:55 AM


I doubt you would have problems with the 3” wide walnut moulding on the plywood, but I agree with a1Jim about if you use glue, I would run a line down the middle of the walnut and fasten with brads from the back side. If your walnut is kiln dried, it shouldn’t move that much.

-- John @

View Paden501's profile


35 posts in 2983 days

#9 posted 12-10-2012 08:39 PM

I did essentially the same thing with maple on a kitchen island that I made a year ago. 1 complete year of heating and cooling the house and it’s still ok.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4758 days

#10 posted 12-10-2012 09:07 PM

So the concern is the 3” wide axis on the Walnut which will be glued flat to the plywood, right? (Because the 4’ axis is along the grain).

I wouldn’t worry about 3”. It’s just at the point where I’d worry about it if it were across another grain (and you had expansion in two dimensions), but on plywood I’d just glue it up and call it good.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1408 days

#11 posted 06-09-2016 12:13 PM

Everyone knows 3.75” is where you starting running into trouble

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