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Author Topic: Advice on which type of wood to use?  (Read 2496 times)

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Hockeyboy

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Advice on which type of wood to use?
« on: January 06, 2007, 05:47:48 am »
Looking to build a cabinet from a template and don't want to use MDF - I want to use a furniture-grade wood, or at least something that doesn't scream POS.

A woodworking friend at work suggested birch plywood or possibly maple plywood. I can't seem to find maple plywood (I can find the 1/8" panels) at the local home builder but I can find the birch plywood. The thing is, when I stain this, I want it to have more of a golden honey look so I am leaning more towards the maple. Should I look around more at possibly a wood specialty shop or just get regular plywood and glue the maple panels to the regular plywood? The control panel is also a consideration -- do I make it out of the same type of wood or do I go with more of a black box?

Advice? Opinions?

acevedor2

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2007, 08:23:56 am »
Are you painting ,staining, or paneling the cab?  I am assuming you are staining because if you are painting or laminatng, then it would be a waste of time AND money to use the Birch.  They carry Birch here at the local Home Cheapo.   
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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2007, 01:22:24 pm »
I, personally, think that wood-grain cabinets look like crap. All of the arcade games I played in my youth were in painted cabinets. My cabinet will be made from MDO (medium-density overlay) and painted black.

If you want your cabinet to look like wood, you need to find a real lumber yard. Home Depot and Lowe's are not your friend! If you can't find a shop with a decent selection of plywood, call a custom cabinet builder in your area and ask where they'd go to get cabinet-grade maple, walnut, or mahogany plywood. The place I buy from has everything under the sun: maple, walnut, mahogany, cherry, red oak, white oak, ash, bamboo, alder, and several dozen others. Be prepared for sticker shock, however: in my area furniture-grade hardwood plywood starts at $80 sheet for 3/4" and goes up to $120+/sheet! If you're going to spend that kind of money, make sure you buy the right stuff! For a cabinet, I'd suggest an A4 grade and veneer that's been plain-sliced (a.k.a. plain-sawn) rather than rotary cut.

Having worked with maple a bit, I'll say that I find it fairly difficult to color. Maple has very tight pores, which means that the stains you're likely to buy at Home Depot or Lowe's don't work as well. Dyes (e.g. TransTint) are supposed to be the way to go... but I've never had much luck with them. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time experimenting with them. The best thing I've come up with is to use an oil-based varnish or oil-based polyurethane. The oil does lend an amber hue to the wood... but it's still not quite the honey maple color I want. Of course that was a couple of years ago. Now that I have quite a bit more finishing experience under my belt, I should probably give maple another go...

clockwork

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2007, 12:41:55 pm »
This is the cabinet that has inspired me: http://netbox.home.mindspring.com/arcade/

He says he used oak plywood and solid oak. I don't know how expensive that is, but I love the look. It looks like it belongs in a living room, which is where mine will be. :)
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Hockeyboy

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2007, 12:23:59 am »
I do NOT want to paint or laminate this cabinet. What I want to do is build one from cabinet-grade wood, most likely a several-ply maple or birch. I could go with oak, but I'd want a light/honey oak because I'd like the cabinet to be stained (or simply varnished/lacquered) with a golden honey color.

There is a wood specialty store here in town - they have lots of stuff in stock or can get it quite easily on special order at no extra cost. I guess what I should have asked before is what your thoughts are going on wood if I'm here in Colorado where the humidity level can easily drop into single digits, especially in winter.

I do like the idea of using an oil-based stain on some maple, plus it would have the added benefit of adding moisture to the cabinet and helping to preserve the wood. Do I have to continue to add oil to keep the wood from drying/splitting/cracking though - I don't think I've used too much oil-based stain before, mostly regular stain.

I went to that site and looked - I do like that color and style of wood. I guess I'm looking for more opinions or someone to convince me that going with an oak plywood or maple plywood would be okay.

ScottS

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2007, 02:56:14 am »
Plywood, due to its construction, is far more stable than solid wood. So in that sense it shouldn't be a problem. Hard for me to believe that you're seeing single-digit humidity unless you live in a desert. Even then, you should be fine as long as the wood is acclimated to your conditions before you start building. If you get huge seasonal swings in humidity, that may be rough but it can be dealt with.

Using an oil-based product doesn't add any moisture to the wood. Even a water-based product doesn't really add any moisture to the wood. Once the finish is cured, it's done; you don't have to do anything else with it.

FYI, most stains are oil-based unless they specifically say that they're water-based. Water-based products dry so quickly that they're difficult to work with. Which makes them especially difficult for stains, where you typically wipe the stain on, wait, then wipe off. If you're using maple, I would try to avoid staining entirely! I'd try to find an oil-based clearcoat and use that. The oil is amber in color and thus will give the maple and amber tint. You can use TransTint dyes to change the color of the clearcoat. Adding dye to a clearcoat creates something called a "toner". You might do this as the first coat, or first and second, then cover it with the clearcoat.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides to an oil-based clearcoat is that it takes forever to dry. And while it's drying any bit of dust, hair, or junk that touches it will end up embedded in your finish! If your workshop is dusty, like mine, you may find that a brushing an oil clearcoat onto your cabinet is tricky business. Wipe-on finishes dry much faster, but require more coats to build up the same level of coverage. Water-based products also dry very quickly. Sadly, this means that they're more susceptible to brush marks. And they often add an unpleasant blue- or gray-ish cast to the wood.

Whatever you do make sure you experiment with the stains, dyes, and clearcoats you plan to use on pieces of scrap wood before you start on your cabinet! Do to the scrap wood exactly what you're planning to do to the cabinet. If it turns out looking like crap, you've only ruined a piece of scrap not the cabinet you've spent days or weeks building!

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2007, 01:10:04 pm »
This is the cabinet that has inspired me: http://netbox.home.mindspring.com/arcade/

He says he used oak plywood and solid oak. I don't know how expensive that is, but I love the look. It looks like it belongs in a living room, which is where mine will be. :)


I am not impressed by the way that cab looks.  Knievel's Woody is a much better looking unit.

http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php?topic=55789.0

clockwork

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2007, 12:44:14 pm »
Quote
I am not impressed by the way that cab looks.  Knievel's Woody is a much better looking unit.

http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php?topic=55789.0

I still prefer the one I linked. Looks better for a contemporary living room like mine. The Woody reminds me of the 70s for some reason, and I don't want to be reminded of the 70s.  :P

His Neon machine looks very cool, though.
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NiteWalker

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2007, 01:48:02 pm »
Oak plywood is $44 a sheet at Lowe's and worth it. Very usable stuff. If you want anything nicer the prices jump into the $60+ range and have to be special ordered from a lumberyard.



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ScottS

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2007, 02:18:06 pm »
Oak plywood is $44 a sheet at Lowe's and worth it. Very usable stuff. If you want anything nicer the prices jump into the $60+ range and have to be special ordered from a lumberyard.

Let me caution against this, for two reasons:

1) The plywood I've purchased from Lowe's and Home Depot is often in bad shape. The corners have dings, the sheets are warped, the interior is full of voids, the backs are full of knots, etc.

2) Cheap plywood usually has a veneer face that's "rotary sliced" (read: ugly crap). If you want something that looks like real wood a "plain sliced" (a.k.a. plain sawn) veneer is the way to go.

I typically buy ply from a place that sell to local custom cabinet shops. All they do is plywood! I pay around $60-65/sheet for red oak plywood, but the sheets are flat, there are minimal voids, and the veneer is plain sliced. For me, the increase in quality is worth the additional cost.

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2007, 02:40:25 pm »
I've not had the issues mentioned yet on Lowe's Hardwood Oak plywood. But I wouldn't use plywood if I was going to show grain unless it was of the type you mentioned.



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ScottS

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2007, 11:25:12 pm »
I've not had the issues mentioned yet on Lowe's Hardwood Oak plywood. But I wouldn't use plywood if I was going to show grain unless it was of the type you mentioned.

I'm not sure why you'd spend the money on hardwood plywood if you didn't want the grain to show. MDO is better for painting. Melamine is better if you don't want to hassle with finishing. And there are lots of plywoods with veneer species that are cheaper than oak, as well as the old standby MDF...

prOk

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2007, 11:46:03 pm »
Oak just screams 1992 to me.. nobody uses that crap anymore.. go with a nice cabinet grade birch ply and stain it.. don't get that 2nd rate crap you see at lowes, head to a woodcraft or cabinet supply shop and get something nice.  You could even go for a nice prefinished cherry panel that would look pretty good.

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2007, 09:00:55 am »
The reason I would choose oak ply is for durability. Using oak plywood there'd be no need for internal bracing. Just simple rabbets and dadoes. I like MDF but it's weak structurally and very heavy. It's good for small projects. MDO is decent as well, but the Lowe's near me doesn't carry it. At the lumberyard I found it, it was close to the same price as oak plywood.

@prOk:
That's what I would do if I was showing grain. I'm not a big fan of grain on arcade cabinets though. I like to use plastic laminate. It's much more durable than any finish you can brush or spray on.



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clockwork

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2007, 09:34:12 am »
How does MDF compare to others for woodworking comfort? A friend of mine complained that he couldn't stand the taste of MDF after he'd finish.
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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2007, 10:49:22 am »
Looking to build a cabinet from a template and don't want to use MDF - I want to use a furniture-grade wood, or at least something that doesn't scream POS.

And here I thought my cabinets looked pretty nice. :(

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2007, 11:14:05 am »
How does MDF compare to others for woodworking comfort? A friend of mine complained that he couldn't stand the taste of MDF after he'd finish.

The saw dust can kill you, it is not even a dust it is more like a powder.  Make sure that you cut it outside and wear a high quality respirator.  It also can dull and burn out your cutting tools.  Otherwise it is nice to work with.  There is a lot of information on the stuff here.  Do a search on "MDF Dust" on the boards and see what I am talking about.  Personally I like the end result of using MDF but I don't like cutting it.

ScottS

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2007, 12:42:47 pm »
All wood dust is dangerous over time! Do a search for 'Bill Pentz' if you want to know just how harmful dust can be... That said, certain woods cause more problems than others. MDF is, essentically, sawdust held together by formaldehyde glue. Formaldehyde, you may rember, is classified as a carcinogen. Best to avoid breathing MDF dust if at all possible...

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2007, 07:05:51 am »
I'm not saying any cab made of MDF would actually be a POS, I'm just saying that given my current scheme and layout of my basement demands that I use some good quality wood material that is strong yet pleasing to the eye.

I truly appreciate all the comments and thoughts -- I'm thinking I will head to this specialty store and get some nice quality maple or birch veneer/plywood at about $60 a sheet and go with that. Shouldn't need more than 2 sheets anyway so the cost should be under $150 total.

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Re: Advice on which type of wood to use?
« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2007, 11:15:59 am »
A full-sized cabinet typically requires three sheets of material. The sides take up a sheet each, with another sheet used for the front, back, and top. Miscellaneous pieces for the control panel can be salvaged from the sheets used to make the sides. Of course if you're building a scaled-down cabinet, a la Knievel's Woody, then you can get by with less wood. Best to do a layout on some graph paper, in order to figure out how much stock you need and minimize trips to the lumber yard...