Solid wood - Woodshop News

Solid wood

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A few years ago, I was working on a project that was specified to be "all solid wood". When I saw that I was a bit puzzled because there is so much that is open to interpretation when it comes to exactly what is meant by solid wood. Many manufacturers consider plywood to be solid wood because it is actually made of layers of solid wood.

And some even consider MDF to be solid wood because it is all wood and it is solid. It's a stretch, I know, but hey, I didn't make the rules! But this job, it turned out was to be made of "actual wood", that is, boards. Everything. Not just the faces and the drawer boxes and shelves, but the entire cabinet. No plywood ... no MDF... no "sheet stock at all, in any form” was to be used. That meant that the casework, which is typically made of sheet stock in one form or another, had to be made from boards glued to width. Needless to say, this was going to require a lot of glue-ups!

One interesting thing was that the cost of the material was, as it turned out, not much different. We used maple for the carcasses and at the time we were paying just under $3 a board foot for maple.

And we were paying around $96 a sheet for top quality maple plywood. So I figured the main difference was going to be in the labor which I expected to be quite high due to the many hours of gluing and clamping that was going to be needed. I was pretty surprised in the end because the labor ended up being only slightly higher. We gained so much time by virtue of not having to deal with edgebanding, veneering and other processes working with sheet stock required that the total time needed was only around 15 percent higher. And it seemed much more enjoyable to be working with "real wood" rather than plywood or any of the "variants" like MDF, Ultra-core and the like.

This has not quite convinced me that I should never buy another sheet of plywood. But it has come pretty close!


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