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Why I don't like melamine

A recent post on the subject of quality brought up a question: Why I equated the use of melamine with "low quality."

The short answer is I don't. I realize that there is a lot of what would easily qualify as "high-end" cabinetry that utilize melamine interiors. And I also realize that materials that fall under the heading of "melamine panels" can vary wildly in quality.

I remember back when we first started seeing white-coated sheet goods. Then it was called "koretron" and was little more than painted particleboard. But people immediately took to the idea of a clean, white, washable cabinet interior. Over the years these materials have been improved on in many ways and are more popular than ever.

The problem for me is that I am, admittedly, what many would refer to as "old school." I still have a hard time using plywood much less what amounts to not much more than plastic coated particleboard. I can hear you now … it's not particleboard… it's MDF! But to my "old school" ears they end up sounding pretty much the same.

I realize that these days it's considered completely impractical to build cabinet interiors out of wood. When I say "wood," I mean "lumber". Real boards cut from trees. But not too long ago I did just that. It's what the customer wanted. No plywood, no MDF, nothing but "real wood." And I guess it has just about ruined me for anything else. Of course, with my focus shifting away from cabinets and back to furniture, it's a lot easier for me to think about not using sheet goods in my pieces.

Sometimes it seems like working with sheet goods doesn't even qualify as "woodworking." It's all about "panel processing technology." That's not what I started out wanting to do. I want to make things out of wood. And I don't think I'm going to miss humping those 100-pound plus sheets. I know my back won't.


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