What are All Wood Cabinets
Kitchen Cabinet manufacturers differ on what they call “all wood” cabinets. Genuine all wood cabinets, one would think, are made of boards, and boards glued together that make panels for sides and doors. But some manufacturers include plywood in their all wood lines of cabinetry…
Plywood still qualifies as all wood as far as I'm concerned, since the ply material is very thin sheets of actual wood. What doesn’t constitute all wood for sure is anything containing MDF or particleboard, sometimes called furnitureboard. The two terms (particleboard and furnitureboard) are generally used interchangeably, but there are different grades and thicknesses of the stuff.
Suffice to say that any I’ve run into, regardless of what it was officially called, didn’t do well when mixed with a little water. But getting back to all wood… Most manufacturers of kitchen cabinet define all wood as all plywood box construction. This means sides, back, and shelves. Some manufacturers make an all wood box, and I talked about this here with the folks at Young Furniture Mfg.
Their opinion was, and they changed their manufacturing process because of this, plywood panels are more stable than panels made of solid wood. Some manufacturers make it a little confusing as to what’s wood, plywood, and particleboard. They might mean just plywood sides. There are also debates as to what’s better for certain things. I’ve heard from some people that plywood shelves are more prone to bending or warping. There are some ktichen cabinets with sagging particleboard shelves at my house. There is also a bookcase I built out of birch plywood (in four foot wide sections) and the shelves are fine. Since I’m pretty sure that books weigh more than dishes, I personally don’t believe particleboard shelves are better.
Finish with all wood cabinetry is sometimes odd. If you want the interior of your cabinets to match the exterior, you probably need to specify this. Otherwise your shelves and interiors, although plywood, may come with that same maple looking sticker used on particleboard cabinet innards. Plywood thickness on cabinetry labeled all wood is usually 1/2 inch, but on better cabinets it’s more like 3/4. Some people might notice that birch plywood is the default, regardless of cabinet wood species, in most manufacturers lines. For finished and exposed ends, a veneer is usually applied that is the same (or looks the same) wood species and color (although I've seen a few Kabinart kitchens in my area where refrigerator end panels and finished ends are definitely NOT the same, discoloring after a few years) as the cabinet wood species.
It’s possible to get the plywood in the same species as the cabinet face frames and doors. There is such a thing as cherry plywood, and maple, and walnut. I’ve never seen some of them, but I know they exist and can be rather pricey. Cabinets that use such plywoods are also going to be more on the expensive side.
In the end, all wood cabinetry generally means no particleboard or MDF, and the manufacturers worth their salt use the same species of plywood for sides and panels as they do for their their face frames and doors,