Real Wood Cabinetry: Beautiful but Maybe Plywood is Better
Even if you don't like the idea, there are advantages to making cabinet sides from plywood instead of solid wood. Because the outer layer of the plywood is still the same species as the face frames and doors (well, most of the time — I've seen Kabinart and Armstrong deviate) the cabinets count as "real wood cabinetry."
Young Furniture Mfg recently switched from making 3/4" real wood cabinetry sides to making their cabinets with 3/4" plywood sides. A little taken aback (I was always impressed with how beefy their cabinets were — I think they'd survive a meteor strike!) I called to ask why this switch was made, and why it didn't affect all of the wood cabinetry they make. Red Maple, for instance, is now made with plywood. Eastern White Pine, however, is not. Here's what YFM had to say…
"Yes, there have been major issues with both Maple and Poplar panels over 18" wide expanding and contracting causing problems with cabinet dimensions. Because of this, we changed our cabinet construction to plywood. We are using 3/4" veneer core plywood; these cabinets are "all wood". Plywood offers superior stability and durability. Cabinet doors are still produced using solid wood panels. Our warranty has always stated that cabinet doors over 18" wide or 60" high are not recommended or guaranteed. As long as doors are built within these parameters there are not usually any problems."
Well, there you have it.