Help! Are rift cut, slab cabinets always veneer?

frogsterMay 31, 2013

We got a sample of our door color for our slab, rift cut oak cabinets the other day and noticed it was on a veneer. I promptly emailed the cabinet company owner and asked him about it. He called back the next morning and said the actual doors were solid. Today we went to the shop to work on stains and saw the cabinets, and they were indeed veneers with banded edges. He is now telling us that it makes sense to do slab cabinets in a veneer and that there really isn't another way to do this. (Our other doors from him are solid slabs)

What should I do? The contract doesn't say anything about veneers.


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In every brand I carry slab doors are veneer on MDF. Only my two hit end custom brands offer a true rift cut and both are that way.
There wikk be variable od banded with tape, banded with solid wood -1/16 or 1/8. In one case the wood is applied before the veneer so the edge is not exposed (actually my semi custom brand)
I could get the hi end folks to make a solid wood door, with a disclainer for warpage, and likely with battens on the back. I would not recommend it.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 1:37PM
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Veneer is the best way for slabs, and the only real way to get bookmatching grain across the whole installation. It's pretty much the standard for all European cabinets. They would be horrified that someone wanted to use a precious resource like solid rift sawn wood for the cabinet doors.

BTW, if you could choose to go solid wood, it would be composed of several different boards and thus could be "stripey". It would also need a batten across the back that can interfere with the interior storage space. And it would be a lot more expensive without any real return for that money spent.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 3:39PM
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My drawer fronts from Scherrs are solid QS oak. The few doors we have are as well and they do have battens on the back.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 3:52PM
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Thanks. Very helpful. I guess I will learn to like the banded edge look.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 4:14PM
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Here's another thread on this topic. I went with rift oak book matched vertical grain. I was completely opposed to the veneer and MDF, but after reading and seeing other cabinets, I think it is fine for us.

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous post on rift oak veneer

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 6:47PM
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Drawer fronts are held straight by the sides and bottom pieces, so they can be solid. Doors have no support to hold them against warping unless you use battens, so veneer is a superior construction method if you want plain slab doors. Even battens can't completely prevent warping, and they can cause splitting.

I fail to understand the knee-jerk prejudice against veneer ... the base layer is selected for strength and stability, the veneer is selected for appearance. It's been in use since the Egyptians, and used on some incredible pieces.

Here is a link that might be useful: Veneered cabinet

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 6:57AM
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BTW- you really do not want to mix solid drawers with veneer doors if you can help it. The difference in stain color (particularly light colors) and aging can be very apparent with rift cut. Besides if you get veneer you can have the grain matched (vertical is safer BTW)

The "knee jerk" reaction is pretty understandable if you think about it. Consumers are looking for some way to determine if they are getting a good product. The process is fraught with perils, both perceived and real. "Can I trust this dealer?"

Consumers are not immersed in the ins and outs of materials and construction so rely on anecdotal evidence and suggestions. Even may KD's knowledge is limited to the mfg sales pitch. There will even be honest disagreement between "informed" pros.

People look for easy answers, for a few details that will tell them if something is good. Perfectly understandable and it leads to...."solid wood is good" "particle board is junk" "dovetail drawers are a must" and so on. Every now and then I get someone who wants the box sides made from solid wood. Unfortunately there are very few, if any, details that are telling by themselves.

Mfg's and many KD's do not help. Sales tactics often cater to fear instead of solid information.
Then there is the consumer preference in what they want to be told, how they want to buy things. The adage "sell the sizzle and not the steak" exists because it works more often than not. Technical info makes a lot of folks eyes glaze over.

In the long run it is up to the pros- to be accurately informed themselves and find ways to get the information to consumers without putting them to sleep.

That can be risky though. I know I have lost sales by telling the truth that did not jive with someone's preconceived ideas or what "the other guy" said. Lost one this month. "we like the other brand better". I know beyond a shadow they are mistaken but so be it. Really hope the reason is they like the other guy better, then it is a better choice.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Sophie Wheeler

"I fail to understand the knee-jerk prejudice against veneer."

Caution: Crochety old woman rant ahead. Skip if you desire. (NOT directed at the OP, just society in general.)

Ignorance breeds prejudice in the presence of advertisers who take advantage of that ignorance. And once people have a hold of an idea, it's difficult to disabuse them of it, even in the face of facts.

The internet is a huge culprit in putting out blatantly false word of mouth chains of lies, as well as creating an air of skepticism about actual knowledge based on facts. "Anyone can put anything on the internet."

The gullible will believe all kinds of outlandish crap (and repeat it) . Just look at the fact that someone had to set up a site like to counter the internet chain letters about Proctor and Gamble being owned by Satanists and other absurd crocks of hooey. Even those who have some ability to discern fact from fiction are jaded about those facts because they came from what they consider an unreliable source--the internet.

And people get teed off when you tell them that their dearly held idea has no basis in reality.

Therefore, you get stupid requests from people like wanting "solid wood cabinet sides" without them even knowing its a stupid request. They are ignorant about the behavior of wood in the presence of humidity. And if you actually take the time to try to educate them why it's not the best idea, rather than thanking you for the help, they aggressively hold on to their ignorance and are offended that you tried to educate them. As if personal conviction will overturn the laws of physics and their world somehow operates outside of the laws of the known universe just because they want it to.

And this is why most of the educators at the university level in any of the sciences are now mostly foreign born. Science and the scientific method are less important than how someone feels about themselves. No critical thinking is being taught in a lot of schools, only ego stroking is happening. I volunteer with an adult literacy program, and it's staggering as to how many high school graduates can't even read at a second grade level, much less understand basic science like plants need sunlight to photosynthesize.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 10:38AM
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Hollysprings you are so right! That whole mentality contributed to the housing collapse in 2008. People believing that their homes were worth twice what they paid 2 years prior and then pulling cash out of the false equity. Of course the banks didn't help by lending to anybody who could fog a mirror.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Have a delightful old dining room set (table, china cabinet, server. 'bar' cabinet a made with spectacular crotch mahogany veneers, with solid mahogany (yep, Cuban mahogany, that old) for the solid pieces and veneer substrates.

It largest weakness is the French polish (shellac) on the whole thing.

It is all to easily damaged by daily use without pads and tablecloths.

About once a year I do a quick pass and touch up the French polish.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 11:39AM
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I am glad that Hollysprings was clear that her post wasn't directed at me, because then I might have had a knee jerk reaction to it. And, that wouldn't have been pretty.

In my particular circumstance, I specifically discussed with the owner of the cabinet company concerns about warping, our particular cabinets, the humidity control that we have on our HVAC system and how we would be keeping door sizes down and use battens in certain instances. I particularly dislike the banded edge look. I did not think that is what I was getting. Apparently, I am correct that some people do have rift sawn doors that are solid, but it seems like there are good reasons to stay away from doing so. Had I known that the doors were going to be veneers, I would have focused on the thickness of the veneer and dealt with my concerns about the edges.

And, for anyone keeping track, I have fine veneer furniture, it just doesn't happen to have banded edges.

Have a great evening, Frogster

This post was edited by frogster on Sat, Jun 1, 13 at 21:35

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 9:19PM
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Frogster- as indicated earlier veneer is a good idea- however there are several ways to deal with the edges, banding being the least desirable albeit common. Sounds like under the circumstances you might be able to prevail for an alternative.

Even if they are purchasing doors elsewhere the other options are available, including doors where the veneer is applied after a wood edging, but that does involve extended lead times.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 10:05PM
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The reaction to veneer is not knee-jerk. It is based on solid experience and a desire to avoid a product failure in the future. Solid can take a bump, veneer will lift. The edge treatment with iron on banding is more fragile than solid wood. Kitchen cabs are used every day by a range of family members and a realistic home owner needs to plan for ordinary use. Veneer cabinet grade ply with an inlaid solid edge in a 'v' cut with matched shaper knives could be a quality option.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 12:26AM
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We chose not to go with veneer because we are really hard on things, and the veneer cabinets we installed 4 years ago are getting thrashed. We have real life experience with veneer cabs, and it's not pretty.

I would use them in a non-family house, but not one with kids. I don't say that because some cabinet manufacturer convinced me, or a KD convinced me. I say that because I've seen it firsthand.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 7:55AM
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I had a veneered TV cart that was still in surprisingly good shape when I sent it to the runnage sale after a few decades- despite the fact that my 3 girls liked to repurpose it as a fire truck, taxi, choo choo train- no chips, some dents, a magic marker stain.

I built veneer slab cabinetry (edge banded)for the primary bath in 1994-still fine. There is a bit of a bow in the doors though. I was younger and still in the "plywood is best" camp. I would not use ply now.

I have veneer slab doors and veneered tops from Showplace in the office. It gets a bit more abuse than the rest of the studio- granite samples, tools from service calls, banged with door samples, crazed designer scrambling to gather things to head to an appt., and clients kids -it's fine. (These have solid wood edge with face veneer applied last)

The office was done 2 yrs ago- when Showplace did away went from solid wood slabs to veneer. That was done because of the high percent of replacements on the solid doors. They discussed it extensively with dealers who were split 50/50. Some said "I have customers who ask for solid wood". There was talk of having both in the end they dropped " all wood".

There are those that are done well and some not so good.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 8:47AM
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