Building Cabinets with Pre-Finished Plywood

Detail tips when making face-frame cabinets using pre-finished plywood. January 20, 2007

I am tired of spraying interiors and am looking for a better alternative such as pre-finished ply. But if I am doing a stain job, how do I match the interiors if a customer chooses a different stain? Also, I do face frame cabinets and usually will leave a little reveal on the face frames so I can trim with a v-groove on a trim router. I guess this question also applies to melamine. If I do face frame cabinets with melamine, this means, I would assume, that I have to finish the face frames before attaching to box, right?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
I have been using pre-finished ply for about 4 years and have never been asked to match the interiors to the exterior of the cabinet. Customers really like the light interior. If a costumer wanted to match the inside, I would explain that there would be an up-charge because of the labor savings in using pre-finished interiors. The only exceptions are cabinets with glass doors - I will use matching interior using same species as the face frame. I pre-finish these parts before assembly. Yes, the best way is to build and finish face frame, then assemble the cabs.

From contributor B:
I think the general rule of thumb with many is that if it's enclosed, it's pre-finish and if it's exposed, as in with built-in book shelves/cases, glass doors, etc, it is matched with a natural veneered ply/MDF. The contrast is not only efficient in time saved, but it looks nice as a contrast. With the melamine, it depends on how you attach face frames to the box, if you finish after or before.

From contributor M:
Listen to the suggestions! Use pocket-hole joints and attach your face frame after you finish the frame. The interiors are the same as mentioned. Every one I have done, they liked the light finish. The only problem with the process is where does one place the face frames when they are finished? I have a door rack, but it will not handle the larger face frames. Some stated earlier that they have a large rack, but I do not have the space for that arrangement. I hang mine from the ceiling. Good luck with the pre-finished. It will save you lots of time and energy.

From contributor D:
This method obviously eliminates the v-groove bit. I usually put face frames on using pocket screws, but then trim the face frames and the case with a flush cut trim v-groove bit.

From contributor J:
Masking tape. I would assume that you're not going to use pre-finished plywood on an exposed end panel anyway. Your end panels will match the frames, either raised panel or flat, but they can still be trimmed and sprayed with the frames finished.

From contributor C:
I have been thinking about moving to pre-finished ply as well, but what do you do with the underside of the wall cabinets when using the pre-finished?

From contributor G:
If you can see the under side of the cab when installed without bending over, I cut the cab ends flush to the bottom and skin it with 1/4" matching ply. Otherwise they stay as is. Although one could skin all the cab bottoms.

From contributor H:
Although I do not worry about the underside of my uppers being pre-finished, and neither do my clients, you can buy pre-finished one side only and I use this exclusively except for the shelves. It is cheaper than pre-finished two sided ply. Gables, decks, stretchers, tops, backs, are all pre-finished one side only. Drawer sides and shelves pre-finished two sides.