Solid Wood V-Groove Cabinet Doors

Cabinetmakers consider how to address moisture-related wood movement in cabinet doors made with solid wood slats. January 13, 2009

I have a design and construction challenge. An interior designer has requested solid rift sawn white oak v-groove cabinet doors, drawer faces and appliance panels for a number of cabinets in a high end residential house. I am concerned about wood movement do to moisture changes. The house sits directly on the ocean in the northeastern United States.

The rift sawn white oak should help as well as the fact that the house will have a high quality climate control system. The panels must align vertically when drawer faces are stacked over each other or over a door, so precision is also required. The designer is resistant to a veneer approach and seems set on solid wood. I am considering some sort of sliding dovetail key for all the panels and then using the traditional board and batten construction for the swinging doors and "battening" the drawer faces to the drawer boxes and the appliance panels to the appliance attachment brackets. I will seal the wood parts prior to assembly, but this may be a problem since the designer has also called for a wire brushed or sand blasted texture before staining the wood. I could re-seal the front faces after the texture treatment. I am looking for thoughts and ideas.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor W:
Why not just make slab doors then route the "v" with a router or magic molder?

From the original questioner:
As I mentioned, the designer is resistant to veneer or a slab approach. At this point, solid rift sawn is the material.

From contributor M:
Sounds good to me. Educate them on the limitations of their choice, and have them sign off on it. Make slabs with the keys in the appropriate locations, and then cut the doors and drawers out of the same slab.

I would just caution you here. It sounds like the designer is somewhat unrealistic in his expectations. Let this be the red flag, and proceed with caution. Document every step of the way, and take good notes. Please make the time to do this. It may take extra time now, but I would bet that it will save you money later.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the thought. I will be explicit. The builder will be with me on this. He is using board and batten for v-groove mahogany interior doors and is having trouble keeping those stable. I will need to margin on the heavy side vertically.

From contributor R:
If I may say so, what this job requires is three-layered hardwood panels. These are not common in the U.S. as yet, but they are a very good solution for exactly such situations. They are basically 3 layers of 1/4" each, all in the same hardwood, with the middle layer cross-grained. In my experience, even architects specifying solid wood doors have agreed to use them, because it virtually eliminates the problems of working with true slab doors.
My shop has made any number of kitchens this way, and while the material is expensive, all you do is cut to size and drill for hinges. In the 3-4 years that I've been using them never had a warp or shrinkage problem afterwards.

From the original questioner:
There has been some misunderstanding in this thread. The designer is requiring solid doors from tongue and v-groove rift sawn white oak "slats". I should have been more explicit about the "slats". These are not slab doors. I would prefer to do the slab door construction, but that is not the design specification at this time.

From contributor O:
The problem is that you have a designer dictating your construction techniques. When in slab form, rift cut oak will not move nearly as much as plainsawn so even slabs with no battens should be fine. It is the designer’s job to tell you how it should look. It is your job to tell the designer how it needs to be built to get that look.

From contributor I:
Glue up the panels, and v-groove the face on each glue joint. On the back side of each panel cut a 1/8" wide groove on the back side. Offset the groove about 1/8" to 1/4" from the v-groove. This will make the panel to week to cup. Install battens on the back with slots for screws so that the panel can still expand and contract. I have done this hundreds of times and it works great. If done right it will look the same as tongue and v-groove and be a far better door.