Wood Species For Cabinet Doors


From original questioner:

Heretofore I have ordered all of my doors but I am in the process of acquiring the machinery bring doors in house. I don't want to debate anyone over the efficacy of making doors versus outsourcing - those threads are a miserable chevy vs ford debate, however, I am considering offering cherry to my customers exclusively without the choice for a separate species and was interested in your opinions. My reasons are:

I do not have a large space to store a variety of wood species

I consider cherry to machine better than maple

I could designate a range of acceptable color as stain grade with the remainder designated for opaque finishes (I would use mdf panels on all opaques so I would only need stile/rail material, and I don't have much demand for rustic finishes so I would otherwise have nothing to do with the cherry boards not meeting the criteria of stain grade)

It would be much easier on the person who is responsible for sorting the boards into paint grade vs stain grade if he only had to consider one species

cherry is considered by the customers (mine anyway) to be a premium material which would add to my value proposition.

I believe that the above advantages outweigh the difference in the purchase price of cherry lumber vs maple.

Oh and one more thing, I would have to offer quarter sawn oak as well but I could do so with an increased lead time and slight upcharge to account for the special treatment of that order.

From contributor JR

Sounds like you have thought it through pretty well. I like using cherry color culls for paint grade.

From contributor ma

When you were ordering doors, did you only order cherry?

From contributor AG

No. When I was ordering doors I would order whichever wood offered the most value to the customer while still suiting the application. My premise is that once I bring production in house a "cherry only" offering, while ultimately overkill for some of the resulting uses (e.g. paint grade cherry doors) may then offer the most value to the goods that I sell for the reasons listed in my initial post.

From contributor La

It's a guess that most of your cherry is stained. If that is the case I would opt for red maple as my standard. Machines nicely, stains better than hard maple and 99% of your customers couldn't tell the difference once it is stained and finished. Seems like a shame to waste cherry when red maple is every bit as good for most applications. It will offer the advantage of being able to do many more stain variations or light "natural" finishes. For the person that just has to have cherry (clear finish?) order some in for that job and charge appropriately.

From contributor AG

Thanks Larry - that makes a lot of sense and I don't know why I hadn't considered soft maple as a primary offering to begin with. I think that I have it in my head that its a pain to finish because we used to have a lot of trouble staining maple but now we spray most of our stain and the blotching is no longer an issue.

Thanks again!

From contributor Ma

I like this idea. Lean thinking when it comes to wood.

I would stick with cherry though as the only “wasted” material in painted or pigmented finished would be stock that is too nasty to use in stained jobs. For me, all I basically sell is cherry and painted finish anyway, so if I were to make doors this would work well.

Btw, it has been my experience that soft maple does not machine very well (I get a lot of fuzzing on profiles) so I will not use it for paint grade work as it requires too much sanding and prep work. I never tried to stain it.


From contributor La

A little research: there are several soft maples that can vary greatly. But best I can tell there are only two hard maples, Sugar & Black. Those two vary from 36 to 48.4 #/cu ft. The softest of the softs is box elder but it is not very common in the lumber trade. The most common is Silver maple @ 29to 36 #/cu ft, stripped maple about the same as silver. For you guys out west Big Leaf is 30 - 37 #/cu ft. Then there is my favorite Red Maple @ 34 - 42. You can see a considerable overlap between Red and Hard. I was surprised. Yet in my experience, the Red machines w/o the problems that often affect Hard. The term "soft maple" can include: Red, Silver, Box Elder, Striped, Big leaf, Field, (Norway maple & Sycamore maple, sort of, but not common in the US.) Pick your poison.

From contributor JR

Hey everyone, what is the price difference between cherry and soft maple (or your favorite "universal" wood where you are?

Out in the Northwest, #1C cherry is ~$2.40/bf and 100/90 prime is just starting to edge over $3.00. We just build whatever people order, so I don't really have a species that I push. Cherry is mid range in price for us.

From contributor je

It seems that there is more of a chance to get curl in soft maple compared to hard. The curly stuff doesn't paint very favorably. This is why we use hard maple for paint grade products. We always have hard maple, cherry, and ash on hand.

From contributor AG

I don't buy enough wood to know, JR. So far my hardwood purchases have been few given that I outsource moldings, doors, columns etc. The small amount of hardwood that I have bought has been through my sheet goods distributor and the quantities were so low I didn't pay attention to the board foot price.

From contributor JR

I guess what I'm getting at is the fact that the raw material is only 20% or so of the cost of a door. If your customers don't really care what species it is as long as it fits with the look they want, then being able to pocket an extra few hundred dollars per month by saving $1 / BF is a no brainer. If you can upsell a slightly more premium wood for stain grade, then it evens out.

Question on red maple - are veneers and/or A face panels available? I have not run across it in my area. Any other names that you've heard it called, or advice on how to spec it?

From contributor AG

That may be a special order item. I am pretty sure that my distributor doesn't stock different varieties of maple, but that is a good point given that my needs would require veneered mdf, plywood and particle board.

From contributor Je

I'm curious how your going to sell this to customers? I'm assuming here that your some type of custom shop, yet your going to have less options than even the least expensive box store cabinets?

Sounds like the old Henry Ford story something to the affect of offering "any color you want as long as it's black". Which of course wouldn't work too well these days.


From contributor AG


We offer a very large (by my standards) library of in house multi step colors. All of these finishes are offered at no upcharge save but the charges that are inherent to the process. If the customer doesn't want one of these colors, then we will work with them to make a new color, albeit at an upcharge. This new color will be added as a new finish schedule in our existing library and thereafter offered with no upcharge.

I guess it depends on how you are selling, but in our case we have, in some cases, a full door sample of each finish and at a minimum a 3" x 5" sample. We have names for each, just like the factories. When the customers look through the samples, they choose "ginger spice" or "esquire".......I have yet to have a customer ask what species of wood is under the finish.

In my case the exception would be quarter sawn oak for obvious reasons. If a customer wanted a wood other than our standard species we would likely fulfill the order, but at a higher price and a longer lead time.