Panel and Frame Doors ?

I have a whole house-full of cabinets to make as part of a full remodel--maple, shaker style, with a faux cherry (like natural cherry, not the deep dark version) finish. The panels will be veneer ply... Rather than going the traditional way of sealing and staining the panels before assembly, would it make sense to assemble the doors, locking the plywood panel in place on a couple of sides, then finishing the whole door at once? (I would have the same problems if I bought pre-made doors.)
The plywood panels are stable while the frame will have some movement with humidity... but the panels only penetrate the stile/rails by about 1/2in. I don't think 1/2in of solid maple will shrink/expand all that much, but of course, I don't want to see even a sliver of white wood on the panels. I realize the pros use "eased" edges on their frames that let the stain spread under the frame, but my edges would be dead square.
Any feedback/pointers would be appreciated... .
Cheers, Shawn
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Having built a few hundred doors like this I would advise staining the panels before assembly if you are more than slightly changing the color of the wood. Then assemble and stain the rails and stiles. Depth of the grove does not really matter so much as the total width of the rails and stiles as far as movement is concerned. There will be wood movement and eventually you will see the unstained/unpainted panel perimeter edges. You dont have to varnish before assembly as varnish does not change the color enough to notice.
I would also advise cutting the panels shorter/narrower and using "Space Balls" or a like item to keep the panels centered.
If the pro's ease the edges it is IMHO a sloppy short cut. I can assure you that pro's don't always use the best method for appearances, speed and ease is what matters most to 98% of the pro's.
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Sage advice, thanks. Just a couple of related questions: (1) I know pre-made cabinet doors are a big business, how do people stain/finish those? (2) In my case, I suspect the final color would require a stain as well as some final dye toning... would you just stain the panel first or try to get a final color on it.
Since you have done this a few times, would you prefer a Cat Laquer or Conversion Varnish for kitchen cabinets--I was thinking of going with Target water based ones since the house will be occupied.
Thanks again.
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Staining/painting premade cabinets are typically sprayed/brushed or wiped. Premade is not the best of senerios. You deal with what you have to work with. If you have controll over the order of things, prestaining edges that might later be exposed is better than not.

I go with what the customer wants however if not painting I go with traditional varnish. I have done more cabinets and doors than the average woodworker however I am not in the big league as far as production is concern. So far spraying is not in my realm.
As far as which kind of varnish, water based tends to be the least offensive, odor wise, however, Target? Is that a brand or the name Target puts on their product? I would advise the best you can possibly afford. Better quality finishes not only translate to a better finish but very often a better experience and ease of application. My preference in stains are gel stains, they don't leave lap marks, don't drip, and easily go on with a rag. Typically gel stains AND gel varnishes don't have an objectionable odor as they cure. I have used these products inside the house on many occasions.
Gel varnishes and stains dry quickly as opposed to the liquid variety. They are normally dry to the touch in 5~10 minutes so dust is normally not a problem during any stage of application. I absolutely do not prepare the room for finishing when using gel products. Additionally I have not yet, in the past 22 years, had to ever do any kind of sanding/ scuffing the surface of any previous layer of gel stain or gel varnish when using gel finishes.
You can get a glass smooth surface using rags to apply and remove excess gel stains and varnishes. The trick is to understand that you need to " lightly" remove excess with a DRY clean and soft rag "almost immediately" after application. Once the wiping off rag becomes tacky itself replace it with a new fresh one. Once the finish begins to tack up you have waited too long. Fortunately another immediate application of the product will ease the removal of the excess. Because you want to wipe off the excess immediately the coats tend to be thin. Expect to double the amount of coats you normally would apply with a liquid, 3~4 coats minimum for decent protection. This sounds like a lot of work but because it dries to the touch so quickly you generally can apply a coat in 1/3 the time necessary with a brush or rag when using the liquid version.
Brands I prefer, the now defunked Lawrence McFadden,,, Bartleys, and or General Finishes, in that order.
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Thanks for the detailed explanations Leon, I had not thought of wiping/gel varnishes for this project, but I will look into it... Always good to learn.
Cheers, Shawn
PS: "Target" is a brand...www.targetcoatings.com
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Ah! Thanks for the link. I would suspect that Target coatings would be a worth while brand to pursue.
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