Cabinet Modern

Kitchen Cabinets Trade Terminology, Definitions, and Hardware

This page will define and explain the trade terminology used to describe their products, styles, hardware, materials, and kitchen cabinets. We hope it’s helpful.

Very high-quality plywood made of fragile wood veneers. The panels are usually manufactured in the Baltic Sea region of Europe and Russia. The panels are sold in 5’ x 5’ size with various thicknesses and often used to make drawer boxes in furniture or cabinets and high-end commercial store fixtures. The quality of the layers in the core of this plywood is that there are few if any voids, and many people like the exposed look of these layers, which provides a modern feel. The plywood face is relatively free of defects (or defects have been patched with a “football”). From time to time, one might encounter a color variation in the face of the plywood that ranges from a soft blond to a rusty brown. However, most sheets consist entirely of blond wood.

The interior make-up of a good sheet panel between the front and back veneers. There are various cores available, but the most common are veneer core (thin-sliced, layered wood core), MDF core, particleboard core, lumber core (solid wood core), or a combination thereof. The quality and type of core affect the price and the weight of the panel.  For instance, an MDF core panel could weigh as much as 100lbs, whereas a comparable veneer core might weigh 55lbs. One must consider the use and end product when choosing the core as well. MDF and particle board will not last long in an environment high in moisture.

Referring to work that is one-of-a-kind or made to fit a specific space or serve a particular function. Usually work of higher quality, design, and cost.

Wood or wood products grown or made in the USA. Typically considered higher quality and more sustainably grown and produced. Sometimes more expensive.

A type of hinge attaches to the back of the door and the cabinet box or face frame without the hinge being visible from the front of the cabinet or door. This is often referred to as a “Euro hinge” or a “European Cup Hinge.”

The front frame on a cabinet or piece of furniture the doors typically attach. Most American cabinetry uses a face frame, whereas most European cabinetry does not. A frameless cabinet tends to look more contemporary or modern.

A door in which panels have no bevel or hip raise.

Wood or wood products grown or produced outside of the USA and imported. The foreign manufactured products can be very cheaply made and made with a massive impact on the environment depending on where they are made. Not all imports are low quality, and some wood or wood products must be imported since the trees do not grow in the USA. There are ways to verify source materials and the environmental impact of the imported products, but this typically adds incredible expense to the materials.

Drawer slides extend entirely and enable the back of the drawer to be accessed, thereby eliminating the useless cluttered space so common in drawers that use cheaper drops that do not extend fully. Full-extension slides are typically a ball-bearing design that travels smoothly and noise-free and usually holds 75lbs or more.

Work that is accomplished by hand or with hand tools rather than power tools. Most work done by power tools will need some level of handwork to remove the machine marks. Work that is entirely done by hand usually commands a premium price due to the carpenter’s skill and the increased time and labor of the project. Handwork often has an artistic or craftsman feel to it. Some people mistake this for imperfection or sloppiness, and some carpenters are somewhat sloppy. Still, sometimes this is just the result of a product made by a human being rather than a computerized machine with repeatability and tolerances of .001”. When considering having something made by hand, most people will consider the “humanness” of the result against the “perfection” of mass production as a plus.

Medium Density Fiberboard, or MDF is more commonly known, is a manufactured product widely used in sheet form as a core between veneer to form panels.  This product is excellent when used as a veneered substrate because it is incredibly flat and very stable as far as wood movement issues are concerned.  The downsides are its weight, high glue content, and tendency to swell beyond repair when allowed to soak up water or other liquids.

An artificial sheet comprised strands of wood laid in cross layers, with the bottom and top layers being haphazardly applied. The material is pressed and glued. It has become a cheaper and popular alternative to veneer core plywood in recent years for use as a sub-floor decking, exterior wall panel between the frame of a house and the brick facade, and roof decking. It is not used for fine woodworking but rather for general construction purposes.

Artificial material is heavy and dense, consisting of glue and sawdust pressed into large sheets or panels. This is an excellent use of a waste product that would otherwise be discarded however its use is the sign of shoddy construction and materials used in furniture or cabinets. It often contains formaldehyde in its glue which can leach from the product polluting indoor air quality. It tends to swell and separate when even briefly encountering moisture. The high glue content found in the product tends to dull knives and blades on processing machinery and tools more quickly.

Plywood is an artificial material consisting of thin layers (or plies) of wood glued together to form sheets. This type of plywood composed of thin sheets is called “Veneer Core Plywood.” The layers are often laid in odd numbers, with the grain of each successive layer running perpendicular to the grain of the layer before it. This cross layering of the grain gives the plywood its strength and relative stability (meaning its tendency to resist warping or shrinkage). Plywood comes in various grades or qualities depending on its use. For instance, plywood used as a floor underlayment or roof decking only needs to meet specific strength requirements and does not need to be aesthetically pleasing. A panel used in furniture may not need to meet the stringent strength requirements but must be of higher aesthetic quality. The price of finer plywood is affected by the type and quality of the core and the grade of veneers applied to the front and back of the panel. The term “plywood” is often used to describe various manufactured sheet goods that would not technically fit the description of “plywood.”

A term used to refer to a somewhat standardized, essential, or modular product. As is a “production cabinet shop” vs. a “custom cabinet shop.” Production shops produce larger quantities of a product with slight variation or customization. Their product is often cheaper due to economy of scale, more inexpensive materials (both quality and price), standardization, and a large labor force doing repetitive actions, such as assembly-line style manufacturing.

A wood from South America that is quite heavy and is naturally colored purple. Over time this wood can darken into a rich dark purple-brown.

A stile (pronounced “style”) is a vertical member of a raised panel door or a wood face frame. A rail is the horizontal member of a raised panel door or a wood face frame.

Wood in its solid or natural state, meaning that it has not been transformed into various other engineered or artificial wood products, such as sheet goods. Solid wood can exist as lumber or in some cut or shaped form, but its general make-up is still that of the natural wood from which it was cut or shaped.

A pin or small bracket that is movable within a range of pre-drilled holes allows for the vertical height adjustment of cabinet or furniture shelving.

A popular door style where a solid wood panel is suspended inside a wood frame. The board often has a shaped profile that allows it to rest inside a groove in the door frame and the top of the panel is usually flush with the top of the frame. The solid wood panel must be allowed to “float” inside the frame. If one glue or nails the solid center panel inside the frame, the seasonal wood movement will eventually shatter the structure requiring the door to be rebuilt. This type of door or design feature is sometimes called “floating panel construction” or “5-piece door” - (4 frame parts and one center panel = 5 pieces).

The common term used to describe wood that has been placed on a lathe and “turned.” Most wood items circular in appearance have been turned, such as a round table leg or a pool cue.

A thin slice of wood glued to the front and back of a good sheet panel. A veneer can also be a thin slice or thin slices of wood that are glued onto a surface to create a beautiful elaborate design