Authenticity is important, but not as important as stability. Given my preference, I'll use 3/4-inch lumber-core birch plywood for the cabinet base and sides and 3/4-inch MDF (medium-density fiberboard) for the raised door panels. I also use 1/4-inch MDF for drawer bottoms. It's stable, smoother than lauan plywood, and sufficiently strong for the job. I prefer solid 5/4 (1 inch dressed) maple for the face and door frames because it's stable, durable, and it takes paint beautifully. I do meet some resistance, however, when I recommend pricey maple face frames for a paint-grade cabinet. I can substitute a less expensive material, like poplar or pine, but pine isn't as stable as maple, and darkly striped poplar tends to bleed through a painted finish. For the kitchen described here, we knocked maple out of the budget and worked exclusively with 5/4 sugar pine for the exposed surfaces (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. To match the budget, the author used clear, 5/4 sugar pine for the face frames on this job, although he prefers maple for its hardness, stability, and paintability.

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