Shop cabinet lumber question

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  • Shop cabinet lumber question

    I am about to start building shop cabinets for my basement workshop using plans from an old ShopNotes magazine.

    http://i74.photobucket.com/albums/i2...nets/Page6.jpg
    My workbench will be a U shape with a double/triple/double configuration using two corner shelves for my drill press and bench grinder.

    The plans call for the cabinets to be built from MDF and Douglas fir in standard 2x4, 1x3, etc sizes. I plan to buy most of the materials from HD as I have gift cards to use. HD doesn't carry fir, so when I priced everything today, I substituted utility grade SPF for most of the framework and #2 SPF for the doors and drawers. Even with downgraded lumber, the materials for my large cabinet system still totalled around $750. I am on a very limited budget, so I can't afford much more than that for a workbench project. My question is around the fir. I have never bought or used fir, so I have no feel for its cost compared to framing lumber or clear white pine. I can sort through the utility grade piles and get pretty good stuff, but what benefits does the fir give me? From the magazine pics, I assume that fir is a fairly clear wood, but is that all? Is it stronger or better in other ways? HD doesn't have all the hardware I need, so I will have to go to a real lumber yard for a few things. Should I buy fir for the visible parts, or stick with the SPF from HD?
    Last edited by JeffG78; 03-31-2008, 10:26 AM. Reason: Updated link

  • #2
    Some time back I recall that spruce and fir were used interchangeably in the building trade for framing. I am sorry that I can't tell you more other than they are equal for strength in framing.
    Now in these parts its S. yellow pine for framing - a hard softwood
    I think in straight lines, but dream in curves

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    • #3
      It is an appearance thing rather than a functional difference. "SPF" is short for Spruce, Pine, and Fir. In other words generic softwood. So there is some fir in the pile but they have not sorted for it. I buy the #2 stuff for shop cabinets. Some of mine came from shipping crates our furniture arrived in when we moved here.

      One way to save money is to avoid metal drawer guides. They add a lot of cost. I made my drawers of #2 SPF and mounted them on wooden side guides. They move smooth enough for me and cost was much less than if I had used drawer guides.

      I like ShopNotes plans, however. I find them practical and well thought through.

      Jim

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      • #4
        Often fir or SYP are specified because those are the species that the author uses and is familiar with (more often than not because of their location). However, both fir and SYP are (IMHO) gorgeous compared to the "white" construction lumber I'm accustomed to seeing at Home Depot. I'll add that the construction lumber I'm accustomed to getting at HD isn't exactly ready for the kind of project you're talking about. I'd want it in my basement shop for a good 90 days before I'd start machining it. And even then, I'd expect some problems with it.

        I don't want to discourage you, but $750 isn't chump change. I'd be hesitant to hand-over that much money to HD for a shop project using their construction grade lumber unless I was getting some pretty nice stock or enough wood to build a garage.

        I used LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) stock to build my bench. This is 2x that is made up of thin veneers (like plywood, but all the plys run in the same direction). It is EXTREMELY strong, stronger than any construction lumber.

        I bought a couple of 2x10's (I think) and cut them down into 2x4's for my bench. They are very stable, so they won't warp or twist or anything. I had tried using some 2x material from a lumber yard first but left it in my basement for a week or two and found it had moved too much to consider going forward.

        I was very happy with the way the bench turned out using LVL, though. I've included a link that shows the base where I was asking what I should use for paint (yes, porch paint WAS the answer, tough as nails):

        http://www.bt3central.com/showthread.php?t=23086

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        • #5
          Originally posted by JimD View Post
          One way to save money is to avoid metal drawer guides. They add a lot of cost. I made my drawers of #2 SPF and mounted them on wooden side guides. They move smooth enough for me and cost was much less than if I had used drawer guides.
          Yes, the slides are pricey. I had pretty much figured on deleting the slide-out feature of the shelves to save money, but hadn't thought of going to wood drawer guides. The drawer and shelf slides alone are over $180 for the project. It's amazing how quickly the hardware adds up!

          I knew that SPF stands for Spruce Pine and Fir, but wasn't sure what it means in practice. When you buy fir, is it then equivalent to buying clear white pine, or closer to the price of #2 SPF?

          I heard the other day that due to the housing slowdown, lumber prices are supposed to start dropping. I sure hope so.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by chopnhack View Post
            Some time back I recall that spruce and fir were used interchangeably in the building trade for framing. I am sorry that I can't tell you more other than they are equal for strength in framing.
            I think the exception is Douglas Fir, which is stronger and more costly.

            Ed
            Do you know about kickback? Ray has a good writeup here... https://www.sawdustzone.org/articles...mare-explained

            For a kickback demonstration video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/910584...demonstration/

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            • #7
              With regard to the prospects of lumber pricing coming down due to the construction slowdown, I wouldn't look for much help there. Lumber producers who are selling fewer units will not be quick to compound their losses by adding a significant reduction in profit margin to the mix. Most likely, they will also seek to control pricing across the industry, rather than beating each others' brains out. When buyers can't get loans to buy houses, cheaper lumber is not going to solve the problem, unfortunately.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Uncle Cracker View Post
                With regard to the prospects of lumber pricing coming down due to the construction slowdown, I wouldn't look for much help there. Lumber producers who are selling fewer units will not be quick to compound their losses by adding a significant reduction in profit margin to the mix. Most likely, they will also seek to control pricing across the industry, rather than beating each others' brains out. When buyers can't get loans to buy houses, cheaper lumber is not going to solve the problem, unfortunately.

                they will if they have overstock they can't get rid of. Lower prices will get rid of inventory which is tying up $$$.
                Loring in Katy, TX USA
                If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
                BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

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                • #9
                  Use AC or cabinet grade plywood. $42 a sheet for Birch around here and it would be good enough for all elements of shop cabinets. You could even rip it for face frames. I recently read a book where the author did just that and they look good to me.

                  http://www.shop-cabinets.com/

                  It may not be fine furniture when you are done, but you are not going to treat it like it is either. I recommend that fellows book. He will make you rethink your shop cabinets entirely. Also, a good source for drawer guides is Grizzly. About $3 for a drawer guide in the 3/4 extension Blum style, 22" length. That is less than half what HD or Lowe's wants.
                  "A fine beer may be judged with just one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure"

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                  • #10
                    I just made some drawers out of oak flooring with wooden slide guides. They still need a bit of "tuning" but they work quite well even though I screwed them up every way possible and then some.

                    We have a piece of nice looking teak veneer furniture with wooden slide guides and some of theh less heavily loaded drawers throughout our house use wooden slides.

                    Johnson's paste wax or candle wax are cheap slide lubricants and they worked fine for me.

                    Some people may disagree but if budget is more important than appearance, you might think about using OSB instead of plywood where sheet goods are called for. Our local REI's checkout counter is made with the stuff and it looks appropriately rustic. It does take a bit more work to smooth the edges.

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                    • #11
                      The local HD here offers two grades of Doug Fir.

                      The dimensional lumber is all DF. It's yellow, wet, and twisted.

                      There is also clear DF available in the hardwoods aisle. It's much more red and is very pretty. It's offered mostly in 4/4, plus some 2x2 sticks.

                      The audtorium in the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is all clear DF. It looks wonderful, with uninterupted panels of straight grain running for 30-40 feet or more. Check out the 360 view of the auditorium on this page http://musiccenter.org/about/multimedia_video.html .

                      BTW - we went to a concert there a few weeks ago. There are almost no straight lines in the auditorium. Except for the stage itself, just about everything curves and bends. It's really beautiful. It was hard for me to concentrate on the music!

                      JR

                      On-line images are closely protected by the LA Music Center. The firm that consulted on the theater has some nice ones here: http://www.tpcworld.com/publications...el3=0&id=126#1
                      Last edited by JR; 01-22-2008, 12:52 AM.
                      JR

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                      • #12
                        Strength-wise, the downward gradation is Douglas Fir, Yellow Pine, whitewood. DF is by far stronger, and better looking. I would recommend you don't use white-wood on projects where you spend a lot of effort and time, or where you'd expect long years of service. I had made some shelves with white-wood, and noticed recently that they 'developed' splits - cracks along the grain for no reason. Btw, I have bought lotsa Douglas Fir at HD, so maybe you could check out another branch. Of course, DF is costlier than whitewood, though not much more than pine, if at all.

                        I have also bought and followed Tom Clark's book 'Practical Shop Cabinets' and recommend it totally (referred above by jon). He's elevated building cabinets from plywood into an art form - he even recommends joinery in plywood : dovetail, box, etc. You cannot argue with him when he says ply is cheaper and very strong.

                        $750 even with cheap lumber tells me your cabinets are gonna be pretty large. i recommend you break it down into smaller projects - like, left side this month, rest two months later, or something like that. spreads the cost, and also allows you to learn from your mistakes and keep improving. DAMHIKT!

                        As for wooden slides, they are nice, but keep an eye open for cheap bargains on the net for some steel ones for your larger, heavier drawers. you will thank me later .
                        It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
                        - Aristotle

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LCHIEN View Post
                          they will if they have overstock they can't get rid of. Lower prices will get rid of inventory which is tying up $$$.
                          This may be true for the random local yard with a full warehouse, but the lumber producers don't think that way. Unlike hardline manufactured goods, most lumber is not stockpiled months in advance. It's only a matter of a few weeks. What they do when there is a slowdown is move inventory to places where good prices can still be asked. With the rebuilding in the "Katrina Zone" and other areas where commercial building is still strong, they have ample market. Also, they can create artificial shortages, even in depressed markets, to keep prices up. There may be less building, but those that still need lumber will have to pay the prices offered.

                          A guy I know who works for Weyerhauser put it this way: "Nobody is gonna get out of bed and build a dozen houses he can't sell just because there is a lumber sale."

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                          • #14
                            Do a search for Tom Clark on the forums. He is a member and has some great posts related to building shop cabinets. I specifically remember some discussion about making them durable while using a light weight and inexpensive construction techniques. Sounds like it would be right up your alley.

                            Dale

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                            • #15
                              As for drawer guides, I have used these for a few mobile cabinets. The are really inexpensive (<$5.00/drawer) but Ive had no problems with them. They are very substantial and glide smoothly. They are not really loose like a wheel glides or the BB guides on the CMan tool chests, (You need to apply a bit of force but nothing excessive, maybe they will break in with use.). Only downside I've seen is that the shipping is on par if not more than the slides themselves

                              http://storesense.megawebservers.com...2370+Series%29
                              John
                              To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. ~ Edison

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