I'm a "weekend woodworker" (boxes, small shelves/cabinets, stuff like that). Now I'm thinking about replacing one of my wardrobes, and was thinking about doing it myself. The problem is: in Romania, solid wood is actually cheaper than processed wood (MDF, plywood, etc) with veneer faces (because I want an overall natural wood look).

My question is (I didn't find anything concrete searching here or on the internet):

When making solid wood furniture, do I need to worry about the wood cracking because the different faces expand at different rates through-out the year?

More explicitly, if the sides, top, and bottom planks/faces will be screwed to each other, will the planks expand/shrink at different rates, thus making the wood susceptible to cracking at the screws? They, of course, will be from the same type of lumber, with the backing from plywood. But even so, I'm worried one of the planks will expand more/less than the adjacent ones and put a strain on the screws.

I'm thinking about making it either from oak or more possibly walnut, 2m (6.5 ft) height, 1m (3.2ft) width with divider in the middle, and 0.7m (2.3ft) depth. So the faces/planks will be about 2*0.7m (6.5*2.3ft).

Any info/hint you can give me will be much appreciated.

EDIT: Since I am clearly misunderstood: if the grains are running in the same direction, will any of the faces expand more/less than the faces next to it, thus cracking the wood?

enter image description here

(please excuse my crude drawing, I am in a hurry) Thanks.

EDIT2: would it be better if I made my own boards/planks from quartersawn lumber (I can easily get it in 1.8*1.8cm (0.7*0.7in)) with each piece turned 90 deg cw (thus making the grain in each plank run in all directions, which if I understand correctly, will make it more dimensionally stable)? Or would that just be even worse? (elbow grease and tools are not a problem. I have enough tools / friends with tools, and I'm not skittish about work...I actually like working with my hands on projects like this :) )

enter image description here

  • Ignoring elsewhere online, where the topic of wood movement is covered in depth in many places, not sure why you couldn't find anything concrete here because related info to this has been posted multiple times. The internal search should bring up all relevant Q&As if you're using the right search terms. But now that you've posted your Question you have a list of Related Qs to the right that are a good starting point.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 11:06
  • Since they aren't showing at right also have a look at these as a primer on how grain affects wood movement, which direction does wood expand? and What general considerations do I need to take into account for wood movement?
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 11:18
  • @Graphus - i found many posts / blogs about wood movement, but nothing about the movement of the planks relative to each other. At most, they would say that you should keep the grain running in the same direction. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 11:40
  • 1
    Design questions often benefit from a quick isometric drawing of what you have in mind. It will help us visualize where the typical movement will occur, as well as allow for people to suggest joinery techniques to minimize the problems.
    – user5572
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 14:18
  • "At most, they would say that you should keep the grain running in the same direction." And that's the important take-home message when it comes to making stuff from solid wood. With any typical box structure the grain runs continually around the perimeter — on a chest it's all horizontal, on a cupboard up the sides across the top. Anyway, you can forget about all the theory if you don't try to build from first principles as I think you're trying to. You're not in a vacuum — build according to established construction methods, as they did in the days before there even was any plywood.....
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


It seems like the main question is about wood movement in different parts of the same piece (eg, top vs bottom). You do not have to worry about the wood in one part of the cabinet moving at a faster rate than wood at a different part of the cabinet for most furniture you are likely to encounter. For example, you might encounter this with a countertop that is expected to get wet frequently, but mostly that is not the case. As others have mentioned, the much more important consideration is wood moving with respect to its grain orientation, which a foundation for all of traditional solid wood joinery, especially frame and panel construction.

  • Which is to say, make sure the wood you use in the top has its grain oriented the same way as the wood you use in the bottom. The same goes for the sides. It is when joining wood with perpendicular grain that the biggest problems arise. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 20:11

At your skill level, I really advise against this. Unless you can find a source of real, quartersawn planks, anything you build up to 70 cm wide is going to warp with the seasons. The only exception is if you use frame-and-panel construction, essentially making each surface as a door.

If what you want is basically a simple slab for the 4 walls and back, you are much better off with plywood.

You should take a clue from door construction. Look at old doors. They are roughly the same size as your wardrobe components. For "finished" doors, frame and panel is the way it's done. Unless you want your wardrobe to look like it's made of barn doors joined together.

  • 2
    What is it that you are advising against? Is it the materials, or the joinery? There is a lot in this answer that is factually correct, but overall it is hard for me to agree with you given the initial comment: "At your skill level, I really advise against this." When I started out, I knew basically nothing but knew I was excited to put the effort learning how to do it right. The fact that OP is asking this question shows an awareness that his initial plan might not be a good one. I see no reason to discourage his efforts. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 16:31
  • As I have said, solid wood is cheapest. MDF is about 1.5 times the price of oak for the same dimension, not taking into account veneer, which almost doubles the cost (making it about 3 times as expensive). Plywood is about 2-3 times the price of oak and is only available in pine, popler or beech (at least from what I found online and in nearby stores). But if there is no other way, I will, of course, go the MDF+veneer route. Thanks. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 16:32
  • EDIT: But i think there might be another way: 18*40cm (0.7*1.6 in) quartersawn lumber (and they are even cheaper than the planks). I could glue up a bunch of them and make my own planks (after planing, cutting to size, faceting). Could it be made this way? I realize it would be much more work to be done, but I think it would be a good solution. What do you think? Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 16:45
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    What?? Nothing 70cm wide can be built without recourse to QS stock or manmade boards without an absolute assurance it will warp? Have you looked at a typical pine blanket box at all? ^_^
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 19:52
  • Yeah, I'd reframe (no pun intended) this answer to provide a choice: join wood in the recommended manner or use veneer/plywood in the recommended manner. The question posed, though, is clearly about the former. If the interest and ability to afford and acquire basic hand tools (and, well, the astonishingly large number of clamps one always needs) is there, there is no reason even a raw beginner can't be guided on how to glue-up panels. We gotta start somewhere. I love veneers, too. But they can be pricey, and you just end up shifting technique and tools to work with them anyway.
    – user5572
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 21:41

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