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Cabinetry Materials

Craftsman Style


Craftsman Style

Here are some finished images of a home that we recently worked on. Architecture was done by SALA Architects Inc. The architect specifically designed the entire house to be craftsman style. The cabinets are made of quarter sawn oak.



Wood Veneers – A Unique Design Element

By Wendy Britt Mosman, CKD, Allied Member ASID Steven Cabinets, Inc., Industry Partner ASID


Using the World’s Resources Wisely:

As the design community embraces the challenge of using the world’s resources responsibly, high quality wood veneers offer exciting design possibilities.  The exotic grain patterns, rich natural colors and deep luster of wood veneers provide a treat for the eye that is also environmentally sound. 

A tree that yields 1000 board feet of lumber could produce 40,000 square feet of veneer, which is then applied to a substrate of plywood or MDF made from by-products that used to go to waste. The beauty of the wood is maximized, with a smaller impact on the environment. 

Renewable veneer products are becoming more widely used:

-          Bamboo, a very fast growing grass, is made into plywood sheets consisting of 3-5 layers of thick bamboo veneer.  The interesting edge grain can be used as a design feature, and it can be toned for fun custom colors.

-          Reconstituted veneers are made from generic plantation grown wood veneers that are laminated into blocks of wood which are then sliced into veneer leaves which can mimic nature or create unique new patterns. 

A Global Product:

Timber for veneer is harvested around the globe, and some of the world’s most beautiful woods are available only as veneer.  Many wood species offer patterns in veneer that are not typically seen in solid wood.  For example, plain sawn maple is a fairly non-descript wood, but maple veneers like bird’s eye and quilted maple have wonderful pattern and movement.  Plain sawn mahogany is beautiful, but does not compare to the shimmer and luster found in ribbon stripe or crotch mahogany veneers.  The list of woods cut for veneer is almost limitless, and each species can show several grain patterns depending on how the log is sliced.  A few examples from across the globe;

Africa:  Anegre, Avodire, Benge, Bubinga, Etimoe, Iroko, Makore, Movingui, Sapele, Wenge, Zebrawood

Asia & Pacific Islands:  Amboyna, Bamboo, Kauri, Rosewood, Satinwood, Teak

Australia:  Eucalyptus, Jarrah, Lacewood

Europe and England:  Beech, Chestnut, Carpathian Elm, Larch, Pear, Sycamore, Yew

South America:  Boxwood, Cedar, Cocobolo, Imbuia, Jatoba, Pellin Tulipwood

North America:   Alder, Ash, Butternut, Cedar, Hackberry, Hickory, Maple, Myrtle, Sweetgum, Sycamore, Walnut

Veneers were first used in Egypt nearly 4000 years ago.  European furniture makers like Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite brought veneers to a fine art in their 18th century banded mahogany tabletops and marquetry sideboards.  In the 1970’s the reputation of veneers sunk to a low point with the overuse of rotary sliced oak veneers with darkly stained zebra like grain patterns.    Today we see a resurgence of quality veneer use with designers increasingly specifying veneer for its beauty and versatility as well as its reputation as a “green” product. 

Process and Partnering: 

Specifying veneer can be somewhat daunting, so it is wise to find a supplier that will guide you through the process. The species, growth pattern, and angle of slicing will determine the raw veneer’s appearance, while trimming and lay-up create the final look.  The same tree can show a very straight grain when rift or quarter sliced, or a cathedral pattern when plain sliced.  Striking flame patterns are found in crotch veneers sliced from the section of a tree where main branches intersect, while tree stumps and burls yield highly complex and fluid grain.  

Stock Veneers:  Most cabinet shops and manufacturers use stock veneers, purchased as pre-made sheets of veneer on a substrate that can be cut to make doors and cabinet parts.  The species and grain pattern available are limited, but cost effective.  Care should be taken when ordering, as the color and pattern may vary from sheet to sheet and you will want to understand how your supplier deals with those variables.   

Custom Veneers:  Some cabinetmakers also offer custom selected veneers. 

When veneers are cut, the slices [called leaves] from one entire section of a tree are bundled together in sequential order and called a “flitch”.

-          During design development a selection is made from veneer “type” samples.

-          Several flitches with pattern and color similar to the type selected can be placed on hold with the veneer wholesaler, and “live” sample leaves sent out for first hand inspection.  In this way you and your client can view and select the individual tree that the veneer will come from.

-          Working with a cabinetmaker that is experienced in veneer selection is critical as the final look may not be immediately evident from the raw veneer.  They will be able to help you understand the design possibilities for each flitch as they  point out what to look for, make suggestions on how it should be trimmed and laid up, and give you an idea of how it will look when it is finished.  

-          Once a flitch is selected the cabinetmaker completes the process by ordering the veneer laid up into face sheets and pressed to a substrate from which the cabinets or wall panels will be made.  Talk with your cabinet maker early in the design process to determine how much additional time will be required for custom veneer selection.

Design Detail:

When using veneer, full height cabinets should always show continuous grain from floor to ceiling, and the color and pattern should flow smoothly from cabinet to cabinet. No matter which cut, color or species you select, attention to detail is the key, and teamwork is the way to get there. 

Your design experience and keen eye for detail, combined with your cabinetmaker’s knowledge and expertise will allow you to offer your clients unique custom wood veneers from around the globe. 

Additional Resources:

-  - photos of veneer species

- - veneer supplier - photos of available flitches

- – to order a 70 page Veneer Species Guide

Steven Cabinets, Inc. has been partnering with designers, architects and contractors to design and build premium custom cabinets and furniture for over 30 years.  Known for their quality, innovation and attention to detail, they are an expert resource for all your woodworking needs. Phone - 612.378.1812




Custom Cabinetry: Just a product?

The following Article was published in Builder/Architect Magazine: "I wish I had a nickel for every time a builder told me their cabinetmaker’s product is fine, it looks good, the price is OK, but the process of getting the job done was filled with unwelcome surprises and challenges.  Does “custom” mean too expensive, off schedule and time consuming?  It can be all of those things, if all you think you’re buying is a product.

Cabinetry can come in a dizzying array of price points, styles, and quality levels. Cabinetry is an out front residential product. It is something that a client touches, uses, and looks at every day.  It is part of the home’s image as well as its functionality.  So how do you educate your client on the choices without overwhelming yourself or them?  It’s my observation that while you as the builder or architect certainly know a lot about many cabinetry details, this is not really what your time is best spent doing.  As a builder or architect it’s your job to read your clients overall needs and desires and put the whole package together for them.  Do you want to be the expert on doorstyles, veneers, lacquers, distressed finishes, hardware, kitchen design and interior features?  Is it possible to find someone who can provide this expertise and also understand schedule, budget and the effect on your bottom line as a building/remodeling professional?

What is often overlooked is the fact that custom cabinetry comes with a wide range of service levels.  Ask yourself  “How do the choices I offer my client affect my jobs beyond what the finished product looks like?  What is reasonable to expect from a cabinetmaker?”  Don’t ignore the hidden costs of mistakes, delayed schedules, and miscommunication.  The low initial bid is often not the most profitable.  Time is money and opportunity cost is real. You should expect your cabinetmaker to be someone who:

- makes you look good to earn referrals

- takes the initiative to communicate well with you and your client.

- can meet your budget and schedule

- contributes to your bottom line with professional service

It is important to be discerning as to what is important to your client.  Just as you wouldn’t take a Mercedes buyer to a Yugo dealership, a one type fits all approach to cabinetry causes headaches and does a disservice to the client.  Develop options for your clients who have different needs.  It is better for you to build a relationship with a cabinetmaker with an end in mind as to the niche you are looking to fill.   We find that homeowners in all price ranges respond well when working with someone who is passionate about helping them determine what the options are for their kitchen, home office, or master bath.  Sometimes clients are interested in spending a great deal of time exploring options, while others are simply looking for a nice solution without spending much of their time.  Either way, they want someone who can ask the right questions, who listens, who is experienced, organized, and efficient in providing value for their time and money.  This is not too much to expect from your cabinetmaker.  To meet these needs, it can be very helpful to build a relationship with 2 or 3 cabinetmakers who are set up for different service levels and price ranges.

Doug Steven is President of Steven Cabinets Inc., a second generation cabinet company that was founded by his father in 1964. He is a past President of the Minnesota NARI chapter of which he is still a board member. He was named in Remodeling magazines Top 50 remodelers in 2002. SCI has a highly experienced staff in both design and custom cabinet manufacturing which has been serving Twin Cities builders, remodelers, and discerning clients for 42 years."