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Help – White Oak Cabinets Cut

J M
last month

Our kitchen cabinets were just delivered today. The grain on these doors surprised us, as the grain is far larger, bolder and more dramatic than we thought we'd be getting. We approved a sample door previously which was less dramatic, and we believed this is what we'd be getting. Also pictured is an oven cabinet with grain we liked. I want to say this was rift cut or quarter sawn.


What do you all think? Is the grain on the cabinet doors plain/flat sawn vs. rift cut? Our cabinet guy will argue we ordered White Oak that's what he gave us. The color reproduction isn't the greatest here, but what do you think of the grain? It's not what we expected, as we were expecting more subtlety and uniformity.





Comments (34)

  • jdesign_gw
    last month

    The center plywood panel is really low-grade quality. Which unfortunately is the dominant area. The solid wood frame is a mix of rift and flat cut which would be acceptable if they had just put a better center panel. Not much more of an investment on their part to do better. Don’t want to make you feel bad but your not wrong for questioning that.

    J M thanked jdesign_gw
  • PRO
    BeverlyFLADeziner
    last month

    The door frames are solid oak and the inserts are a flat cut veneer. If you wanted rift cut it has to be specified or agreed to in some fashion

    Door below with Rift Cut Insert


    J M thanked BeverlyFLADeziner
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  • jdesign_gw
    last month

    It’s not about asking for rift cut. That’s a whole different thing. I work with veneer just about everyday on a high level. Nothing off-the-shelf I have it all made specifically for me. You don’t have to go to that extreme you just have to care. Like I said the center veneered plywood is crap. It’s practically rotary cut which is the lowest end type there is. They could have done better.

  • dmac1108
    last month

    I am not a pro - or anywhere near being a pro- and even I can tell you that you definitely do NOT have rift sawn oak. The veneered panel clearly shows a lot of dramatic face grain.. If you ordered rift or quarter sawn oak, it should be specified in your paperwork.

  • aef aef
    last month

    Thank you for posting. We also just ordered rift white oak and I have been leery of what might show up! Please update on how this works out for you. Can I ask what cabinet line you are using?

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC
    last month

    Here's a link that explains the difference between plain-sawn, quarter-sawn, rift-sawn, and live-sawn oak. If you scroll down to the image that compares them, you'll see that you probably have plain sawn oak, which is the least expensive. https://www.grandior.net/what-is-the-difference-between-plain-sawn-quarter-sawn-rift-sawn-and-live-sawn-lumber/ By the way, the oven cabinet looks to be plain sawn as well.

    Unless your contract specifies exactly which type of cut you ordered, and you have a "strike-off" of a door, you really have no recourse. A "strike-off" is a door made exactly for you in the exact same material, color, style and pattern that the company will make your cabinets in. If all you have is a generic sample, then you're at the mercy of the manufacturer, as samples can be old and the color or type of wood not indicative of what the mill is producing currently.

    If you paid extra for rift or quarter sawn oak, then you should get a price adjustment.

    All that being said I think the cabinets looks pretty great!

  • J M
    Original Author
    last month


    Here is our oven cabinet's side panel. Does this look Quarter-Sawn?

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC
    last month

    Hard for me to say--maybe someone more knowledgeable than I can comment.

    But you should really look at your written contract and question whomever you bought the cabinets from to get the best answer.

  • J M
    Original Author
    last month

    Thank you @Diana Bier Interiors, LLC. Here's the progress. My wife and I are discussing having the maker redo the doors (specific cuts weren't stipulated in a contract, and we were ignorant of this detail until now). We'd likely have to pay for that but my wife wants this done right.


    The installers have gone to lunch. I'm trying to decide if it is too grainy/80s; if it's somehow going to work when it's all together; or I'm becoming blind to it and getting used to it. This is why I'm asking fresh trained eyes.





  • J M
    Original Author
    last month

    @aef aef It's not any particular line. It's all custom.

  • J M
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @jdesign_gw I believe the center panel isn’t veneered plywood. It’s white oak. That’s why we were going to ask for quarter sawn or rift cut.

  • Tanya
    last month

    They look beautiful in your kitchen. Personally I don’t think they look 80’s.

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC
    last month

    I wouldn't say it looks "80s" but I think the grain is very pronounced. Whether you keep it as is or not is your choice--how do YOU like it? It wouldn't be my choice, but it's not my kitchen.

  • Anna (6B/7A in MD)
    last month

    If you don't like it, have it fixed...you'll have this kitchen for many years and you want it to make you happy.

  • dmac1108
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I don’t think it looks 80s or 90s. From what I remember about kitchens back in the 80s (which isn’t much!) - the wood was darker. I don’t remember “pretty” graining. In the 90s, a TON of oak was installed - and it all took on an “amber hue” - which made it look orangish.

    Your cabinets are pretty - I like grain. Walnut is, by far, my favorite - but I think oak grain can look nice.

    If you don’t want your cabinet doors, I’LL TAKE THEM! I will just order any other I need from your custom cabinet maker! LOL!

  • Boxerpal
    last month

    I like your kitchen. I think it is going to be beautiful. But this is your space. If you have doubts or concerns now I would change them.


    When looking at your photo below. Do you prefer the look that is on the left side on the panel Refrigerator area or do you prefer the doors under the sink? This photo could explain to the cabinet people or your GC what you wanted and perhaps they can order new doors in the exact color and grain you wish. 1/2 way through my reno, I had to order a totally different kind of cabinet because I wanted drawers. I do not regret my choice, it was more and change orders are never fun on a renovation but in the big picture it was worth it to us.




    J M thanked Boxerpal
  • PRO
    Debbi Washburn
    last month

    Your 4th picture in your original post is the door sample you had looked at? The is regular oak - not quartersawn. I also do feel that the side of your oven cabinet is regular oak as well.

    If you want the quartersawn - go for it! Otherwise you will never be happy.

    On the flip side - the cabinets look beautiful - I love all that graining

  • J M
    Original Author
    last month

    @Debbi Washburn Your response is interesting... Yes, the 4th picture was the sample we looked at. What makes you think the sample and side panel is regular oak vs. white oak?

  • vinmarks
    last month

    She means regular oak as in not rift or quarter sawn.

  • PRO
    Debbi Washburn
    last month

    It is not about regular oak vs white oak. It is about regular cut of oak vs rift cut oak ( they both can be red oak or white oak ) .

    Here are 2 pictures from a display where I work. You can see how the doors are vs the side of the cabinet and the filler. The side and the filler are regular sawn oak and the door/drawer fronts are 1/4 sawn oak. These are veneered center panel doors.



    Its the " rings " of the wood grain that give away the cut of the wood.

    This should help



    I don't think they would mix in one quartersawn piece with a whole kitchen of regular sawn doors and drawers

    I hope I am making sense!

    J M thanked Debbi Washburn
  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I don't think they look like 80's oak.

    A lot will depend on the style you're after.

    That type of wood goes well w/the Mission style or Arts/Crafts type of homes

    these are all quarter sawn white oak






    this is Rift Sawn



    J M thanked Beth H. :
  • Anna (6B/7A in MD)
    last month

    That was very interesting jdesign.

  • J M
    Original Author
    last month

    @jdesign_gw I wanted to disagree with you on the veneer, but it turns out you're right. The rises and stiles are solid white oak, but the center panel is indeed plywood with a veneer. I've learned the problem is they specified white oak, but they never specified what type or grade of veneer. We're having a discussion on that later today. It's probably ideal for us to specify whatever the grade is for the larger cabinet panels (or better?) so we have consistency.

  • dmac1108
    last month

    @jdesign_gw - This may be a dumb question but I’m going to ask it anyway . . .

    I mistakenly thought that the way to identify (by photo) whether a kitchen door was a solid wood panel vs. veneer over a substrate = identifying smaller panels of wood used to make the bigger panel (solid wood) vs. a continuous wood grain (one uninterrupted sheet of veneer. After reading your comments above, I decided to do some “research“ on veneer grading. I read about how veneer sheets can be made by one continuous “peel” (please excuse my layman’s terminology here) OR by smaller cuts of sheets - just like solid wood (plain/quarter/rift. As soon as I read the foregoing, I was like, “Duh!” Obviously, that makes sense!


    So, here’s my question - if solid wood doors are made by putting smaller panels together (where you can see the different grain patterns change from one small panel to the next) AND veneered panels can be made by taking different sheets of veneer and attaching them to a single substrate (where you can still easily see the different grain patterns next to each other some of the time - unless good matching was used which can make it look like one continuous grain pattern across the panel), how do you identify whether the grain pattern change is due to different (i) solid panels placed together, OR (ii) sheets of veneer attached to the substrate panel? I apologize if this should be obvious . . .



  • jdesign_gw
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Ok short answer for right now (still working here). Veneers are slices of the same board (really log). So grain and color are consistent. To complicate things there are a number of ways the individual sheets “leaves” can be arranged “laid up” and the process is almost seamless especially with certain cuts. Book matched , slip match, slip and flip, random and more. Re solid wood unless someone makes the effort to grain match mostly using parts of the same board if possible the variation is more noticeable. It gets more in the weeds than this but one thing to remember each tree is different although some species are more consistent than others. This is a photo of some ”raw veneer” l’m working with each bundle has made 25 or so sheets in ten which are mirror images of each other.



  • jdesign_gw
    last month

    dmac1108 reading your question again “continuous sheet“ is where you’re getting a little confused. A continuous sheet “peel” of veneer is called “rotary cut” . It’s basically the log rotating as the blades cut a continuous thin slice. This is the lowest grade cut mostly seem on standard plywood. Other cuts have to do with how the log is sliced. There are hundreds of spices of wood cut into veneers and a dozen or more cuts getting into figuring of the grain or characteristics of the log. A lot of these are not really available in solid lumber. If someone uses pretty wide stock solid lumber like 8-10” and glues up two pieces from the same board you would get a very consistent look. The difference being even if they did that for every door each door wouldn’t necessarily match the others. With veneers you could have the all look pretty close. This is more important when doing flat slab door. For a framed “shaker style” where you have the styles and rails breaking up the look it’s better to have a little variation between doors but still matching the center panel. The company I use to make that style door for me alway matches the center panel which is typically a 3/8” reversed raised panel.

  • dmac1108
    last month

    @jdesign_gw - Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this. It’s really very interesting. I‘ve always found wood grains to be attractive (obviously, some species more than others). Also, I appreciate that you used my “dumbed-down” layman’s terminology along with your industry terms.


    I‘ve read many posts on Houzz where someone orders cabinets off of a sample door - and is very upset when the grain/stain color of their installed kitchen is not what he/she was expecting. Stained wood will look different as it ages - and it’s logical to assume that a sample door will have carefully selected graining. Cabinet manufacturers/distributors/retailers will have language in the contracts expressly protecting them form this type of issue. Unfortunately, most homeowners have little understanding about the technical aspects related to cabinets making (you can insert other trade areas involved in home construction/renovation here also). Without this knowledge, it becomes almost impossible to ”protect” themselves when entering into related contracts. Please note - I purposely placed quotation marks around the word “protect“ because I am not using that word in a pejorative manner towards professionals in the industry.


    This is extremely helpful because I am currently exploring cabinet options for my kitchen update. Based upon your comments, I am now going to consider doors with veneer panels, in addition to solid wood ones. In the event that I decide to purchase one of the veneer options, I will make sure that the veneer grade is specified, along with the cut.


    One last thing - did you know that the OP’s door panels were veneer over plywood or mdf because the grain pattern/color is consistent?


    Thanks again!

  • Rehabit
    last month

    🤷🏻‍♀️looks like my custom red oak cabinets from 1995 I just stripped my island of the old honey stain I don’t think dated but more rustic country or modern farmhouse jmo

  • hu818472722
    last month

    I would think that if you approved a cabinet door choice that looks like the side of your oven cabinet then all of your cabinet centers should look like that especially if they are custom made. Looks like they ran out of the rift cut center panel material and filled in with what others have suggested is or what certainly looks like a cheaper veneer. These look worse than rustic, I think a stock Menards or Home depot cabinet would look better than this. I hope they make it right for you, it's such a shame. You are right to complain, I would be horrified.

  • Donald
    last month

    Wood grain, subtle or pronounced, doesn’t date a kitchen. It’s the combination of all the elements together. Are you installing harvest gold appliances and a sheet vinyl floor? If you are, then I’d say it might look a little dated.

  • Cherie
    last month

    I’m not a pro but I’m with @jdesign_gw.


    It looks like your veneer is rotary cut.



    For your redo – please ensure sure you specify if want the veneer sheets to be laid out as book match (mirror images) or slip matched (laid in a row).




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  • ahey1
    last month

    Excellent discussion!
    The cabinets do look a bit 80’s, and if it were my kitchen I’d be highly upset! Thankfully Houzz had great info re white oak and its cuts when we re-did our kitchen last year, and I was able to specify we wanted quartersawn/rift sawn. The cabinet salesperson/ designer should have taken it upon his self/herself to clarify the details before ordering. It will still look beautiful in the end, just not what was expected.

  • PRO
    Debbi Washburn
    last month

    Curious as to where things stand?

    I think the conversation went on a tangent. This is not about quartersawn or rift cut oak. The door sample the op showed is regular cut oak.

    I don't know if the colors are meant to be the same - is there a picture of that sample next to your cabinets?

    Also about the veneers - I do not have one cabinet line where I can specify what sort of veneers to use. I suppose that only happens with cabinet makers when directly purchased through them.

    Will follow to see outcome! Can't wait

    PS I happen to really like your cabinets and am interested in what you are pairing with them