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Wood Color Variation Defect in Out-Sourced Doors

      Cabinetmakers discuss door quality issues related to wood selection in panel stock glue-ups. April 30, 2009

I just received my second order of doors from a door supplier and I am horrified. My first order had no sapwood and I ordered the second set the same way and half of the doors have several white stripes. I can't sell this to the customer. What do you do in this situation - try to fix it with stain or get them remade, and at who's expense?

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Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
I would send the door back. That is not acceptable for anything except paint grade or possibly a "rustic" grade.

From contributor Y:
Where did you get those if you don't mind saying? I am looking for a new supplier and that is one I will stay away from.

From the original questioner:
I do not want to name them yet. If they make good on the issue then they are actually a very good source. I want to get more feedback from other peoples experiences with this issue.

From contributor J:
Yikes, it is one thing to glue up a panel like that, another thing to raise it and even worse to assemble it. Either they don't have any concept of quality or whoever was banging them together messed up. If they don't do you right by replacing it, it is a problem, but most good companies will replace it no questions asked simply to keep your business especially in this economy.

From contributor A:
I had the same problem with my old supplier. We had used them for about four years for drawers. They make a great product. We always specíd hard white maple. One day we get a big delivery of drawers. They are the ugliest drawers I have ever seen - huge red streaks. They called it natural maple. I checked hard white on the order form. They do not have a natural maple on the order form. They actually tried to strong arm me, at one point refusing to pay for the return shipping. We haven't used them since. Door/drawer companies are a dime a dozen. Most are good most of the time. That is a paint grade door by the way, no way I would except that product as a clear finish.

From contributor V:
Did you spec no sap wood? Or just order natural cherry? That door is natural cherry in all its beauty and ugliness at once. With natural cherry not much care is given to color match. However in this case, even for natural cherry, this door is ugly. Send it back for replacement. If itís only one they should do it at no charge.

From contributor G:
Unfortunately I've dealt with the same issue (though not as stark) with many of the more reputable door suppliers. Simply put, even two pieces of the same board can change color when glued up. What I have done is switched to a "veneer raised panel" door from Arkansas wood doors. There are one of a handful of suppliers who use a 5/8 MDF core raised panel with a wood veneer applied on front and back. No glue lines period. This not only solves the glue line problems with finishing, it also eliminates expansion/contraction issues with larger/wider panels.

From contributor M:
What you show in your photo is what I would get from my door company if I did not specify "select cherry" when ordering (and pay a higher rate per foot accordingly.) If you cannot get your guy to replace it and all the others like it, you can hide the light-colored staves when finishing the door. If you are just finishing the doors natural, mask off the adjacent sides of the raised panel right at the glue lines and spray the light stave with a highly-diluted mixture of your clear coat and thinner with just enough burnt umber universal pigment to allow you to tone out the light color with a few passes of the spray gun. I do this selective toning process on all natural finish cherry jobs due to the high amount of color variation in cherry wood.

From contributor Y:
When did we get to the point in time when we only use a particular part of the tree and then throw the rest into a land fill? Trees don't grow just to give you the perfect piece of wood. Itís our job to find the beauty and use it. I think that door is fine if it is to be stained. Did you order natural cherry or select cherry? In my area people actually love sappy cherry. In my shop we use all lumber grades right down to outs. There's more to a tree than the stump.

From contributor J:
The point is they are clearly gluing up scraps. Most cherry I get is 4" plus and some of the wider boards get a little sap that comes off in the straight line rip. To use lesser grade wood is fine as long as you use all lesser grade wood. If you specify clear select you shouldn't even see much color variation. You could probably get away with a dark stain and toning but honestly itís not worth the effort. Material is relatively cheap labor is not. Why they are wasting time gluing up 1-2" wide scraps to make up raised panels makes you wonder. I would be curious for a photo of another door that looks good.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the comments - I will be talking to the supplier and seeing what they say. This was the second set of doors and I asked for them the same way. The first set was beautiful, not perfect but I was not ashamed to put my name on the project. Here is another picture of the same batch. This is what I would expect to be worst case variation and I would not want them to all be this way. What do you think?

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From contributor R:
The first one would have made good firewood or paint grade. The second is borderline. Contributor Jís correct - there is no reason to make the panels out of such narrow staves. Further adding those narrow pieces should only be done on the edges but the color variation is unacceptable. It's about 1/3 of a board foot of lumber so that's what $1.50 versus either you wasting 30 minutes to an hour toning that section or him remaking the whole door. No common sense. If I sent something like that out to one of my door customers they'd have me tarred and feathered.

From contributor M:
The top stave of the raised panel in the last photo clearly has sap wood in the upper half (next to the cathedral grain). This is completely unacceptable for select cherry. One of the other staves is too narrow, in my opinion, but the color variations in the other staves appears to be all within heartwood, and therefore, would probably only be considered natural color variation, and not below grade for a select cherry door.

From contributor J:
I use Cabinet Door Service for all my cherry doors. If there is any sapwood, it will be on the back, none on the front, period. I have never had this problem with them. Not all door companies are like yours, some have standards. When I order cherry doors I never have to worry about quality. Outsourcing does have its pitfalls.

From the original questioner:
I wanted to follow up and say that the supplier replaced the doors with the inferior material within a week and the new ones are excellent. Their customer service has been great. Thanks for all the feedback.

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