Particle board has been given a bad reputation over the years, and in many cases, rightfully so. With new technologies, attention to detail, and an improved focus on construction methods, particle board has been much improved in recent times. This post explores the history of particle board, its similarities and differences to plywood, and why it is still very commonly used in the construction of kitchen cabinetry, including our Euro Series cabinetry line.
History of Particle Board
Particle board was invented in Bremen, Germany during the second world war by a German fighter pilot and inventor, named Max Himmelheber. The first boards were made up of wood scraps, shavings, sawdust, and offcuts, which were all glued together using a specialized resin. Before all the pieces were glued together, they were smashed and pounded in order to create small enough pieces that would pass through a specific type of wire mesh. These first boards were not very durable, but they became the cornerstone of today’s modern particle board.
Refinement was necessary in order to improve the strength of the boards. The first refinement was to produce a more uniform chip. A uniformly sized chip greatly increased the strength of the boards and allowed for less resin to be used during the production process, which greatly improved the appearance. After this process was created, manufacturers then went on to develop what came to be known as three-layer particle board. A three-layer board consists of two thin outer layers comprised of more expensive and more durable particle board. These thin layers sandwiched a thicker, inner layer consisting of cheaper material.
Today’s particle board is formed by using compression and temperature to a make a much harder consistency and a much more durable finished product.
Particle Board vs Plywood
The common misconception here is that plywood is always better than particle board. While this can be true in certain cases, the opposite can also be true. Plywood is a composite material, similar to particle board, but made differently. While particle board is made of wood chips, plywood is made of thin sheets of wood glued together to form a single sheet. Each of these thin layers is referred to as a ply and the number of them impacts the quality of the finished board. Since plywood is more expensive in most cases to produce than particle board, manufacturers will often use layers of more inexpensive and softer woods in the interior of the plywood in order to keep costs down. The quality of the glue is also a factor in regards to the overall quality of plywood. Manufacturers of lower grade plywood will often use an inferior glue in order to cut costs and this can lead to the plies coming apart on the finished product.
Plywood is rated in grades from A to D, with A being the highest. We use B grade plywood in the construction of our Expression and Harbour Series cabinetry. It is important to ask your cabinet manufacturer the grade of the plywood they use in the construction of their cabinet box if you opt to look elsewhere for your cabinetry needs.
The biggest advantage particle board has over plywood is that it cuts and shapes more consistently. It does not twist or warp like plywood and has a more uniform thickness, which allows for higher tolerances when cutting. Many manufacturers are moving to high quality particle boards in their cabinet construction because of these reasons.
With only 1/16” reveals, our Euro Series cabinetry has a very small margin for error in the manufacturing process. Because of this, we’ve opted to use a high quality, industrial strength particle board in the construction. The particle board allows us to manufacture the cabinet components to a more precise measurement than could be possible with plywood, which helps to give the cabinetry line its sleek and modern look.
One thing that might be surprising about particle board is that it actually fairs better in heat and humidity than plywood, as it is less prone to warping. This is particularly important to consider if you live in a humid climate, such as Florida.
Like plywood, not all particle board is the same and this is important to consider when selecting your cabinetry. Stay away from lesser quality boards, as these boards tend to be poorly manufactured and are responsible, in part, for giving particle board an unfavorable reputation.
Our Euro Series cabinetry uses particle board with a density of between 0.67 and 0.73 kg/m cubed, so it is very durable and resistant to warping.
Particle Board the Greener Choice?
In recent years, there has been an emphasis on environmentally friendly business and manufacturing processes. As our planet continues to become more populated, and as natural resources diminish, it is important to always be cognizant of the foot prints we are leaving on our planet. The use of particle board allows for nearly every last bit of scrap and trimmings from solid wood work to be repurposed and used, instead of filling our land fills with unnecessary waste.
SOURCE: Credit for the majority of the information in this post goes to this post on Woodstocktimber.com.