Wood vs Steel

MOguy

Explorer
I see allot of people with wood slides outs, cabinetry and drawers. Why do people favor wood over steel? Wood seems so much heavier and thicker than steel would have to be.
 

Charles R

Adventurer
Ease of fabrication?
It's way easier to bond, drill, cut and shape wood with tools and stuff readily available at the big box home improvement stores.

Start playing with metal, and it takes a few more specialized tools and methods to do the same tasks.
 

MOguy

Explorer
Ease of fabrication?
It's way easier to bond, drill, cut and shape wood with tools and stuff readily available at the big box home improvement stores.

Start playing with metal, and it takes a few more specialized tools and methods to do the same tasks.
It is easier to work with wood for the DIYer. I have read a few post on various sights where people question weather or not their vehicle is too heavy then I look at some of the wood cabinets and just look soo heavy.
 

ducktapeguy

Adventurer
Cheaper, easier, lighter? I haven't built a drawer but I have designed one and compared the difference between metal and wood construction. 3/4" plywood weighs slightly less than 16 gauge steel, costs about 1/6 the price, and can be fabricated at home much easier. Steel in the sizes needed for drawer systems would require some reinforcement for stiffness, either a frame or stamped ribs or corrugations to prevent it from oil canning. I supposed you could make it out of slightly thinner steel, but then you run into even more problems and it wouldn't feel very durable. The cost of some of the commercial steel drawer systems start to look pretty attractive once you factor in material cost and fabrication time.

Personally I think 3/4" is pretty thick for a drawer, but I suppose if you're going through the trouble of building one, the material cost isn't that much more and it's probably a lot easier to join together than 1/2". I think an aluminum box frame with 1/4" plywood skins would be ideal, but a lot more work and probably more expensive than just using 3/4".
 

MOguy

Explorer
Cheaper, easier, lighter? I haven't built a drawer but I have designed one and compared the difference between metal and wood construction. 3/4" plywood weighs slightly less than 16 gauge steel, costs about 1/6 the price, and can be fabricated at home much easier. Steel in the sizes needed for drawer systems would require some reinforcement for stiffness, either a frame or stamped ribs or corrugations to prevent it from oil canning. I supposed you could make it out of slightly thinner steel, but then you run into even more problems and it wouldn't feel very durable. The cost of some of the commercial steel drawer systems start to look pretty attractive once you factor in material cost and fabrication time.

Personally I think 3/4" is pretty thick for a drawer, but I suppose if you're going through the trouble of building one, the material cost isn't that much more and it's probably a lot easier to join together than 1/2". I think an aluminum box frame with 1/4" plywood skins would be ideal, but a lot more work and probably more expensive than just using 3/4".
I understand would be a lot easier to work with but I'm not buying that it's stronger, more resilient or lighter. I've had this metal box for 15-20 years is far lighter than anything I could build with wood. It's been moved cross-country while in the Military by myself and by moving services. It is very well built and very sturdy.

I understand this may not be the type of drawer system that people would be interested in but the construction or style construction would be the same. Other than what I mentioned above I don't understand why a box and structure of wood would be chosen over Steel.

I am not a designer or fabricator, I am just thinking out loud. It just seems most storage shelving is metal unless it I more for in home use. Wood just doesn't seem like the best choice.
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NatersXJ6

Explorer
I think that you are substantially correct in that steel properly designed can be lighter, stronger, and more durable than wood. Life is full of examples. auto frames, bodies, skyscrapers, etc... most are now made from steel or aluminum... Trees are still mostly made of wood though.

In general, I think it comes down to production volume and comfort of the worker. The amount of tool cost and set up required to design and build something from steel lends itself to mass production better than wood. One offs or limited run items become cost prohibitive in steel or aluminum.

Wood is more forgiving for amateurs too. You can make something relatively nice with relative ease, and mistakes are not as costly to correct.

People are also afraid of welding. My steel racks for the back of my jeep involved removing all carpet, covering wiring and upholstery with fireproof blankets and welding a couple of the brackets to fit. Hot work in your vehicle can be a little disconcerting.

With that being said, I choose both and frequently go from one to the other. So far, I've made both great items and total failures from wood, steel, and other metals. I recently chose Baltic birch plywood for a chuck box because it was lighter than aluminum and could be made beautiful, whereas a steel box would look like a hack job.

Ultimately, everyone gets to do their own thing, and as long as they are having fun... Life is good.
 

MOguy

Explorer
I made simple rack out of aluminum. I designed and built it just says if it were wood. I used my chop saw, I drill some holes in it bolted it together. I read another poster where a guy made a sleeping pad / shelf using aluminum. He use rivets in some sort of special glue.

These are very simple constructions, not elaborated drawers and cabinets. I don't have the skill to weld but my son is learning. We haved worked on a trailer and some outdoor furniture. We bought an ark welder from a neighbor for than a hundred bucks and I just got a different saw blade for my chop saw. It isn't as difficult to work with steel, metal, aluminum as many think.

Welding with aluminum and lighter steel will require a different welder and some other skill sets.

Compared to what a lot of people spend on the wood tools they could get an inexpensive MIG welder and could get a lot of this done, as far as shelving and racks anyway.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
Sure, but the bevy of tools and woodworking skills came long before 'overlanding' prompted a sudden need for a drawer platform. If a person is starting completely from scratch, then sure, just as easy to take that metal fork in the road.
But still, a homeowner would be better served having the woodworking skills and tools than metal fab. Lot more things around a household needed in wood, than metal. Just click the last link in my sig, to see a few.
 

ducktapeguy

Adventurer
I don't think I said wood was stronger, what I said is it's stiffer. Compare 3/4" or 1/2" plywood to 16 gauge sheet. With plywood you can throw it on top of some supports and have a decent floor with no additional work, with metal you'd need quite a bit of bracing or stiffening for it to work.

Others brought up a good point, most people already have woodworking tools around the house, or it's easier to obtain the skills needed for woodworking than for metal. I have rarely seen a DIY metal project that hasn't looked like it was DIY, while there are a lot more people can make a nicer looking wood project.

For the toolbox shown above, I agree steel is a better choice, but to try and recreate that at home would be impossible for a normal person. At the very least, I see the need for a decent size box break, shear, spot welder, normal welder, and a lot of custom fixtures to keep things aligned. Not something that you would find in the average garage, and not a small investment if you only wanted to make 1 piece. In high volumes where you can justify the cost of equipment and tooling, metal is a much better choice. For a one off project that requires a lot of custom fitting, wood is just easier to work with, you can make almost anything with just a saw and a drill.

I'm fortunate enough tools to work with both, I'll use metal if it's called for, but for some projects wood is just easier. I've got access to industrial sized sheet metal equipment, but I've done enough metal work to know that making a drawer system is a HUGE undertaking that I probably wouldn't even try it unless i was planning on doing multiple pieces.
 
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