I have been mostly painting on Ampersand Gessobord for the last few years. While I liked the surface I wanted to use a better, more substantial support, so I am in the midst of switching over to cradled birch panels. I am using up my gessobord inventory on the box paintings that I have been (slowly) developing and am now exclusively using the new panels for gallery bound work.
There are a few drawbacks to this, though. First of all they require much more prep. I apply 2 coats of urethane on the backs, then 2 coats of wood primer on the sides and front, and then a thick brushy layer of gesso for the painting surface. I also sand between each layer, something that I have spent my entire life trying to avoid. I had to set up a permanent table in the office to do all of this, and it seems as if I am continuously prepping panels now. Yuck.
It is also much more difficult to get them. I used to be able to just order the Gessobord panels, 30-40 at a time, get them shipped and have them at my front door in a week. Soho Artist Materials is located in Soho (duh) and is just around the corner from Doug's store, and that seemed like a real plus. Until the parking lot where he usually parked when he drove to the city closed down. Now it has become really hard for him to find a lot that will take his big stupid Chevy Tahoe (yeah, yeah, I know he should get a smaller vehicle, but it's paid for, it still works and it's big enough to handle the fossil murals that he needs to haul around) so he doesn't drive down very often anymore unless I beg him and offer lots of free sex. Heh. Last week I was desperate for some panels and when he was in the city he picked up about a dozen smaller ones and then had to carry them on the train (free sex did not outweigh finding a parking spot on the snow filled streets). Not very convenient. There is also much more planning involved and if I want to order custom sizes, they take 2 weeks. I go through a lot of panels and they never seem to have enough of the sizes I want in stock and so I have to special order those too.
The birch panels also cost quite a bit more, which of course is understandable, as they are really well made and much more solid than the gessobord cradled panels. The price is kind of a wash though, as I had a price increase in January which has offset the higher costs.
But the painting part is heavenly, and I just realized yesterday that every piece I have done since I switched over has "turned out." Nothing for the sand down pile yet! Totally worth the extra work.