For the cabinets I've made thus far, I've assembled the face frames using
pocket screws and attached them to the boxes with either glue/nails or
glue/biscuits. But I'm thinking it might be nicer to dado the back of the
face frame and attach it with just glue. For a 1 1/2" face frame, is there
enough room to run a dado and still use pocket screws to assemble the face
I've searched the web and found many different opinions on FF
construction/attachment. What are some of yours?
Having recently shifted to a tongue/groove/pocket screw system, as
promoted by Sommerfeld Tools, I highly recommend you get their video
on the subject, and after watching it you can decide if you want to
invest the further $99 or so for the required router bits.
The video is titled "Cabinetmaking Made Easy" and you can get more
info here: http://www.sommerfeldtools.com/ The video is currently
on sale for $9.99 or so.
To answer your question, yes there is enough room to do that in a
1-1/2" face frame, but in my experience a 2" face frame is more the
I don't want this to sound like an advertisement because I have
nothing whatsoever to do with Sommerfeld, but this method is so quick
and easy that I really wish I'd discovered it 20 years ago.
Spend the best ten bucks you'll ever spend and get the video.
I don't bother to make a dado. I use only two biscuits on one side, so
I can align it dry. Then I put glue on and clamp the heck out of it.
IMO, the key to making a good face frame to a cabinet is to plane,
sand, assemble the face frame, and attach it to the carcass as quickly
as possible. As a hobbyist, I have found that if I plane and sand, and
then wait a couple weeks to finish the job, it gives the boards time to
warp (which makes it a lot harder to clamp it down flush). So, I try to
complete the entire process within 2-3 days.
Also, a classic hint is to make the face frame slightly too wide. When
you clamp it down, you have maybe 1/8" overhang on each side, which can
be sanded down perfectly flush. Takes a lot of the stress out of lining
it up perfectly.
My other hint is that if I am making a bottom unit, I will put pocket
screws on the bottom (unseen) part of the cabinet and use that to
fasten the bottom of the face frame. Reduces the number of clamps you
need, and those pocket screws really hold it tight, and since the
bottom faces the floor, no one will ever know.
Mike Pio wrote:
Depends upon how much time, and help, you have on your hands. I've done it
both ways, and working along most of the time, much prefer the accuracy
inherent in the following method:
If you have to build a lot of cabinets, do most/all of it by yourself, and
your doors, drawers and drawer fronts need to fit perfectly square openings
with a minimum of fuss, consider spending a bit more time on your face
frames, and less fitting the FF to an already assembled cabinet/box.
I _always_ make dadoed face frames first (using pocket-hole joinery), after
having spent a great deal of effort in batch cutting the stiles and rails,
and insuring perfect squareness of the FF during assembly.
I then assemble the batch cut cabinet box parts (end panels and floors) ON
the FF, with both glue and finish nails. This is easy to do alone with even
the largest cabinets by placing the FF face down on a level bench for the
glue-up ... no clamps necessary.
Besides being much easier to do by yourself, a perfectly square cabinet
follows from a perfectly square FF, saving a ton of time, money and future
misery fitting doors, drawers and drawer fronts.
If you want to see the "dado placement" dimensions for the 1 1/2" stiles I
generally use, go to the Page 7 of the Projects Journal on my web site
below, and click on one of the cabinet drawings at the top ... one for a
base cabinet, and one for a wall cabinet.
That said, different strokes ...
This is great information -- thank you. With that 3/4 dado in your FF's,
how many pocket screws do you normally fit into your bottom rail? From your
drawings, I presume the top rail and drawer cross members are not dadoed and
you can fit 2 screws each into those?
One on each side.
Strength is NOT an issue here because the assembled FF is being glued to the
floor and end panels, which are captured within the intersecting dadoes in
the stiles and rails and the dadoes in the end panels ... that is where your
strength/integrity of the assembled unit is derived, as well as your
I guaranatee you that elephants can dance on a cabinet made in this manner,
and that they will hang on a wall, fully loaded, or carry the heaviest
granite countertops, with no racking, ever.
The top rail on wall cabinets _does_ have a dado (usually 1/8" from the
bottom of the rail).
The top rail on base cabinets usually does not. Rarely do you have a top
'floor' on base cabinets, because you will be adding a substrate as a base
for the countertops. (both top and bottoms are designated as "floors" on
your materials cutlist since they are the same dimensions)
Muntins and intermediate/drawer rails, usually not.
As a recap:
Cut/route the dadoes first in your rails and stiles. Assemble the FF with
pockethole joinery. After the FF is assembled, take a router and connect the
dadoes on the rails with those on the stiles ... very easy to do freehand
with a 3/8" straight bit set at the same depth as the dado (1/4").
Keep in mind that all the dimensions are carefully worked out for 3/4"
sheetgoods for endpanels and floors. You need to change your placement if
you are using 5/8", or other thickness, sheetgoods.
For 3/4" sheetgoods, this gives you:
An even, 1/8" lip between the FF and the floors, which is a nice touch, IMO,
(debatable by some) and keeps from having any of those small gaps, between
the FF and the edge of the plywood and the floor, that collects dirt/dust
over the years.
A 1/4" "scribe strip" on the outside of each cabinet if needed, and which
can be used to great effect to accept 1/4" trim on the visible end panels at
the end of a cabinet run.
A 1/2" space on the inside of the cabinet, between the end panel wall and
edge of the FF, where a "spacer" cut from readily available 1/2" plywood
allows you to mount your drawer slides easily, without shimming.
And, depending upon the width of the rails, ample room at the top and bottom
of each cabinet to attach them to the wall without having screws visible
inside the cabinet. (This is also a good place to glue/brad nail 1/4 round
"cleats" as additional bracing, something I always add as just a little
extra "peace of mind" for the years to come)
The 3/4" between the 1/4" back panel and the back edge of the end panel will
accept the 3/4" tack strips, and they will be flush with the back and make
contact with the wall for better hanging/holding power.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.