How to finish kitchen cabinets?

I am about to build my first kitchen cabinets. Have read a lot about it.
1) But one question: When do you apply the finish? The reason I ask, is that in some of the books they show the cabinets installed without finish, so they must be finished in place. Also, do you finish th face frames off the cabinet?
Odd that the books I've read seem to have left out this fndamental, no doubt simple, step. They assume I'm not an idiot, I guess.
2) Also, I've seen a lot about prefinished plywood. That sounds great, but how does it effect glue-up? I meant to glue up and scew the butt joints, which would be easy with unfinished wood. If I use pre-finished, won't that keep the glue from bonding?
3) Do any of you use screws (and pocket holes where needed) without glue?
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"manuel" wrote in message

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doubt
Not a hard and fast rule for everyone, but I always finish custom made kitchen cabinet casework after installation of the countertops and backsplashes.
The doors and drawer fronts are always finished separately, generally somewhere onsite, prior to mounting on the finished cabinet casework. The latter components can be done at anytime, and moved to safekeeping, as they make up the most visible part of a complete kitchen, and are generally installed at the very last.

that
IME, well made cabinets (and there are plenty that don't fall within that category) with pre-finished material generally rely on dadoes and grooves, with glue, for joinery. That said, there are plenty of exceptions that use screwed butt joints, but not in any of the houses I build.

I almost always use pocket hole screws as the joinery on the face frames of kitchen cabinets, but NOT on the sides, "floors" and backs (cabinet floors and cabinet tops a generally the same dimension and are usually referred to generically as "floors" on your cutlist).
If the cabinet sides, floor and top are housed/fastened to the face frame in grooves and dadoes with glue, it is not absolutely necessary to glue the face frame components, IME.
I've done it both ways and not noticed a difference in integrity as the fastening of the face frame to the cabinet casework with glue, and in some cases finish nails along with the glue, almost always ends in a structural integrity that far exceeds either component by itself.
a couple of the pages on my website show some recent kitchen cabinet installations, almost step by step. Might want to take a gander.
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I've built one set of kitchen cabinets, and I finished them prior to installation. But then, I sprayed a conversion varnish, so that was pretty much necessary. If I was brushing on a finish, I think I'd still want to do it prior to installation. I finished the cabinet after everything (including the face frames) was assembled.

Where do you have plywood butt joints? There weren't any in my cabinets that I can remember. I don't have an opinion on prefinished plywood, other than it would be very useful. I don't know where I'd find a retail supplier around here, though.

For the cabient sides, I rabbet the plywood edge to fit a groove in the face frame. I typically used pocket screws and glue to assemble the cabinet sides, more as a substitute for clamps than to add strength. There's plenty of gluing surface there. However, I omitted the screws on a finished side that would be visible. I also use pocket screws for the face frames. All of those get glue.
todd
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I'd say a lot depends on whether this is new construction or renovation. With new construction finishing after installing is perfectly acceptable and probably the best step as a lot of construction people are in the house and dents and dings ot he finish can happen. If you are replacing old cabinets in an older house, I's say finish the cabineta befor installation. It will be easier and probably a cleaner job in a home that is being lived in. Finish the face frames after attaching to the cabinet and with the doors off.

A lot of books are written by those that have never done what they are teaching. Most all steps of the cabinet building process become pretty simple with practice so no step is really too simple to leave out. Leaving out any step in a How-To book seems to be a sign of an inexperienced writer and or cabinet maker.

Glue along cut lines should hold as sell as non finished plywood.

I use glue with pocket holes screw construction and typically on kitchen and or bathroom cabinets only use pocket hole screws to assemble face frames.
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manuel wrote:

I paint or varnish cabinets in the shop, 'cause the masking off, cleaning up, and worrying about spills on the nice kitchen flooring seems like a lot of work to me. I can hang a finished cabinet with out dinging the finish, at least not ding it much. My finishing schedule is three coats, sand between coats. Cleaning up the sanding dust, three times, seems like a little much. I assemble the cabinets all the way, face frames and all before finishing. I don't see any gain from keeping the them separate or finishing them separately. The time consuming part of finishing is cleaning the brushes. What's the point of doing the cabinets and face frames separately? Sounds like you have to clean the brushes twice as many times.

Glue doesn't do much for straight butt joints, they rely upon fasteners for their strength. So, for butt joints you don't have to worry about whether or not the glue sticks well to prefinished plywood, the glue doesn't contribute enough to butt joint strength to be worth worrying about.

I use glue on joints of any kind on the "more is better" principle. On the other hand, if getting glue onto the joint is a problem for some reason, it doesn't bother me to rely upon the fasteners exclusively for strength.
David Starr
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David Starr wrote:

For solid wood, glue alone is plenty strong for long-grain to long-grain joints. Plywood is at least 40% long grain on any given edge, so glue is generally fine there as well.
Particleboard and MDF have no grain, so glue is fine for butt joints.
For melamine, you either need a special melamine glue or else cut through the skin so that you're gluing to the inner layer.
Of course biscuits work well for all the above.
The main advantage of mechanical fasteners is that they are faster than glue.
Chris
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I forgot to post a "thanks" to all for your responses. As always, you guys are very helpful.
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Screws for plywood. Plywood edges are 1/2 end grain, which glues poorly. Faces are only as strong as the glue used to laminate the veneer. Screws, OTOH, bite into strong grain no matter which direction you put them. They're faster, too. You can use hidden cleats above the top shelf and below the bottom shelf for extra strength. A bit of crown and base trim will cover the fasteners.
Overhead cabinets that bolt into walls and ceiling or bulkheads can take their strength from the house's framing.
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