I am planning to build a shop cabinet that will hold my planer and provide
storage (and be mobile). I'd like a bit of practice with face frame
cabinetry in case I ever get the nerve to build new kitchen cabinets. My
question is this: I have "Building You Own Kitchen Cabinetry" by John
Paquay, which describes his standard method for building a face frame
cabinet. As with most face frame cabinetry, the face frame overhangs the
end panels by about 1/4". For my cabinet (and I would expect for an end
cabinet for a kitchen), I want the end panels to be flush with the face
frame. The plan from the book calls for a dado in the face frame for the
end panels to sit in. Is what I want to do as simple as making a rabbet
Haven't read that book so I can't comment on dado's or rabbet's, I just glue
my face frames directly to the carcass body.
If I am building a free standing cabinet that does not need an overhang so
it can be scribed and trimmed to fit a unsquare wall or other cabinets I
just build out my face frames with one stile already flush to the carcass
and the second with a hair of an overhang which I route off with a flush
You basically have choices, using John's method, it you want the face frame
flush to one or both end panels:
Flush up the face frame to the end panel afterwards with a flush trim router
bit, or a similar method of your choice;
... or make the corresponding adjustments to the dimensions of the cabinet
floors and rabbet the FF to accept flush end panels.
If you decide on the first, and flush trim the FF to the side, be aware that
your FF will then be correspondingly narrower, so you need to take that into
consideration before building your face frames, particularly if you are only
doing one side.
If you decide on the latter, it is still a good idea to oversize the FF by a
1/16th or so, in order to later flush them up perfectly with a flush trim
There is however, another option, build the cabinet with the 1/4" overhang
of the FF, and then use that as a point of departure for a decorative look
of the end panels.
Below is a link to some quickie pictures of what I am talking about, so you
can see just one of the possibilities of decoration on end panels, using
this "lip" on the face frame as a basis, :
IME, this latter idea takes less work in the long run when building a batch
Actually, there is a third option which involves nothing further than
modifying the end panel(s). Assuming that you're using 1/2" thick
material for the standard end panels, simply change it to 3/4"
material. Leave the face frame dado the same as you would for the 1/2"
end panel, but cut a 1/4" wide rabbet in the front outside edge of the
end panel so that it will fit in the face frame dado. Theoretically,
when assembled, the end panel outside face will flush up to the face
frame overhang. Doing things this way means that you do not have to
change any dimensions of your basic cabinet, and the face frame will
in every respect remain unchanged.
In practice, you'll likely find that the end panel is just a hair
(1/32 to 1/64) shy of the edge of the face frame, and if that's
objectionable, then by all means trim the face frame edge flush to the
Especially if you've decided to use a thicker, less convenient end
panel thickness as your standard, you can also laminate a 1/4" thick
skin to the outside face of the end panel after assembly and achieve
the same result. That method is actually quite reasonable, since it
lets you use a less expensive material for the end panel if you
choose, and only use a 1/4" thick 'nice' material as the skin.
"Building Your Own Kitchen Cabinets"
With Glory and Passion No Longer in Fashion
The Hero Breaks His Blade. -- Kansas, The Pinnacle, 1975
I don't run across it very often since I usually use 3/4" sheet goods, and
try to incorporate the FF lip on exposed end cabinets in some manner that
compliments/works with wall trim when needed, but I am definitely going to
file that tip away for future reference.
You would use a rabbet. If you used John's methods. When I decided
to build my cabinets, I got John's booklet. I have no doubt that his
methods will result in quality cabinets, but I found them to be more
time consuming than they needed to be.
I also bought _Build Traditional Kitchen Cabinets_ by Jim Tolpin -
His techniques are a little different and I think a little more
friendly to the hobbyist. In addition to construction techniques, he
discusses everything from design, to project management, to layout, to
materials,to useful jigs, to construction, to finishing, and
I'm about three months away from actually beginning construction of my
new kitchen, but I have built a couple of test cabinets using his
methods and the end result were simple to build, solid, and
In my experience with a number of methods, including both you mention, the
"time consuming" part of John's method, setting up for the batch
cutting/dadoing of face frame and case parts, is actually of the most
benefit to the "hobbyist".
It just about guarantees one of the most important elements of cabinet
making: that of ending up with a "square" assembly.
IOW, you spend a bit of initial setup time to insure that you don't have to
spend a great deal more installing, and building doors and drawers, for
'less than square' cabinets ... an all too common occurrence in the
This is in no way saying that you can't do that with other methods ...
AAMOF, I've taken a number of John's elements, along with other methods, and
come up with something that works well for me ... but John's method is an
excellent starting point for developing your own cabinet making skills,
particularly with kitchen cabinets, and the time "consumed" will almost
certainly be recouped in spades later in the project.
You just can't argue with success ... while I don't normally attach the FF
with biscuits, I have tried it and it works very well.
What I particularly like is pocket hole technology for face frame joinery in
kitchen cabinets. There is probably not another joinery method that combines
just the right amount of strength, ease of construction, and immediate use
of the assembly.
IMO, you can't beat it.
Have you decided to make the FF first?
There is as much difference of opinion on this as there are methods of work,
and what works for some doesn't for others, but after trying it myself, I
wouldn't do it any other way for most of the kitchen cabinet work I do. I
really like the concept for a number of reasons.
Measure your kitchen and make the face frames (with dado/grooves/rabbets to
accept the case sides) to "precisely" fit the required space, and the
cabinets will fit no matter what. It also follows that it's almost always
easier/cheaper to rectify a mistake on a face frame, even if you have to
start over, than it is to start over on a cabinet case.
If you take time and care with the face frames, batch cutting the parts, and
getting the FF as perfectly square as possible, the cabinets will follow
suit, even it there is a small discrepancy in your panel cuts for the case.
This can save quite a bit of time when fitting doors, drawers and during
AAMOF, when I did the kitchen in this new house, I batch cut the parts and
built all the FF months before I even ordered the sheet goods for the
casework. This was a big issue in a small shop.
In any event, good luck on your project ... sounds like you got a good
handle on it already.
When I built the kitchen cabinets for my mothers house, I made all the
stiles first and then proceeded to make the rails, using the tablesaw and
the mitre gauge to nibble away any excess for a perfect fit. Seemed much
easier to trim the end of a 2.5" wide rail for a good fit instead of eating
away multiple foot lengths of a stile to get that exact fit.
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