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Furniture Making Tutorials #7: Attaching Face Frames

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Blog entry by BigRedKnothead posted 10-09-2014 12:23 AM 7659 reads 4 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: A Case for Rabbets Part 7 of Furniture Making Tutorials series no next part

I’ve tried all sorts of methods fro attaching face frames to furniture and cabinetry. In this little blog I will list the various methods I know of, along with my 2 cents on each method. Most of these example show a plywood case, but the principle is the same when working with a solid case.

Disclaimer- I realize pictures are helpful, and I don’t have picture for every method…...so many are borrowed from the interwebz. I’ll be sure to pass on some of my royalties to the sources;-)

A note before I start, don’t forget the glue! Every one of these methods are vastly strengthened with wood glue. The front edge of any case provides a fair amount of glue surface, use it.

1. Pocket Screws Reasonably strong. This quick method is mostly used on kitchen cabinets because one has to find ways to hide the pocket holes.

2. Biscuits Also reasonably strong when combined with gluing the front edge of the case. Unlike pocket screws, they are completely hidden when joined.

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The thing about biscuits, edge joining is a snap. However, butt jointed can takes some more figuring if the face frames have an offset or overhang, like this:

I always seem to run into alignment issues. They work, but they’re not my favorite for this task.

3. Dowels Actually, I like using dowels for face frame quite a bit. I don’t have a dowel jig. I just freehand drill the holes I want on the front edge of the case. Then I place dowel centers in each of those hole, place the face frame on the case, tap it with a mallet….and I have all the marks to drill mating holes on the face frame. Pretty slick.

4. Splines Now we’re getting into the methods one would see in nicer furniture. Strong and straight forward.

5. Rabbets, Dados and Grooves Now this is my preferred method on a quality piece of furniture. No doubt the strongest mechanically. They take some planning ahead while making the case. Often the sides of the case need to be a little wider to form the joint.
Matching rabbets can be milled on the case and face frame, creating a flush side like this:

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Or the rabbet can be inset with a groove, sorta like this:

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Notice with the above diagram, most folks only make these joints on the two outer edges of the case. I suppose a guy could mill rabbet on every piece of the case, but that would be overkill. If I’m worried about the case bottom or shelf being supported, I will combine the rabbet method with a couple biscuits(or whatever) like this:

-

Another thing about the rabbet method I like- building the face frame with the case as a pattern! See what I’m doing here:

The two outer stiles of the face frame are resting on the case, then I can fit the rails precisely. Makes for nicely fitted face frame.

Whatever you choose, glue it, clamp it, and start or your doors and drawers;-)

Hope it helps. Now go make some furniture, Red

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer



22 comments so far

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Hammerthumb

2533 posts in 1440 days


#1 posted 10-09-2014 12:43 AM

Thanks for the blog Red.

-- Paul, Las Vegas

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

4858 posts in 2279 days


#2 posted 10-09-2014 12:43 AM

I like your logic. They all can me good methods I suppose. I tend to use pocket screws to build the face frame, and biscuits to attach the face frame to the cabinet. Fixed shelves get dados, and back panels get rabbets. Ask six people and you will get as many answers.
Lately I have been building Stickley style pieces, where the stock is thick enough you don’t need any face frame at all.
Nice clamp collection by the way.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View lateralus819's profile

lateralus819

2236 posts in 1355 days


#3 posted 10-09-2014 12:59 AM

Heres a question Dan-

On my cabinet I’m making. I can’t have the frame hang”into” the cabinet because the top half on the left has a door inside so it would interfere with that. Plus the bottom has drawers and it would mess with them as well.

Would it even make sense to make a face frame of only 1” wide?

View BigRedKnothead's profile

BigRedKnothead

8009 posts in 1448 days


#4 posted 10-09-2014 01:13 AM


Would it even make sense to make a face frame of only 1” wide?

- lateralus819

Not really Lat. Face frames aren’t mandatory. I would just edge band the plywood. Kinda like I did with my joinery bench cabinets.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

22026 posts in 1803 days


#5 posted 10-09-2014 01:15 AM

Excellent blog sir. Gives me ideas.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View lateralus819's profile

lateralus819

2236 posts in 1355 days


#6 posted 10-09-2014 01:22 AM

I had already done that! What a bitch that stuff is to cut cleanly. The package says to use a razor blade. Which is fine, but it follows the grain and you end up slicing too much off into the cabinet.

I took my blade out of my #4 1/2 LN and used it as a chisel plane and works awesome!

View BigRedKnothead's profile

BigRedKnothead

8009 posts in 1448 days


#7 posted 10-09-2014 01:45 AM

Lat- sorry, I didn’t mean that roll banding stuff. I meant to edge band it with hardwood like the top example:

I usually glue it oversized. Then trim down with a flush router bit or block plane.

Thanks Paul, Monte and Willie. Glad you could get something out of it.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

22026 posts in 1803 days


#8 posted 10-09-2014 01:48 AM

Oops

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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waho6o9

7176 posts in 2042 days


#9 posted 10-09-2014 01:58 AM

Great ideas, thanks for posting Red.

View lateralus819's profile

lateralus819

2236 posts in 1355 days


#10 posted 10-09-2014 02:14 AM

Actually looking at that pic Red, I might make a face from like the “best” image depicts.

View lightcs1776's profile

lightcs1776

4153 posts in 1119 days


#11 posted 10-09-2014 02:29 AM

Fantastic tutorial, Red. Furniture making is my ultimate goal. I’ll defintely be referring back to your post.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

5056 posts in 2613 days


#12 posted 10-09-2014 02:46 AM

Good blog post, Big Red One!

I think Norm Abrahm used pocket screws on the face frame, and attached it to the carcase with biscuits.

-- Dean

View Mosquito's profile

Mosquito

8119 posts in 1758 days


#13 posted 10-09-2014 04:27 AM

Thanks Red! I was just looking stuff like this up not more than 2-3 days ago!

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - http://www.youtube.com/MosquitoMods - http://www.TheModsquito.com

View Roger's profile

Roger

19878 posts in 2269 days


#14 posted 10-09-2014 11:06 AM

Thnx for your 2-cents and your thoughts. Good coverage

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55@yahoo.com

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

8739 posts in 1906 days


#15 posted 10-09-2014 12:29 PM

Thank you BRK. I appreciate you.

-- ~Tony

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