Chicken or Egg?
Face frame cabinets are traditional in old houses like mine.
A shot of my dining room.
I have received some questions about why I started with the face frame rather than the cabinet boxes. Which is kind of a chicken or egg, pins or tails first type of question. If you do the math right it doesn’t matter as one should fit the other. Or build one to fit the space and build the other to match it (my actual method).
For me cabinet building is interactive. I have the liberty of doing either, but like to see the face frames to help me visualize.I draw out the plan, but it is hard to tell how it will look in the kitchen. Kristin wanted a shorter cabinet because she is not as tall as me and the last cabinets are a bit tall for her. So I built one frame, and she declared it too short after seeing it in the kitchen. No problem: Mill up new stock and make another frame to the desired height. Note to future self: I recommend starting with the larger frame first and then working your way down.
On the original cabinets in these old bungalows, the face frame parts are simply nailed to the cabinet boxes and not joined to one another. They are still operational after 100 years. The method I employ is to make the frame with pocket screws and nail it the boxes. It is semi-traditional, semi-modern. The nail holes don’t bother me at all.
My Dewalt biscuit joiner won’t accommodate tiny face frame biscuits. I contemplated Domino-ing the frame together, but a loose tenon system requires a clamp job. True tenons are just too much time and effort for such a simple project. Dowels are pretty basic, but I never bought a dowel jig.
You can’t beat pocket screws for ease of frame construction.
I start by laying the surfaced parts out according to my plan layout.
I mark an up arrow on all the parts for alignment purposes.
I have one of the earlier Kreg jigs that I screwed to a plywood base. The jig has three holes at different spacings depending on the width of the stock. I have an old corded drill that I keep the Kreg bit permanently chucked into.
It takes about 10 seconds to drill the two holes.
The 1” stock is a bit unsteady in the jig so I place a wider piece of stock next to it to keep it square to the jig.
I cut all 12 joints in a few minutes.
I then flip the entire frame end for end so that I can begin joining the parts. You have to work with the screw side up visible which is slightly confusing unless you look at the entire assembly.
The Kreg face clamp aligns the faces of the parts flush. I like to hang two corners of the project off a table or table saw. It helps to have someone steady the larger piece or to clamp it. Or just keep fighting it like a “real man”. I am using my thumb here to check the alignment of the two parts.
I try not to measure at all when putting these things together. The area for the top drawers measures 5” so I cut a 5” spacer block to set the distance of the parts. This is far superior to measuring. I needed a 12” space for the bottom drawer so I used my 12” level. It is a no-brainer approach which is the best approach for no-brain guys like me.
From there on it is just assembly line with the drill and screws.
I did get a few cracks due to over driving the screws into dry stock but they won’t be visible after glue up. I am not using glue yet. I will assemble with glue after building the boxes and making sure everything fits. It is a royal pain to do so when the project is glued.
Here is a shot of happy guy with a finished face frame (Framed face in face frame).
...and one more frame
I still have not learned my lesson about leaning the frame up against rolling tools. These frames are not very sturdy until attached so I will hide them in the office.
Next time I start the boxes.
Comments and questions always welcomed.
-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke." www.flickr.com/photos/gizmodyne