Kitchen cabinet faceframe question

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Forum topic by ColinFraizer posted 01-02-2010 02:28 AM 1465 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 3112 days

01-02-2010 02:28 AM

I am building a replacement cabinet for my kitchen. The face frame is red oak.

The face frame on the cabinet I am replacing had grooves in the full length of the stiles. The cabinet sides fit into these grooves. The back edge of the stiles on the frame had a radius routed onto them.

Is this a common way to attach face frames? Would you guys recommend doing this with the new cabinet too? (The right side stile of the old cabinet had been planed to make room for a refrigerator—tight squeeze. Only the left side will be visible.)

Non-essential background for the curious:
It is a full-height cabinet, 24” deep. It replaces one that had housed a wall oven and built-in microwave. The built-in microwave died and left a huge, ugly space behind. My motivation for building a new one was:
(1) To create a more attractive space for a modern microwave: – I made some intermediate rails (above wall oven and below upper doors) wider to eat up vertical space. – My stiles are full width. The stiles on the old cabinet had been notched to accommodate the huge built-in microwave. (It was ancient and may have been powered by a water wheel or steam or something. 8-) – I added a shelf on which the microwave will sit. The shelf has a little rounded-over protrusion like a window stool.
(2) To replace the ugly side of the old cabinet. It was particle board covered with a faux wood grain sticker. My new cabinet has oak-faced plywood on that visible side.
(3) To have fun in my shop. 8-)

4 replies so far

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 3222 days

#1 posted 01-02-2010 03:38 AM

Hey ColinFraizer,

Are these grooves actually dado’s per chance? The answer to your question is actually NO. If these are dado’s, just take into account the overall depth of the cabinet and build yours accordingly.

Build the box first (no Face Frame), then take your router and groove the front edges of the plywood to insert biscuits. Now cut biscuit slots inthe backside of the face frame that aligns with the slot on the cabinet edges.

When you glue up the face frame to the box, the slots in the box will allow for perfect alignment of the face frame to the box.

This method save time and frustration.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View ColinFraizer's profile


4 posts in 3112 days

#2 posted 01-02-2010 04:13 AM

Thanks, UnionLabel! That sounds like a terrific suggestion and easier than cutting the grooves/dadoes in the stiles of my faceframe.

I guess I’m not sure if they are grooves or dadoes. I was taught that dadoes run across the grain while grooves run with it. Since these run from the top to the bottom of the stiles on the old face frame, I called them grooves, but I may be misusing the terms.

I know I need the face of my face frame to be 24” from the back (so my depth matches a neighboring base cabinet). If I make the sides of new cabinet 1/4” narrower (front to back of cabinet) than the old ones, but biscuit the new frame onto the new cabinet, I should hit the same depth as the original. The only advantage I could see of the way the old face frame was attached to the old cabinet was that it guaranteed there would be no visible gap.

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3612 days

#3 posted 01-02-2010 04:51 AM

Colin, you are not using the terms wrong. You are correct. Grooves run with the grain, Dadoes run against. The term Dado is used loosely because they are usually ran using a dado blade on the table saw.
Big Box stores usually attach their frames with a groove and tounge method. This is because it needs to be mass produced. The tongue fits snug enough in the groove to hold the frame in place while the glue dries. No clamps are needed. This means the cabinet is pushed through the production line in a much faster pace.
On the new cabinet you could use buiscuts on the visible side and then pocket screw the bottom and the side that wont be seen. Pocket screws speed production in that you don’t need clamps. However, in this situation you may for the finished end.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View renegade's profile


2 posts in 3111 days

#4 posted 01-03-2010 01:56 AM

I used to work in a cabinet shop in central minnesota and we made all our cabinets with dados in the stiles and rails. It is a way to use 1/2 material to save weight and still have a strong cabinet. We had a table saw and a power feed dedicated to making face frames. However, if I was making just one or two cabinets, I would do as UnionLabel suggested. I also remember that Kraft Maid cabinets used dados in their cabinets, and maybe still do.

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