Kitchen Cabinets: Monolithic or Small Boxes

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Forum topic by mochasatin posted 04-21-2010 03:22 PM 1597 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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141 posts in 2991 days

04-21-2010 03:22 PM

This is a question for the kitchen cabinet designers and builders. Do you prefer to build large, monolithic cabinets or small individual boxes and why?

-- Scott

5 replies so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3903 days

#1 posted 04-21-2010 03:35 PM

I build both ways, depending on the application and the customer’s wishes. Individual boxes are easier to handle.

-- -- --

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 3112 days

#2 posted 04-21-2010 03:42 PM

Both, depending on situation. There might be just a short run of upper that by making it one unit saves material by reducing a bulkhead and doesn’t change the look or strength. This sometimes gives more use to an otherwise small cabinet.

A base unit might be stronger by adding the cabinets that are either side of a sink unit. But mostly it’s about reducing unecessary bulkheads.

The only other reason is the style of cabinet, say if it’s to look like an added seperate fancy furniture piece.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3033 days

#3 posted 04-21-2010 04:47 PM

The terms Modular and Integral are often used to describe the two types of cabinets. In my work most of the European or frameless cabinets are built as Modules (individual boxes) and face frame cabinets are built as one piece as large as is practical (Integral cabinets).

There are advantages to both types. Frameless boxes usually have a bunch of Identical parts, like the cabinet ends for a standard base would all be drilled the same, with 32 mm spaced system holes aligned properly front and back to use as shelf pin holes or to accept drawer slides mounted on Euro dowels that also fit in the 5mm holes. So if you want a total of 8 base cabinets you need 8 left ends and 8 right that are basically all the same. You just have to cut the top bottom and backs and nailers to the length you need for a particular cabinet. It’s a very easy system to use.

With the advent of the cnc nesting machine, frameless cabs are even easier. Our software will put all the holes for hardware, shelves, rollouts, dadoes for dividers, blind dados for tops, bottoms, toe kick notches, really anything that has to be done can be done a nesting machine and it comes out perfect every time, or most of the time, (for those other times they call me to figure out why). Most modular manufacturers try to keep all the operations on a part on one side. Build Individual boxes bolt them together with an applied finished panel on any exposed end and it looks good and is very easy to make look good.

Frame cabs are built integrally so you don’t have a bunch of lines dividing the frames up. You would want to build as large as possible. There are still lots of shops doing this type of cabinet, even with a nesting machine, when they get to a partition or other part that has machining on both sides, the software writes a program for the second side machining so that part has to be flipped over and placed back on the machine in the right orientation for the second side program to run. It’s a bit more complicated than frameless.

Really it boils down to what you want. I preferred Frame cabinets when I ran my shop. As long as you have the manpower to move them around and install them as one unit. They were easier to level out as one piece.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View mochasatin's profile


141 posts in 2991 days

#4 posted 04-21-2010 04:59 PM

Thank you Michael. That was very informative. Are there any preferences to rail and stile widths when you build integral type cabinets?

-- Scott

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3033 days

#5 posted 04-21-2010 06:34 PM

It sort of depends on the way you want it to look and what type of hinges, countertop overhang over the top of the bases,etc. The type of joints in the frames would also be a factor. Dowels or kreg screw type fastening they could be anywhere down to 1” wide or narrower. If you are using biscuits then they have to be at least as wide as the shortest biscuit you can slot in the end. Probably a little over 2” minimum. I usually used the face frame screw method.

I almost always used Euro cup type hinges with a face frame base plate that resulted in a 1/2” overlay of the door over the frame on the hinge side. Usually try to maintain that around the entire door or drawer front. All the doors and drawer fronts had a “Finger Pull” shaped edge so no knobs or pulls were needed unless they were wanted by the customer. Finished end stiles at 1 1/2”, base bottom rail at 1 1/2” base top rail at 2 or 2 1\4” depending on top type and overhang (it could also be 1 1/2 if no overhang) 2” middle stiles and drawer rails. With the 1/2” overlay hinges that left about 1” of frame showing between adjacent openings and at the finished ends. Plenty of room for the fingerpull to be used. Where two cabinets meet in a corner you would need to make the stiles wider so drawers don’t interfere with one another especially if you have pulls or knobs.

Upper cabinets I usually had a wider bottom rail, 3” or so, to accomodate lights under the cabinets, top rails might need to be wider if you are using a crown molding at the ceiling or soffit.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

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