How to assemble melamine cabinets?

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Forum topic by b2rtch posted 03-02-2011 05:26 PM 22199 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4861 posts in 3044 days

03-02-2011 05:26 PM

I am just starting to build a sewing room for my wife.
She decided that she wanted everything made of white melamine (not my idea).
I shall have a counter/bench in a corner, about 10” long on each side, to install two sewing machines with two or three cabinets full of drawers under.
In one corner I shall have shelves and in the center of the room I shall a 4’x8’ work table with more large/long (48’) drawers under to store the fabric.
All that should be fairly easy to build but I have a question on how to assemble everything with no screw showing.
What do you recommend?
Thank you.

-- Bert

28 replies so far

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3081 days

#1 posted 03-02-2011 06:12 PM

If you have some maple or oak boards, you could show her a piece of melamine with an oak border. This
makes a nice contrast, and gives you a strong border to make cabinet assembly easier. This is not my idea
I borrowed it from a local cabinetmaker, who borrowed it from a book he saw. If she will not go for the
border with the melamine recessed in, then the easy way would be to use the wood as a backing piece
routed so a thin strip would cover the exposed edge on the melamine for the thinner door panels. I would
use 1/4” or 3/8” thick melamine for the doors. The cabinets could be built with 1/2” or 3/4” sheets in
the same manner particle board cupboards are built. Hope this helps.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2650 days

#2 posted 03-02-2011 06:39 PM

You could use pocket screw joinery or mortise and tenon joinery. I use these two methods all the time. I would suggest picking up a bottle of the glue that is formulated specifically for working with materials like particle board and MDF.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3538 days

#3 posted 03-02-2011 06:40 PM

I do as bently suggests and will add that I’ve found that pocket screws along with Roo glue works the best with melamine. If you design it right, you can get away without having to put end panels on because the pocket screws will be on the bottom of the bottom panel and on top of the top rails. Hope that makes sense.

-- Childress Woodworks

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3044 days

#4 posted 03-02-2011 06:42 PM

Thank you for your replies. In the past I always edged my plywood or particle boards with a strip or real wood, this is not the issue.
The issue to assemble the front and side panels in such a way that no screw show.
I have had several suggestions: use biscuits and no screw, use pocket holes and screws, I am thinking about using false tenons.
Some one else suggested that I use screws and that I hide them with a plug.
None of these ideas real please me.

-- Bert

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3044 days

#5 posted 03-02-2011 06:45 PM

Can I use Titebond III for glue?
I read that I should not use dry wall screws but only melamine screws, what do you think? ( melamine screws are crazy expensive)

-- Bert

View Earlextech's profile


1161 posts in 2686 days

#6 posted 03-02-2011 11:09 PM

Without a pockethole jig I would agree with BentlyJ
With a pockethole jig I would agree with childress

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Loren's profile


10381 posts in 3644 days

#7 posted 03-03-2011 03:14 AM


You can put a nail in here and there to help hold while the
glue sets. Good melamine is real flat, though, so in many cases
you can just glue and hammer/push the joints together and the
geometry of the dowels will hold it together while the glue sets.

Pocket screws aren’t really appropriate for melamine. They’ll hold,
but they aren’t as clean and sturdy as dowels for particleboard. Lots of
unsightly holes with the pocket screws too.

Biscuits and melamine glue can work too, but you’ll need to clamp
thoroughly or use nails/staples to help hold the joints while
the glue sets.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3159 posts in 3105 days

#8 posted 03-03-2011 05:29 AM

My wife went out and dropped 600 bones on the stuff she wanted, which happened to be some melamine $&*. It was her money, earned at her job. She loves nice stuff, but to get her to spring for it is like pulling teeth. Guess who got to install all that Chinese melamine sh…tuff, anyway? At least it’s mounted to the wall properly.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5856 posts in 3190 days

#9 posted 03-03-2011 05:58 AM

Greetings Bert,

Wish I could help you with the melamine, but I can’t…..I’ve never used that stuff for anything, and frankly I don’t like it at all…..To me, it’s just particle board or MDF with a paint-like finish on it. But that’s just me.. Good luck in your endevors. Hope your wife likes it when you’re done…....

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2846 days

#10 posted 03-03-2011 06:30 AM

Biscuits and glue (yellow) and melamine glue where appropriate is my formula. I make a story stick with the biscuit layout and stack the parts and mark them all (bottoms/tops; sides) at the same time.

The nice thing about biscuits or dowels is the alignment is automatic. This is helpful when you want no fasteners showing.

Once you have the box assembled and clamped, glue (Roo glue) and staple the back on (back being precut) to square the box. Then you can ease back the clamps and the box will set up strong.

Oh and nailers go inside first before the back.

You’ll likely be getting into edgebanding here, and that’s a good skill to have. Virutex makes a portable machine. Lots of guys go to the local thrift store and buy an iron. You’ll become an expert at trimming and buffing the EB.

If these boxes get shelves and doors with euro hinges you might as well leap in and get the simple Rockler lineboring jig and do it right.

Embrace the euro system and it will reward you with nice, clean, strong, true cabinets. Try to make a lot of compromises, and you’ll compromise the results.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3044 days

#11 posted 03-03-2011 01:09 PM

Thank you all for your replies

-- Bert

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2993 days

#12 posted 03-03-2011 02:43 PM

Not sure if you have worked with melamine before.
The inside is SOFT . Spend the money and buy the course thread screw, careful when using any power tool to put screw in. (I run my drill slow then tighten by hand,)
Building these were a different approach than I am used to doing. Lots of dust when cutting, chips easily, hard to hide mistakes, heavy as heck !
I used dowel pins for my project. No dados with melamine.
I really do NOT like working with melamine. Clients wanted it so we used it !
Enjoy your experience !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View ScottN's profile


261 posts in 2676 days

#13 posted 03-03-2011 03:53 PM

I was at a fellow woodworkers place yesterday picking up some hardware being he is a HDL distributor.
I was talking to him about the melamine carcases I was building for my hickory cabinets. He said hes worked with melamine before and was telling me what worked well for him. He said the best glue he found for melamine was Roo glue ( And he said he would also do dadoes an 1/8” deep.

Just relaying info…I haven’t tried it. All of my cabinet carcasses are hidden so I was able to just use screws.

If I were you I would make up a few samples and let them dry over night and do a stress test on them the next day to see which method will work for you. Keep us posted on this project I would be interested in how it goes.

-- New Auburn,WI

View John Jerman's profile

John Jerman

8 posts in 2689 days

#14 posted 03-03-2011 08:18 PM

I would recommend using biscuits and melamine glue, if you do not want any fasteners showing.
It works well, automatic alignment and a strong joint.
John Jerman

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2650 days

#15 posted 03-03-2011 09:30 PM

Another option is mortise and tenon joinery. Cut your panels to size, mill up mortises in your side panels and tenons in your horizontal panels, add some melamine glue and your off and running. I build cabinetry all the time using this joinery (CNC and cabinet design software makes it really easy) from many types of materials and never had a problem. Before the CNC I used my router (downcut spiral bit) to create my mortises and the tablesaw with dado blade to make the tenons. Fairly quick once you get the assembly line working. This gives you a LOT of glue area and makes for a strong joint. I make it a habit to scuff sand the part of the tenon that still has melamine on it after the tenon machining. You can also scuff sand the 1/4” area just outside the mortise to get a good bond there as well.

I’ve done the RTA cabinets and the only downside is the cost of the RTA hardware and the time to get everything perfectly aligned.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

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