Questions regarding frameless cabinet construction

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Forum topic by exterminate posted 08-05-2013 12:29 PM 2689 views 2 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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130 posts in 1448 days

08-05-2013 12:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: frameless cabinets frameless cabinet construction

A Coworkers son is asking me to build his kitchen cabinets n the house he’s been renovating over the last two years. He wants a clean modern look with as few lines as possible, so he wants frameless cabinets. I’ve only done face frame cabinets to this point. In the faceframed cabinets, the bottoms / tops sit in dadoes, while the back sits in a rabbet. With glue and screws, its a very strong design, even before the face frame is attached. Going frameless, the dadoe construction is going to look out of place. So my question is, what is the preferred method of construction for frameless cabinets?

Im thinking of the following:

Rabbets at the top and bottom of the .75” cabinet sides.
.75” Bottom and top / stretchers sit in the rabbets, and get glued and screwed from the side
Any visible screws would be recessed and pluged (doesn’t want side panels to save on cost, and he wants them painted white)
Backs would still be .5” and sit in a rabbet all around, glued and nailed from the back, and/or screwed from the sides on the uppers.

Would this be strong enough?

If this has been discussed before, I apoloigise. My search function always comes up blank on my computer, and I have no idea why.

Thanks for any advice you can lend!

-- Albert Einstein - "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

11 replies so far

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1294 posts in 1369 days

#1 posted 08-05-2013 12:45 PM

generally speaking cabinets are less money to buy than build. unless someone is willing to pay the premium they are money ahead to buy them.

View waho6o9's profile


7119 posts in 1997 days

#2 posted 08-05-2013 12:57 PM

I believe it’s called the 32mm system.

You’ll need the proprietary tooling with the hardware
and adjustable shelves etc.

Shawn has solid advice as to why it may be wiser to purchase and assemble than to
start from scratch.

Good luck on your decision.

“Backs would still be .5” and sit in a rabbet all around, glued and nailed from the back, and/or screwed from the sides on the uppers.

Would this be strong enough?”

Depends on the material being used, I would use a top and bottom rail for support if done that way.
Usually on European cabinetry, (32mm), you put your back in a dado and then put your top rail behind
that and install etc.
I’m sure there are other ways as well.

View waho6o9's profile


7119 posts in 1997 days

#3 posted 08-05-2013 01:16 PM

Ask around and maybe these good folks could help if need be.

View exterminate's profile


130 posts in 1448 days

#4 posted 08-05-2013 01:27 PM

Material is paint grade birch ply. .75” for sides, top and bottom, .5” for the back.

I like the sound of this much better:

“Usually on European cabinetry, (32mm), you put your back in a dado and then put your top rail behind
that and install etc.”

It would give back some of that strength I’d be losing.

-- Albert Einstein - "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2097 days

#5 posted 08-05-2013 01:33 PM

Frameless cabinets aren’t that much harder to make compared to framed cabinets. You have to make sure they get installed perfectly square or the inset doors will show.

You just have to edge tape the face which covers the dado you seem to be concerned about. I like to use 1/8” solid wood as a veneer sometimes just to give it more strength and keep it from warping, but it’s more work.

I would suggest you forget the rabbet at the top for the stretcher and instead, try using two pocket screws.
I use 2” wide stretchers, one in front and two in back in an L shape, no glue, all screws – none showing on the inside or outside. They are on top and on the back. That’s 6 screws holding each side plus the 1/4” back which is glued and 3/4” crown stapled or screwed every 6”.

If the base cab has a drawer, I like to pocket screw the divider as well.

If you build a separate 4” base, you can pocket screw that to the bottom to avoid nails or screws inside. The only reason you would “need” to plug a screw is because you wanted that look. All screws should be hidden, except the mounting screws.

The backs only need to be 1/4”. And there is no need to rabbet every edge if the are getting buried. Rabbet only the end panel 1/4” x 1/2”. Check your wall for plumb to see if you need to add scribe.

Word: I have a small shop and build a lot of cabinets in it….but…...I avoid building kitchens. You can’t compete, especially if you’ve never done them before, so I hope you plan on having fun on this project, which will be a big part of the payment.

Hey, It’s not always about the money, as long as you know what you are getting in to and can commit to finishing every stinking detail before it goes bad…..been there.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 1707 days

#6 posted 08-05-2013 01:36 PM

My island bases are (basically) frameless. So are the couple of cabinets on the “sink wall”. I did them all as drawer cabinets because I HATE getting on my hands and knees trying to find something in the back of a base cabinet. So far, the drawers are proving to be far more efficient at space utilization as well.

Rabbet the bottom of the sides. Rabbet the back of the sides to accept the .5” back. My back panels are glued and screwed. My stretchers don’t go into rabbets. I used pocket holes/screws for the stretchers. One at the front, 2 at the back. At the back I have one horizontal at the top, and one standing vertical at the top of the back, the one at the back is inset to the rabbet depth of the back panel, the one at the top, goes over the back one such that they for a “corner”. They are glued and pocket screwed into the sides and also glued and screwed where they overlap.

My kitchen was also an experiment. :) On one run of cabinets I rebbeted the bottom to accept the back panel. On another run, only the sides were rabbeted. I put a .75 x .75 hard maple piece across the back (inside) where the back panel is. The maple piece is screwed/glued to the bottom panel and the back panel screws into the maple piece. I actually like those cabinets better than the ones with the rabbet.

I built the carcasses from .75” plywood. The stretchers are cut from the same. The back panel is .5”.
They are simple boxes. I used leveling legs on all of them. Made installation a ton easier. Island cabinets got leveling legs all around. Base cabs going against a wall only have them in front. The backs sits on a ledger, the full length of the cabinet run.

I “edge banded” the front with 3/16 strips of maple glued and clamped and shot with some fine nails.
Didn’t need the “32mm system” for the bases because they were all drawers. Make some guides to set all drawer glides the same height and all the drawers line up across a run of cabinets. For the uppers, I drilled them (using a drill guide) for adjustable shelves.

If you make frameless cabinets for a living, you need line boring machines and everything has to be extremely accurate. If you’re just building a single kitchen or a couple of “one offs”, I’m not convinced you need all that.

View ArtB's profile


20 posts in 1572 days

#7 posted 08-05-2013 01:48 PM

You could use frames on your carcasses if you wish, just use full overlay 35mm euro hinges, face mounted. Plus full overlay door. Their is a full variety available on line as well as companies that manufactor them. Also check out some of the woodworker magazines.
But if I were going to make full overlay kitchen cabinets, I would only install a upper rail flush with the face of the cabinet carcass. Than use a full overlay euro hinge made for that application.
Yes, cabinets are plenty strong without frames. But pantry cabinets will need a center shelf fixed in place, keep it from bowing.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 1493 days

#8 posted 08-05-2013 02:00 PM

I would take the advice of those who are suggesting a “hybrid”. Edge banding cabinets can be a pain, and spotty quality with out the proper equipment. There are several router bit sets out there that would allow you to quickly edge band the parts in solid. We build with stretchers front and rear, and a 3/4 by 7 1/2” nailer below the rear st. and 1/4 inch back. Parts are staple and screwed, with the backs glue and staple (no dado) FYI. It is the face of the cabinet that gets the look right, show you can fully hybrid and mount doors on euro hinges, overlaying a ff’ed cab. Just know that your ff cannot be wider than 1 1/2” to achieve the 1/8” gaps on doors and df. Any how. Looks like you have some good threads to follow.

-- Who is John Galt?

View exterminate's profile


130 posts in 1448 days

#9 posted 08-05-2013 03:40 PM

Thanks everyone for your input.

This is definately not a full time gig for me. Just helping out people I know when I can.

I like the idea of the hybrid, and I was originally thinking that route, but couldn’t find faceframe mounted full overlay hinges. The largest I found was 1.25”. I guess that would work, and I can just make the frames around 1 3/8” to provide the 1/8” gap, instead of the 1.5 I’ve used in the past.

Thanks again everyone! Have a great day!

-- Albert Einstein - "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

View Loren's profile


8159 posts in 3068 days

#10 posted 08-05-2013 04:15 PM

The preferred method is dowels or confirmats. Dowels
are usually done with a case clamp to assure

Get Paul Levine’s book “Cabinets and Built-ins”.

He developed a workable method for building in the
frameless style without the special tooling.

Ply that doesn’t stay pretty flat will hurt you in
doing frameless. If any of the cabinet panels
are “potato chipping” it will make squaring the
cabinet trickier. The fronts must be very square
to do inset doors. The back is nailed, glued,
or screwed on with the front is clamped square.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2390 days

#11 posted 08-05-2013 07:14 PM

You are over thinking the build. Cut to size, screw together. Use the adjustable feet for ease of fitting, euro hinges, add an end panel and a kicker, done.

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