June 25, 2021
There are several ways to approach attaching the face frames to cabinets. It can be puzzling to figure out the most durable method to attach it! Thankfully, we’ve curated the top six best ways to connect face frames to cabinets. No matter which one you try, we can guarantee some success.
Ready to try out our face frame attachment methods? Let’s dive into it below.
A face frame provides the basic structure of a cabinet. It’s where you can attach the cabinet doors and drawers. It gives a lot of strength to the cabinet and separates each part. While some cabinets no longer use face frames, they’re still an essential and standard for many cabinets.
Method 1: Use Glue and Nails
Yup, just glue, and nails can be enough! You can hide nail holes quickly by using some wood filler. If you’re going to use nails, you can check up on the measurements first. A 16 or 18-gauge nail is ideal.
If you’ve got qualms about using wood glue, we’re here to reassure you otherwise. It’s durable and will hold up no matter what project you’ve got! It’s also the best method if you don’t want visible pocket holes. It can take a long time before pocket holes are usable. You have to go through the process of trimming, sanding, and patching the holes up.
Still hesitant? Use some fasteners to ensure durability.
Method #2: Use Biscuits
A biscuit joiner is a strong option, too! Combine it with some heavy-set wood glue, and you’ve got yourself covered. You don’t have to worry about hiding biscuits, either – they’re completely gone from sight once done.
The other consideration you need to keep in mind is what biscuits can do with offsets or overhangs.
Method #3: Use Dowels
Using dowels is easy! You don’t even need to have a jig for it to happen. Freehand drilling can make the holes you need on the front edges. Place the dowels there, tap it in, and you’re finished! Mating holes are left to be drilled, but otherwise, it’s all complete in one smooth motion.
Method #4: Use Pocket Hole Screws
Pocket hole joints are ideal for face frames, too! They’re fool-proof and straightforward no matter the project. However, there are some considerations – which depend if the cabinet sides are visible or invisible.
Invisible cabinet sides don’t need much effort. Drill the pocket holes for your face frames, apply wood glue, and drive the new pocket hole screws into them!
You can build your cabinet quickly.
Visible cabinet sides may need extra time and effort on your part. You have to hide the fasteners and drilled pocket holes, too. It just won’t be pleasing to the eye if you leave them be! Pocket hole screws are best for drawers since they won’t be seen from any perspective at all.
How To Hide Fasteners With the Pocket Hole Method: Use a False Side Panel
As much as possible, you want to hide pocket holes! Case edges usually keep it away from view, but you can take it several steps further if you’re going to conceal all the spots. A false side panel can help!
First, fill them up with plugs or dowels. Whatever you use, make sure they’re the same species as the rest of your workpiece! Softwood and hardwood won’t mesh well and cause damage.
Use glue to fill it up. Let dry. Once you’re sure it’s indeed attached into the hole, you can trim off whatever excess is sticking out.
Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth down whatever you can’t trim. You want it flush against the workpiece! If you think trimming, sanding, and smoothening down the plugs are too much, you can always turn them into accents. This time around, contrasting species can work well.
When getting a false side panel, you should get a face frame that’s wider than usual. You want an extra one-fourth of an inch to hang over the sides. It’s best to use false panels if you’re going to use pocket holes or wood glue. Attach the false panel with caulk, and you’re done!
Method #5: Use a Domino Wood Joint
We can professionally vouch for the DOMINO wood jointing system! Frame joints can be complicated, and the DOMINO wood jointing system makes everything much more manageable.
Basically, this system combines the flexibility and convenience of a biscuit dowel and the strength of a round dowel. In the end, what you get is a much stronger, durable wood joint you can use anytime.
Method #6: Use Rabbets, Dados, and Grooves
We’ve saved the best for last. This method is preferred by many woodworkers, and for a good reason! It’s the strongest method to attach face frames in terms of mechanical use.
You only plan ahead before making the frame, and the case should be wider than usual. It’s necessary to form the joint! Ideally, you also have to mill matching rabbets for case and frame to end up with an even, flush side.
Things To Consider Before Attaching Face Frames to Cabinets
Beyond fool-proof methods, we also have to consider the techniques used for attaching face frames to cabinets. You may have to consider the following:
Look Into the Construction
We previously mentioned that a face frame can reinforce the cabinet’s strength. The horizontal and vertical supports (called rails and stiles, respectively) need the wood grain to strengthen its strength when opening.
A solid wood face frame is a great addition! Face frames fix up alignment issues, so it helps the cabinet stop tilting and level instead. Solid wood face frames help the cabinets align properly.
Framed vs. Frameless Cabinets
Frameless cabinets are popular, too. Before you get a face frame for your wardrobe, you can always consider if a frameless version works just as well. Today, we’re looking into framed and frameless cabinets and what fits your style. We look into aesthetic and functional details. Read on so you can decide!
What Are Framed Cabinets?
Framed cabinets are the ones that include face frames. They’re common in American-style furniture. It has the advantage of easier installation and adjustments when needed. However, you need separate panels with exposed sides.
There are more size and modification options. You can adjust whatever you need and install various designs.
What Are Frameless Cabinets?
Framed cabinets go without explanation: they don’t include face frames. This type of design is more common in Europe! While framed cabinets are much more traditional, frameless cabinets are much sleeker.
The design is space-saving. Whatever space the frame used to take away is freed up, allowing you full access to the interior. You can put more personal items in a larger capacity.
Unlike framed cabinets, you don’t see the installation on-site. They arrive finished from a factory.
While it seems as if the design is more accessible, it actually limits you if you think about the sizes and modifications.
What Are Overlays?
You also have to consider how you feel about overlays. Overlays are the number of face frames where the doors and drawer fronts overlap. There are three types to watch out for: inset, standard, and complete.
Inset Cabinets: Insets involve smaller face frames for the doors and drawers when you compare them to the openings. You only have to align the face frame and recess it properly. When this is done well, the reveal is more significant!
However, it can be a challenge for the doors and drawers to not bind together. Humidity changes can cause this! If you live in a place with a mostly steady climate, it won’t stick together.
Standard Cabinets: This time around, the openings are smaller than the face frames. They overlap slightly but results in a more minor reveal. Alignments are more forgiving, and you won’t have to adjust as much.
Full Cabinets: This time around, the face frames of the doors and drawers are much larger than the openings. The reveal is small and not as visible.
We can compare it to frameless cabinets, where the face frames are proportional to the cabinet box. As a result, the visible portion is at its smallest! While it’s a much more pleasing appearance, extra care must be put into installation. Otherwise, binding may happen – especially to adjacent furniture and walls.
To Sum It Up
Before you put face frames onto the cabinet, see how framed and frameless cabinets compare. You never know – a frameless cabinet may fit your preferences much better.
Should you decide to go with a framed one, nevertheless, make sure you’ve reviewed methods and options! It’s best to be an informed buyer.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.