Cabinet Design

Face Frame Cabinetry

Face Frame Cabinetry

Face frame cabinetry in cabinet-making is when a solid wooden frame is fixed to the front of a cabinet carcass, which obscures the edges of the carcass and provides the fixing point for doors and other external hardware. A face frame provides strength to the front of a cabinet preventing racking, and is also considered a visual feature of particular styles of furniture. Face frames are a feature found in traditional cabinetry, and usually is the chosen production style in custom kitchens and cabinetry.

Parts of a face frame

Face frames are composed of a set of intersecting frame members that are joined to one another using one of a selection of woodworking joints. The most common joints used, are the butt joint or mortise and tenon joint. The frames consist of vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Individual compartments within the cabinet are divided by mid-stiles and mid-rails. Individual drawers are usually separated by mid-rails and mid-stiles occurring between doors and wherever vertical partitions exist within the cabinet. Below is a drawing of a face frame.

The frame members are generally made from plain rectangular stock, but are often visually enhanced through the application of beading or applied moulding. Typically, a frame member will be between 1” to 2” in width, depending upon the application and the desired appearance of the cabinet and is usually 3/4” thick. For built-in cabinets, it is common for stiles that are to abut a wall to be cut wider than the final size, so that these may be scribed or shaped to the wall. This compensates for ‘out of plumb’ or uneven walls, which are common in many houses.
Face frame style of cabinetry also allows for the hinge of the door to be fastened directly to the solid wood frame, instead of fastening to the plywood or partical board gable (side of cabinet); making a much more dependable and longer lasting way of fastening a door to a cabinet.

Here is a drawing of a face frame cabinet to show how it is constructed, using the face frame pictured above

Frameless Cabinetry

Frameless construction

In cabinetmaking, refers to the construction of cabinets using flat panels of engineered wood – usually partical board, plywood or medium density fibre board (MDF), rather than the traditional frame and panel construction. The outer visable edges of these panels are then covered in edge banding (typically plastic tape matching cabinet colour or veneer tape that is glued onto the edge of the panel).

A common construction method for frameless cabinets originated in Europe after World War II and is known as the 32mm Method or 32mm System. This nomenclature is derived from the 32mm spacing between the system holes used for construction and installation of hardware typically used for doors, drawers and shelves. In North America, it is also often referred to as “European Cabinetry”, popular due to its simplicity of construction, clean lines and low cost. Due to this 32mm (aprox 1”) spacing, cabinets constructed in the frameless style are only constructed in certain sizes. For this reason, the use of a filler strip is needed to make the cabinets fill a wall space; where as a face frame cabinet can be any size and multiple cabinets can fit into a wall space without the use of a filler strip for a total custom look. Frameless cabinets also have a different method for attaching the door hinges. On a frameless cabinet, the hinges are fastened to the gable (side of the cabinet) which is usually partical board (melamine cabinet) or the plywood (birch interior). This fastening point is weaker than that of a face frame cabinet due to the screws going into non-solid wood. Over time, the screws can pull loose, causing uneven doors or the doors themselves falling right off the cabinet.

Frame and Panel

construction at its most basic, consists of five members: the panel and the four members which make up the frame. The vertical members of the frame are called stiles while the horizontal members are known as rails. A basic frame and panel item consists of a top rail, a bottom rail, two stiles, and a panel. This is a common method of constructing cabinet doors and these are often referred to as a five-piece door. In larger panels, it is common to divide the panel into one or more sections. To house the extra panels, dividing pieces known as mid-rails and mid-stiles or mullions are added to the frame. Here is a drawing showing a five-piece door.

The panel is either captured in a groove made in the inside edge of the frame members, or housed in an edge rabit made in the rear inside edge. Panels are made slightly smaller than the available space within the frame to provide room for movement. Wood will expand and contract across the grain, and a wide panel made of solid wood could change width by a half of an inch, warping the door frame. By allowing the wood panel to float, it can expand and contract without damaging the door. A typical panel would be cut to allow 1/4″ (5 mm) between itself and the bottom of the groove in the frame. It is common to place some sort of elastic material in the groove between the edge of the panel and the frame before assembly. These items center the panel in the frame and absorb seasonal movement. A popular item for this purpose is a small rubber ball, known as a “space ball”. The panels are usually either flat or raised. A flat panel has its visible face flush with the front of the groove in the frame. This gives the panel an inset appearance. This style of panel is commonly made from man-made materials such as veneer core plywood, but may also be made from solid wood or tung and groove planks. Panels made from MDF will be painted to hide their appearance, but panels of hardwood-veneer plywood will be stained and finished to match the solid wood rails and stiles.

A raised panel has a profile cut into its edge so that the panel surface is flush with or proud of the frame. Some popular profiles are the ogee, chamfer, and scoop or cove. .

The stiles and rails often have a profile cut into the inside edge of the outside face – usually a smaller version to match the profile of the panel. In some panel styles, a profile may also be cut on the outside edge of the outside face. Frame construction style falls into three categories: cope and stick, mitred and applied moulding. Cope and stick is the most common method, as it is more efficient to manufacture. In modern cabinetry, the cope and stick joinery is achieved with a set of special router cutters. These cut the profile on the edge of the frame parts and also cut a reverse version of the same profile in the ends of the rail, so that they may be slipped over the ends of the stiles and glued in place. In mitred doors, the profile (known as the sticking) is applied to the edges of both the rail and stile. Then, a section of the sticking at the ends of each stile is removed, leaving a mitred edge which aligns to a similar mitre cut, on the ends of the sticking on each rail. An example of a mitred corner would be a picture frame joint. This traditional method is more time consuming to complete, hence the popularity of cope and stick for manufactured items.

When applied moulding is to be used, the frame members are joined with either of the above mentioned styles. Once the panel has been assembled, the moulding is applied to the inside edge of the outer face of the frame. An alternative method is to use a router to cut a sticking profile in the frame after assembly.

The process of making raised panel doors begins with gluing up panels, and then moves into cutting and preparing the frame parts. Next, the panels are cut to size and shaped. Parts and panel are sanded before construction. It is also common to apply a finish to panels prior to assembly, so that raw wood is not visible if the panel shrinks. The joints are glued and set into clamps. If the frame and panel items are paint grade, they are sometimes nailed at the frame joints on the reverse side. The door then moves on to finish sanding where it is brought to its final thickness, and the outside profile is added if required.

Custom Vrs. Factory

Here is a detailed summary of the advantages and disadvantages of Factory vs Custom Cabinets.

Custom Cabinets: (this is the style of cabinet we at Premier Custom Woodworks LTD build)

  • Custom cabinets are typically more expensive than factory cabinets because they are made for a specific kitchen with specific details and sizes. However, the pricing is relatively consistent unlike factory cabinets.
  • Because the homeowner has a voice in the custom cabinet design, their options are almost limitless in colors, wood types, style, design and sizes. Homeowners may also choose to add special features like wine racks, cubby holes, spice racks and lazy susans.
  • There are fewer people involved with custom cabinets (in most circumstances the home owner works directly with the cabinetmaker making less room for mistakes. If a mistake does occur, it typically is noticed and fixed right away.

Factory Cabinets:

  • Factory cabinets are pre-manufactured cabinets available in specific sizes and designs. Though they may be cheaper than custom cabinets, your options are limited to certain sizes, designs, colors and detail work.
  • There are many steps – and people – involved with factory cabinets. First, the cabinets must be selected and ordered; they are manufactured somewhere else, then shipped to the end destination.
  • Because there are multiple steps involved, there are many places for a mistake to occur. If a mistake does happen, it may take up to two weeks to remedy and may cause the project to come to a complete standstill.
Dovetailed Drawers

Dovetailed Drawers

Dove-tails can be cut by hand or by machines; often with an electric router and using one of a range of commercially available jigs or templates. Although it is technically a straight forward process, hand-cutting dove-tails requires a high degree of accuracy to ensure a snug fit, and so can be difficult to master. The pins and tails must fit together with no gap between them so that the joint interlocks tightly with no movement. Thus the cutting of dove-tails by hand is regarded as a mark of skill on the part of the craftsperson. Dove-tails are not only the strongest joint used in drawer boxes but also the nicest looking of all joints. Nothing matches a dove-tail joint in strength; and the final product is one that will last the life of the rest of your cabinetry.
Here at Premier Custom Woodworks LTD we can construct our dove-tailed drawers out of either solid wood (matching the wood of your cabinet exterior) or of baltic birch; matching the interior of your cabinetry. The choice is yours!!!

Birch Interiors

Birch Interiors

Birch cabinet interiors are constructed of a high grade birch plywood instead of the typical melamine (partical board) interiors found in a lot of factory cabinets. Birch interiors not only give the natural look of wood to your cabinet interiors, but also give a very bright, warm look to your cabinets (instead of looking like plastic) when opening a cabinet door. The birch plywood is constructed of multiple plys, making the finished product very stable and stronger than solid wood. Our cabinets here at Premier Custom Woodworks Ltd., actually go one step further in using what is referred to as pre-finished baltic birch which consists of double the amount of plys; giving even more strength and a better over-all product. This baltic birch also comes pre-finished in a clear lacquer that is impossible to re-create without the use of automated spraying equipment. Also, in using the baltic birch plywood, we can get a superior wood joint in the construction of the cabinets. All of our cabinets are constructed with use of a Dado/Screw/Glue combination, making a very long-lasting joint that will never fail. All of our birch interiors here at Premier Custom Woodworks Ltd. are constructed out of a full 3/4” material. This makes the interior (including the shelves) very strong, therefore resisting any sagging typical with melamine (partical board) interiors.