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"Euro,32mm,frameless" style cabinet making

jonathan mahnken


Im sure this topic has been flogged to death. But here it goes. We are building many more frameless cabines than we ever have. We have always been a frame and box kinda shop with the ocasional euro mixed in. But You have to stay with whats hot and right now every body wants euro style with slab doors. We have always been able to just adjust our usual box method to make euros. but I know that the 32mm style is way faster for manual processing. If I wanted to start integrating this method into my work can i start out with blind dados and just my line drill or do I need the construction drill.

And in another thought. It occurred to me that If you have a nested based cnc router, which i dont, but will someday. It seems to me you could just make your own system and put your holes wherever they need to be. in my mind this would be far more flexible than putting metric cabinets into homes that are built using the imperial measurement system.

I know, in the process of writing this I have given myself another reason for buying a cnc router. But I guess what i wonder from you all here is, would it be worth it for me to spend the time going all in to really adapt the 32mm system into my shop, or should I just keep on developing what i do and adapt that to cnc processing in the future when I am able to purchase a router.

3/3/16       #2: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

I should also mention that I produce residential cabinetry and woodwork not commercial. I would consider my product to be "high end", but who doesnt lol.

3/4/16       #3: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...


Can't say much about the difference between frame and frameless because all we do over here in Australia is frameless.

I run a shop without a CNC (at the moment) and we have a 5 in line borer for adjustable shelves and no construction boring because we nail and screw the cabinets. Nail first then pre drill a 3mm countersunk hole and put a screw in it. Applied ends 99% of the time and laminate the ends on a rare occasion when that is required.

Sounds like it would be best to fully commit to euro only if that's the way the market is going and you want to get a cnc sometime soon. Then you can devise a fixing system best for you.

To answer your main question thought I don't think you need to buy dedicated stand alone machine to swing over to frameless, Put your focus on getting the CNC and make do for the meantime.

3/4/16       #4: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...

Simple for manual system using a line drill

- Throw out your imperial tape measures
- Butt joints, nail then screw
- Use leg levellers
- Use a 3 or 4 mm reveal at tops of fronts, and sides. 0mm reveal at bottom.
-Cabinet heights divisible by 32mm
-Doors and drawer fronts a mulitple of 32mm less your reveal. Example, drawer front height with 3mm reveal, 5x32-3 = 157mm
- Figure out where your starting hole needs to be to work with hinges and drawer slides, then never adjust this.
- All ends are applied

Do the math, work out your numbers, then follow the system.

For CNC,
You can deviate on heights, as the machine will place holes for slides and hinges appropriately.

I just summed up all the books in under 200 words.

You can use other joinery methods other than nail and screw, but it is the fastest, and it is plenty strong enough. Construction boring and dowels will be faster with significant investment in machinery. For mostly manual assembly, I dont think you can beat nail and screw. Every shop has a different construction method, but we use 5/8" material exclusively and backs are planted on. Using 1 thickness of material reduces inventory and waste.

3/4/16       #5: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

my question wasn't whether or not to go frameless. I intend to build whatever my customers want framed or frameless. I guess my biggest hang up is ealing with metric heights in sae built homes. For instance what happens when you come to a house where the dingdong contractor puts a bay window for a sink cabinet at the incorrect height but the counter top still needs to be flush to the window. Now I know there are many workarounds forr this, but with my current methods All I do is change the height to what it needs to be and im done. If i had to move in 32mm increments i dont think I would have as custom of a fit.

3/4/16       #6: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
Mark V.

For me, any unusual measurements that don't fall "on system" are taken care of in the toe kick/baseboard height.


3/4/16       #7: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
Alan F.

You could separate your hinge holes from your shelf holes and work off of center of door height or you could adjust where your shelf holes start and end.

You can drill separate holes for slides.

A large percentage of people won't put an adjustable shelf 3 or 4" from the floor/bottom of a cabinet or 3-4" from the top of a cabinet. We start shelf holes at 6" from the inside of the floor of the cabinet.

You want to standardize your hinge locations to always reference the same amount from each end as much as you can, then if you ever need to remake a door or replace a door a year later you know the pattern.

Once you use a CNC the only things that need to be in "system" is hardware that is referenced a fixed MM from the edge of a part.

3/4/16       #8: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

I see being able to soak up the difference with the toe kick but if you are building kitchen cabinets to code the toe space must be 4". This is also important if there is a dishwasher along the base run

3/4/16       #9: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
Bruce H

No code that I know of says toe kicks need to be 4", I make mine 4 1/4", works fine.

That said, if the "frameless system" had been invented in the US and on 1" increments everyone would be doing it. There is no reason you can't. It is only as difficult as you want it to be. I use the 32mm system only because I find it easier. Make your cabinets a module of 1", subtract 1/16" from each end for clearance and keep moving. If you need to have a specific height then do it. At least you have a place to start instead of re-inventing the wheel.

3/4/16       #10: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

most appliances that fit under a base have some sort of relation to a 4" toe. The 4" is a minimum. the difference between 4 and 4.24 is nothing. maybe its just a standard for kitchens? Im sure its not a legal code. anywhere between 4 and 4.75 tends to work. Under 4" is impractical and can cause problems when plumbing and electrical is run at or above the floorline. I would be all about the one system! lol. But alas all of our hardware is based on 32mm.

3/4/16       #11: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...

Do a search here for Blum Process 32.
It will give you a basic blueprint for cabinets heights that will install on either side of the ocean. Cabinet length is entirely up to you.
If your planning on moving to cnc, you'll be miles ahead dealing in a system based on 32mm hardware and the metric system, unless you enjoy converting mathmatics back and forth all day.
A system makes life much easier.
"For instance what happens when you come to a house where the dingdong contractor puts a bay window for a sink cabinet at the incorrect height but the counter top still needs to be flush to the window" - Here's an idea- have dingdong contractor come back and fix his f'up, might cut down on the frequency.
I know- it's such a huge inconvienence to allow for floorcoverings and countertops....

3/4/16       #12: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...

Forgot to mention- I built blind dado and staple frameless for several years.
Looking back, it's mentally and physically more labor intensive, messier, and weaker than properly engineered butt joint and dowel or confirmat screw assembly.
In a low volume, custom environment like mine (roughly 2 houses a month), confirmat screw assembly makes sense for me- automatically aligns the parts and can utilize unskilled or faster paced employees for assembly and doesn't require a case clamp.
Others have mentioned success with staple and Zip'r screw assembly but I'd have a tough time selling that to a customer.

3/4/16       #13: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

Thank you for your input Jim. Maybe someday I will move to dowels and a case clamp. I see case clamps for sale all the time for very reasonable prices. My volume is less than yours. For instance, on monday I will be starting to cut material for a three story home that i will probably be working on for the next four months. I am a two man shop with an occasional part time grunt. I have to admit im very skeptical of the butt and screw method of box joinery. I know it works for many but I fear change and the unknown lol.

3/4/16       #14: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

In regard to the scenario I provided about the window height. I notified the General (who also framed in the window) about the problem way before exterior board and drywall went on. And in order to save face with the home owner he insisted the window stay the same height and that i create a custom set up to cover said boo boo. And at no additional charge since nothing had been built yet. I just rolled with it, but it was tough to deal with and I dont know how I would have done it with too many constraints

3/5/16       #15: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
David  Member


I am very similar to your shop set up in that I am a 2 man outfit with a part time person once in awhile. We donít have a cnc or case clamps either. We build 99% frameless cabinets. In answer to your last paragraph I would say develop your own system and adapt it to the cnc when you get one. We do not use the full 32mm system to build our cabinets. I donít like or need a row of holes from top to bottom. I use a jig from blum (poor mans cnc) that puts the holes right where I need them for hinge plates and drawer slides. I have included a picture of this jig. Then I drill only as many holes as needed for shelves. It is simple, adaptable and clean looking. When I get a cnc I can program it to drill the holes where I am already putting them with my jig. You can easily build cabinets in inches and use hardware in 32mm patterns. We use butt joints with glue, staple, and then confirmat screws, but if blind dadoes is what you want to do then do it. I suspect that the more you build frameless and develop your own system the less you will want to do face frame cabinets. We do several mission/shaker style jobs a year and use frameless trimmed out with the right moldings to give it an inset look and no clients are worried about a face frame or not. They love the sleek look and tight reveals created by this process. Best of luck.

3/11/16       #17: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...

We are a commercial only shop so everyting is "frameless." As for going the full 32mm system approach it is not necessary and unless you have the older style T boring machine I don't see any advantage. The Blum 32mm sytem was designed around that type of machine, now anchient history. Design a "system" around what equipment you've got. The closer you get to the Euro box system the less labor you will use but the more you will have invested in equipment. As you get more of the equipment you will be able to turn out more product per man, Sq Ft of shop etc.
A good box can be built with an accurate panel saw (not a table saw.) A line bore machine, a way to do back grooves and a hand drill/ stepdrill designed for Confirmats. Instalation is quicker using the adjustable hangers and rails.
As a slightly larger shop it made sense for us to go the full sysetm, router, bander, bore & insert, case clamp, conveyors. Once the parts reach the clamp it only takes 6 minutes to install hardware, knock the case together, remove a case and put the next one in the clamp, check & clean any glue squeeze out, snap the door on and a bit longer if a drawer face needs to be adjusted. The key is the accuracy of the equipment & minimal handling.

3/11/16       #18: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

Thanks Larry. what thickness of case and back do you use. Right now I am using 3/4 box with 3/4 cleats, 3/4 plant on ends and a 1/4 plant on back. I am interested to know about the hanging rail system and what that all intails

3/11/16       #19: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
Bruce H

I used wall suspension fittings and leg levelers for years but got tired of contractors complaining about "so many" parts. I also have a contractor that likes 60" tall upper cabinets 15" deep. Can't hang those from suspension fittings and not worry. So, I adopted a 3/4" back. Cut the decks 3/4" less deep and the back the same width. Makes for a box that can be screwed to the wall and will not fail, no matter how much the owner puts inside. When you are using a suspension rail it usually comes at the end of the cabinet run without blocking. Now you have to molly the sheetrock and that supports half of the end cabinets weight???

The leg levelers went away as well. We run the side panels to the floor and toe notch. From the bench to the floor the cabinet is finished as far as I am concerned. I supply a 1/4" plywood skin to cover the kicks, installed after the cabinets are in place. The cabinets can be dragged on the floor because the toe kick is not yet finished. These are much easier to install by setting them on a wall cleat and only having to shim the front.

I liked the "euro" hardware when we were using it but wouldn't consider going back. What we have now is just too easy. I cut two end panels, a bottom deck, back, top front stretcher and a toe kick filler. All out of the same material. Finished ends are applied which makes boxed the same and only the doors, drawer fronts and end panels deciding the "flavor" of the project.

3/11/16       #20: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...

Jonathan, 3/4" case, 1/4" backs into grooves in sides and bottoms, 3/4" nailers behind backs. We have two contractors that request the hang rails (Hafele.) We use pre-laminated sheets for ends with other side to match interiors. Doors & drawer fronts are also nested with the pre-lam sheets. We have the pre-lam laid up by a supplier with hard glue. If HPL is required on one face we always put it on the opposite side also to balance panel. When desperate we will spray up a few sheets and put them through the pinch roll. 2 or 3mm PVC banding. We use ladder kicks, pre-finished or raw depending on specs. Free standing store fixtures get finished kicks installed here. 4" is the normal kick ht. but on store fixtures it varies, whatever is spec'd. Internal cross frames are mouse holed on a dedicated shaper. Drawers are normally doweled, 2mm band, with drawer front adjusters. If dovetailed is spec'd we buy them. All parts requiring detailing get nested on the router. Rectangular parts like shelves get run through an optimizer for the panel saw. Bigger jobs will allow us to stack cut on the saw. Much faster. Parts or stacks of identical parts get labels with job & part information, including a drawing of the part with the banded edges in bold, bar codes for the CNC bore & dowel machine. All panel parts travel on roller conveyor & transfer cars. Things that don't work in the case clamp go to hydraulic bench assembly stations & Confirmated. Bigger jobs get broken up into manageable groups. We are still refining/tweaking the system, always will. Currently looking for better software. There is no perfect way, strive for constant improvement.

3/13/16       #21: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
jonathan mahnken

Thanks Larry. While Im pretty far from conveyors and hydraulic work stations, it doesnt sound like Im too different in my construction methods. I do a blind dado instead of doweling and I put my nailers to the inside of the back. I do detached toe kicks on all of my frameless cabinets. My drawer boxes are glued butted and nailed 1/2 9ply birch. I do however need to seriously work on my product flow in my small shop. If I try to run more than two jobs at once I get pretty jammed up

3/20/16       #22: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
Harold morantz

Website: http://morantz

Hi Jonathan, I have three cabinetmakers at present and we have always only built frameless. I use the machinery and jigs for 32mm construction, but have modified it to suit my needs. There are two aspects to the system that can work independently of each other to give you greater flexibility for heights of cabinets. The 32mm spacing for the line boring holes and the 37mm setback from the front of the cabinet for drawer slide and hinge baseplate location. We have a double line 44 spindle boring machine and the first line of holes is always 37mm from front edge of cabinet. The second row will vary depending on drawer slide length, and we have a clipboard on the line boring machine that has all the measurements in mm for this second row of holes. The boring machine also had long fences to left and right with flip stops that are set with a stick that is cut in 32mm increments. We use this stick to set our stops at 32mm increments so that long length boring like pantries or closet sides have perfect line hole repeatability. Our base cabinets are 30" high and our toe kick is usually 4.5". We let the line holes fall where they may , but we did decide on a measurement that worked well with our drawer/door or multiple drawer scenario.
The real time saver is using a double line machine and euroscrews to install all drawer slides. Fast,repeatable and always square. The 37mm setback will work with all slides available today, although we use Blum under mounts in most of our work and side mount full extensions for closets. We also use Blum expando base plates with cam adjustment for fast insertion and great adjustability. Our most used combos of fronts are 1. Door only 2. One drawer one door 3. Top cutlery height drawer and two equal pit and pan depth drawers.
We use euro legs for all cabinets in kitchens and baths. We have two sliders with tiger rip fences, a Cehisa ep-9 Bander and Detel 44 spindle line borer. 3/4" melamine with 5/8 backs and all 5/8 drawers, or 3/4 ply and 1/2"backs with drawers in 1/2"sides and 3/4 fronts and backs and 1/2" bottoms. Drawer bottoms are pocket holed to sides and nailed to fronts and backs. Regards, Harold.

4/12/16       #23: "Euro,32mm,frameless" sty ...
Brent C Taylor Member

Hi J, I'm new to this site so forgive me if I make any mistakes. I started using 32 mm system in the early 80's and found it to be the best way to build and adapt. I'm now a one man shop and to keep my overhead low I use Festool's LR=32 system, I do mostly one off project, but to start off in the 32 mm world this is a low cost investment. The plate is easily adaptable to any small router, not just Festool's, and it is easy to resell with minimal investment loss, far cheaper than a line bore or a CNC. Metric is not a bad thing, it makes life easier. hope it helps. B

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