CNC Choices and Blind Dado Versus Dowel Cabinet Construction

This wide-ranging discussion centers on CNC machinery capabilities in relation to different methods of building cabinets. November 25, 2005

I am in the process of purchasing a CNC router to build Euro and face frame cabinet boxes. I observed two different methods of assembly at the Las Vegas show that I liked which were blind dado and dowel construction. It seemed like a no brainer that the blind dado construction was more efficient and less work, but I talked to quite a few people who prefer the dowel construction. The machine that I am looking at doesn't have horizontal boring capabilities which would probably require that I purchase another machine for dowel construction. Does any have any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor M:
Dowel construction will require another machine. There are many manufacturers of 32mm vertical/horizontal boring machines. You may however want to consider a dowel inserter instead if your production is high. These machines drill, shoot glue or water and insert the dowels in one operation. Many of them will insert 8 or so simultaneously. It just requires a little thought into standard drill patterns to minimize setup.

From contributor B:
If you buy the right nesting machine you can have the best of both worlds. Some do offer horizontal boring you just have to put the panels up on pods after they are cut out. I would recommend looking into the Weeke BHP 200 with the o-trix table.

From contributor J:
I would stay away from doweling as it can be a real headache even with good equipment, and especially when compared to the blind dado. I agree with Contributor B. The BHP 200 offers both, it has to be one of the best machines. I can tell you the user interface is second to none. Check out the possibilities with the otrix table, watch as others now switch to this design and do away with table gaskets as Weeke has.

From contributor E:
I saw a cabinet with the blind dado construction put together at the show and it really sold me. There were no fasteners holding it together and it was standing and very solid. Dowels just seem like an extra step that may not be necessary.

From contributor N:
I build blind dado cabinets all the time and now dowels to glue they are nice joints. I use Thermwood and they include a pretty good software package with their routers that is all set up for this kind of construction. Horizontal boring on a nesting router just creates more work. Thermwood is a very good company and their support is top. If this is your first router you really should shop around. I would spend more time talking to people who have had machines for some time.

From contributor I:
I have not blind dadoed before. When I build frameless, I have a dedicated borer. It is an old SCMI 35 borer. I don't dowel, but I use confirmat screws. I build with an applied end panel so this covers the screws. If the contractor or designer wants no applied end, I use a different construction (cabinetvision) schedule and bore 8mm dowels. The borer has the removable chucks, so I pop in 8mm chucks when necessary. I also CNC the parts first.

From contributor J:
The Weeke BHP 200 is one of the most advanced machines in terms of user interface, table design and construction. We use Cabnetware and it works great.

From contributor M:
Most CNC routers these days have horizontal drilling capability, unless the are designed with a nested based table. Even some of the nested based machines have pods that can be used to run parts simultaneously. I would also recommend Weekes. Doweled construction is the most simple and efficient method to machine and assemble.

I think it is more efficient to drill the vertical holes in your panel on the router and save the horizontal drilling to be done on a line boring machine so you can insert dowels at the same time you drill. Very little time is spent to match drilling between the two machines. Definitely look at Gannomat machines from Tritec for the horizontal drilling and dowel insertion. A Weeke and Gannomat together are a great high volume combination, but you need deep pockets for this.

From contributor D:
I have been doing a lot of software work for different machines. I recently created outputs for the wop4 and wop5. I have to admit that I was very impressed with the capabilities of their machine and software. Not only did it do machining on the reverse side during nested based cutting, but handled angular drilling and routing operations.

Is it the best machine? I have no idea. I can say that it was fairly easy to create DXF outputs for their wop software to import. There were lacking certain things in the pocketing department, when it came to assigning different bits to certain types of pockets, but they did have a few different types of ways they you could assign a pocket. Fortunately for me, I already had a routine that created pocketing paths and I just fooled their software that it is a route, when it is really a pocket it will end up doing. On the flip side, their software did pocketing and other operation on any side, more then 6, and so in some ways they were very advanced, even more so then I could output.

I have worked with quite a few people and companies that have used several different machines and have yet to have any customer complain about the machine they have. I guess this is a good thing. There are differences between what they can do and if you can do more things that that you need with one machine, but not another, then clearly that is a better machine for you. For someone else, it could just be an unneeded added cost.

From contributor J:
Contributor D, could you take a minute to explain second sided machining, if it's not created during the nest. Cabnetware/WoodWop creates the second sided file at the same time as the nest, and tags the parts in the nest with the appropriate file name/number for the second side.

From contributor D:
I generate the second sided file to be machined separately, after the parts are cut, and then to be put back in the machine later flipped over. I have not attempted to do it at the same time in one file.

The reason is that there are issues with pod placement and it is just too complicated for me to want to deal with it. It does look like it would be involved for the operator to set up, but if you were doing repetitive parts it would be doable for anyone with an understanding and the initiative to do it. It appears to me that it would be much easier to setup and run then setting up a certain popular name brand CNC software, for example, but would still require some thought and only under the right situation would it be the way to go.

I have never run any machine, so please take my comments with a grain of salt. My main point was that all the machines my customers use, Rovers, Morbidelis, Weekies, Homags, Onsruds, Thermwoods, and Andersons I have never heard a single complaint. I think that that is a good thing and the general quality of most name brand machines is pretty good.

I have heard many complaints about other machines, but they are not my customers yet, and it is always that they can't use the machine because they can't integrate their software easily enough or that their operator is not educated enough or both.