Dowels Versus Pocket Boring for Cabinet Assembly

A cabinetmaker considers assembly options in light of his planned CNC purchase. September 25, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I'm looking at setting up a frame-less cabinet shop again. I already have an SCM sliding table saw. Iím looking at a double line bore machine, edgebander and pocket boring machine for method of assembly. An older guy advises I not use pocket boring but rather dowels for assembly. He says to not get the pocket boring and don't get the double line boring. I have the CNC shop that will cut the parts and also bore for dowels. He advises me to get a construction boring machine. He advises to skip the double line bore machine and have the CNC shop also do my line boring. What would you advise?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
If you do any commercial AWI won't except pocket screws. Before CNC I would have a shop cut parts for me. I use confirmats with applied ends for construction now. Have router and bander. Hafele makes a confirmat drill jig that aligns a bit that drills the shank and pilot hole after cabinet is stapled together. It works well. I used this when breaking panels down via slider and using a line bore machine for holes. It took more time of course but made for a strong box.

From contributor Y:
Both prior reposes are good. I'd skip the pocket screws. It is possible to dowel but without a fairly complete setup which is kind of slow (an inexpensive CNC $40-60K, edge bore and dowel inject, case clamp). The confirmats work fine but require applied ends or some other method for the case ends that show. The Hafele step drill/confirmat system works pretty well as a low investment solution.

From contributor C:
All the advice so far is good. If you have the budget for the CNC go for it - it will pay off. On the advice of the pocket screws, I would own a pocket machine, just like a hinging machine.

From Contributor E:
I agree, outsourcing all of the boring and cutting is good advice, especially if you can do it with someone local. If you order it from one of the big guys 1000 miles away, what happens when a pallet of parts gets stabbed by a forklift at the depot? The parts show up, you have to order new parts, and then you wait - possibly for weeks, meanwhile your production schedule is screwed and your delivery date is delayed. If it's from a local shop, first it's less likely to get damaged in transit, and second they can get you a replacement part in a day or two.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the great advice. Would the confirmats work well with 3/4 inch pre-finished maple sides?

From contributor Y:
You need to try the confirmats in the (plywood?) prefinished maple. They work really well in P Bd/melamine, but plywood may have core separation issues.