Face Frame Dimensions and Fastening Issues

A tricky little puzzle about face frame screw assembly, based on a particular dadoed face frame detail. April 10, 2008

I do all face framed cabinets since they are more popular than frameless in this area. I also build my boxes out of 3/4 plywood and use a router bit set to tongue and groove the plywood and face frames together to help align them up and make a solid cabinet.

I have been making the face frames 1-1/2 inches thick but when I go to Kreg jig the frames together I can only get one screw in it because of the groove for the plywood. Is 1-3/4 face frame too wide for looks and functionality for doors (losing another 1/2)? I think I can get 2 Kreg screws into the face frame below the groove this way (unless it would split the side styles out at the end). What do you guys suggest? Or should I not router the groove all the way through the top and bottom pieces where they need to be screwed and stay with an 1-1/2 inch face frame?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet Making Forum)
From contributor A:
I don't think I understand what you're talking about when you describe your construction method. My face frame stock is 2" wide and 3/4" thick. If the cabinets are full height, I put a 4" top rail on my uppers. I dado the case sides into the stiles only. I butt joint/pocket screw tops and bottoms into the back of the rails. The bottoms and tops are dadoed into the case sides as well. Hope that helps.

From the original questioner:
On just basic upper or base cabinets I make all the face frames the same width for the sides, top and bottom. So if I use 1-1/2 wide top and bottom rails and router the groove for the plywood to fit into it, when I go to Kreg jig the rails into the side styles there is only enough room to get 1 Kreg screw, since the groove goes all the way out to the end. The side styles aren't bothered with the groove since I'm not Kreg drilling the ends for anything. It's just the top and bottom rails. Does that help you out a little bit?

From contributor A:
Got it! I don't think you need to dado the bottoms and tops into the frame at all. May I suggest that you step up to a 2" rail and use pocket screws or a cleat to support the plywood. That would be just as strong and a whole lot faster. Also with that tongue and groove rig you're routing both the plywood and the frame to receive the plywood, correct? Why not just put a dado in the back of the stiles to receive the plywood and call it a day? If I understand your process correctly, that would eliminate a whole step and give you the same structural integrity.

From the original questioner:
The router bit set I started out with is designed by a guy in my town. The deal with it is if I want the face frame and box to be flush I router the plywood with a certain side down. Then if I want to leave a 1/8'' reveal I just flip the plywood the other way and I don't have to change the bit height. I still Kreg jig the boxes to the face frame as well. It probably takes a bit more time but in the end they fit nice. I think I might try to not router the groove in the rails at all or just through the center and not the ends.

From contributor B:
For math purposes, I keep all my face frame stock 2", except for the tops that will receive moulding - they are 3". This is much easier when figuring cut lists instead of adding and multiplying fractions all day. It sounds like you have a set of Marc Sommerfeld bits. I saw them at a show and they looked quite confusing and a bit overkill. I agree with Jack about a groove in the rails - eliminate it. Your dadoes in the stiles will be the same width as your side material thickness and they won't interfere with your pocket holes.

From the original questioner:
You would be correct about the bit set I've been using. That guy is from my small town in Iowa. Hell of a smart man. He and his brother invented the Kreg jig and quite a few other things before they split up. It was confusing at first but once its set up it goes pretty smoothly. I have a few ideas I'm going to think about doing now. Thanks for all the input!

From contributor C:
Why not just use 1 screw per joint and 1-1/2" frame stock on everything? I did it that way for years until I wised up and started building frameless.

From the original questioner:
To contributor C: I did on my last set of kitchen cabinets but I didn't think one screw was enough to hold the face frame together even with glue over time. It's nice with 2 screws so the rails don't twist before the glue dries to the stiles.

From contributor D:
Finally I have met someone who builds cabinets the way I do. I also use the T& G system from CMT. I love it. It is very fast in my opinion and very strong. I like how you can dry fit cabinets together and then move them around without them falling apart. I only glue the frames to the plywood. I don't want pocket screws all over the box that need panels to cover them. That seems like more work. If a cabinet has a raised solid wood end panel, how would you hide the ugly pocket holes? I just do not understand how all of these guys are pocket screwing tops and decks to the frames. How do you hide them? As far as the frame widths, I make all my stile and rails 1-1/2" wide and put one screw in every joint. Even one screw will want to split the ends of the stiles. I figure once the whole cabinet is glued up and tied together with hanging rails and backs, where is it going to go? I say keep on doing what you are doing and don't worry about having only one screw. I have been doing it that way for five years and never had an issue.