Finish Cracking at Face Frame Joints

Ways to prevent or correct finish cracking at cabinet joints. July 3, 2008

I work with a company that builds face frame style kitchen cabinets. Our joints are pocket screwed and glued then glued and clamped to the face frame. We are using ML Campbell Magna Max for white finishes. After a couple of weeks we are seeing hairline cracks at the joints in the face frame. Is this finish to brittle for solid wood face frames? Is there another finish that would be suitable for kitchen cabinets that is a little more flexible?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor L:
I use the same techniques as you with the same finishes. You must be doing something wrong because I don't have that problem. One thing you might be doing is rushing the process. If you glue and spray in the same day and you are using a water-based glue such as TiteBond II this is where your problem is. The glue joint needs to dry out. Up to three days on larger glue ups. FF joints need to dry for 24 hours before you should be coating them with anything as the wood dries it shrinks and the joint shape changes, taking the paint with it.

From contributor A:
If there is a crack in the finish then there is a crack in the joint. You are having bad glue joints. Follow Contributor L's comment. The guys doing the gluing should have enough glue coming out of the joint that it doesn't need putty.

From contributor R:
It could also be a wood moisture problem. What is the MC of the wood coming to the shop? How long does it have to acclimate in the shop?

From contributor C:
Even when dried and glued properly joints can fracture slightly if the once attached face frames are moved a lot and or mishandled. This does not mean it happens all the time, and the other posters are most likely correct in there assumptions by way of hands on visual and correct results they are or have achieved. Poor gluing/clamping/drying techniques are usually the cause of such failures.

Therefore what I offer was gleaned from my time in contract furniture and problems they overcame in this area which have worked well as a fix for this problem, if and or when it does occur. All the face joints received what is called a reveal/quirk/break - 1/16x1/16th inch where the pieces go together. If by chance the joint does crack, it is simple to fill and brush/air brush/t.u. gun the color/clear over it to make it disappear again. It does not detract from the look in fact it enhances the look. That’s what I believe but that will be up to your company to determine for themselves. It could actually be a good marketing tool if you want to use it.