Frameless Cabinet Fastening
Attaching lower cabinet sides to deck. August 7, 2004
I'm about to start my first frameless cabinet job. What's your preferred method to attach lower cabinet sides to the deck on frameless cabinets? I prefer a detached base for installation, but then it seems the cabinet weight is mostly supported by the deck. If you just butt joint, it doesn't seem very strong. If you dado or rabbet it, how do you handle the edge banding at the front? Is there a better solution?
Please take this as constructive. You need to do a lot of research. There are a couple of old, tried and true approaches. There are many hybrids.
The side panels carry the weight of the box and its contents. There typically are no rabbets or dados. That said, there is most often a groove for the back and that holds the box square.
I'm sure you will have a lot of feedback as this thread matures, but the need for documented information can only be satisfied with research and reading and/or instruction.
I have been constructing frameless boxes for about four years now, using blind (stop) dado or rabbet construction, off of a Hersaf dado machine. Before the Hersaf I used a tablesaw with stack dado, but that's kind of a pain, on a stop dado. I know the dado isn't the fastest, but it works well for my shop, as I'm not a high volume producer - maybe one house a week. I'm sure there are faster/better methods out there.
You might want to search the Knowledge Base on this subject. Jon Elvrum has written many articles on 32mm system cabinetry. One in particular explores joinery methods. You won't find any rabbets or dadoes. And yes, the vertical cabinet members are carrying the weight if proper construction techniques are followed.
There are a lot of ways to skin this cat, but here's the way we do it. We butt joint the deck to the sides with glue and staples (1 1/2"). Then we plant on a 1/2" back flush all the way around and shoot it on with staples and glue. After the back is on, we know the box is square so we add (on each side) 4 2" screws to the deck, 2 on both top stretchers and 2 in the drawer stretcher. Then we put a total of 4 screws in the back. The leg levelers have tabs which help hold the sides up. This allows 6 standard sides out of a 4 X 8 sheet which you wouldn't get if you notched for kicks. I wouldn't get into a debate with anyone that this is the best or only way to do it - it's just the way we do it.
We use Confirmats. There are jigs available for doing this fairly quickly, but a boring machine is well worth it. Frameless cases are almost always edgebanded - doing it by hand is slow at best. If you decide to actually do frameless on a regular basis, look into banders. Small tape only machines can be bought for under $10K used. You will also struggle without a panel saw. Square panels are a necessity and so is the ability to cut clean on both sides of the panel. Look into some of the startup deals offered by the machinery companies. All 3 pieces for about $25K - enough to get started decently.
Look into true32.com - they have a complete 32mm system of manufacturing.
Your cabinet sides must be directly supported. The crappy particleboard deck will fail long before any screw will. Also, pay attention to how weight is carried in your wall cabinets. There are some really sketchy builders out there. Can you imagine the lawsuit if a loaded wall cabinet fails and hurts someone? The Europeans have been doing frameless a long time - I suggest you hook up with a quality hardware line like Blum or Grass and learn how the system works from a hardware perspective. That's where you will realize the efficiencies of the system in your shop.