I have only worked with face frame cabinets, and just began working at a company that utilizes the 32mm system and frameless cabinets. They butt the carcasses together and screw them with no glue. This goes against everything I have learned about wood. Is this standard practice?
You and me are cut from the same traditional scrap. I have a hard time accepting butt joints and screws/no glue, also. But there is definitely a market for this style and method because it is fast (and saves money for the customer) and with all the investment put into good hinges and a stylish door, some customers don't care about how the box is made. On the other hand, there are those customers who have a mindset that all wood construction = quality and would not accept particleboard or melamine cabinets. I am resistant to this, but am planning to offer the option of frameless construction as a cost-saving alternative.
As for your employment situation, your boss has apparently had success with this method of work. If you try to provoke any change you'll probably get fired. My advice is to observe, learn and prosper.
I think screws/no glue is a less than satisfactory way to build boxes, although I would consider going to confirmats, which are more like metal dowels, if we weren't well set up for dowel construction already.
With the confirmats I'd do away with the dowels altogether. They'd make extra work that you don't really need. If the confirmats are bored correctly, there really is no need for positioning pins and unless you have some means of automated dowel insertion, it's a somewhat labor-intensive process.
To contributor G: I have been boring 5mm confirmat holes for a couple of months now and recently had the occasion to disassemble a cabinet that was put together with them. To my disappointment, all the confirmats had split the material about two inches. This happened to MDF, which is split-prone anyway. I did a bunch of tests and found that a 5.5mm bit works very well and has no noticeable decline in holding power. I would like to know why all the hardware tear sheets say to bore a 5mm hole. I found that with a 5mm hole the screws split most materials that we use. What material are you working with that needs 6mm holes? How's the holding power at 6mm?
This is for manual drilling, but the clearances should be the same. The splitting results from a tight pilot hole, so I would stay with the 5.5mm hole.
The large shop produced more cabinets using a mixture of new and old machines, for example table saws to cut out material instead of panel saws. The reason for this is that several jobs could be cut out at once instead of having only one cutout man on a very costly machine like the panel saw. We did use edge banders and line bore shelf holes. The cabinets were just glued and nailed together with a butt joint, no screws or dowels.
The small shop used the complete line of 32mm machines--panel saw, edge bander, construction bore machine, line bore machine, case clamps. The case goods that were turned out at this shop were good also, but the one difference was that the men had to know how to use the 32mm system and read metric and understand it. This took lots of training, sometimes setting the machine up for the person running it.
When I went out on my own I decided to combine both ways of building cabinets from both shops, using the 32mm system the most that I could with the machines that I could afford at the time. Table saw, miter saw, planer, nail guns/compressor, drill press, basic power tools drills, routers, etc. Over time I came up with the system that I now use. It works so well I just can't see the reason for big costly machines.
I use a Euro design using a rabbit joint at the top and bottom of the end panel. No dowels or screws, just rabbit joint glued and nailed. I also use 1/4" thick solid stock material for the edge bands, not the tape. This covers the raw edges and is much better quality than veneer tape. I still use a cup hinge 110*, but use the screw-on type, not the press-in. I do not bother with the 32mm layout on the hardware just a simple 3 inches from the top and bottom of the doors. I also have a middle rail in cabinets between the drawer front and door. This allows the drawer glide to have a place to set. I do not have to bore 32mm pattern holes for the hinges or glides--they just screw on.
Once the cabinet is built, the overall look is just like a 32mm system cabinet, inside and out. But much less to build. Using this system I can cut out, build, edge band and sand around 18 cabinets in a 10 hour day. It is a very simple design--a cabinet system that will fit your needs using basic tools or the complete 32mm machines. The system will need to start from layout, cutlist, milling and assembly to finishing and installing. Stick with the system each time and repeat the steps in order. I can cut out, mill, line bore, sand, assemble and edge band a cabinet using my system in 35 to 45 minutes. I have not seen this in shops with the 32mm machines.
Unless it is a blind rab on the horizontal member with a stop groove, I see nightmares at the edge bander. My assumption was contributor D's system uses a plowed-through dado at the panel end and a butted horizontal. I'm not sure what he does for a fixed shelf at any point other than the panel ends.
I realize SD nails a lumber band onto the case parts, likely post assembly. I don't see this lending itself to production oriented operations, though. I still like the speed, consistency and alignment of dowels and/or barrel screws for production.
63 @ quick change chucks
42 @ 5mm bradpoints,
6 @ 7mm spearpoints
6 @ 5mm x 70mm brad points (discarded)
6 @ 6mm x 70mm spearpoints
6 @ 7mm countersinks.
1 @ 63 spindle triple head borer
1 @ Construction borer,
1 @ dedicated borer for stretchers
Air screwdrivers, etc.
Blazing speed doesn't come cheap.
Sure I can do it with a 20 tpi handsaw and a hand drill, but life's too precious to waste reinventing the wheel, to make possibly the world's least interesting industrial product--the poorly constructed box.
It works because 32 is a true function of the number 2.
2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 32. 32 is 2 to the 4th power.
That's why it plots out so neatly. On balance, the 32mm system is mostly marketing language, language that describes evolved European cabinetry post-WWII. More than that, it is a language of construction.
Jon Elvrum, forum technical advisor
I have been building like this for years and have never had an upper bottom come loose. Nails and glue hold. The rabbet is a through rabbet with 5 16 ga. 2" nails on each joint. The edge bands are 1/4" thick by almost 3/4" wide. The cabinet is put together first and the edge bands are cut, glued and nailed on using a 1" pin nail.
It is a very good quality cabinet. I trust it more than a butt joint with screws using no glue or the dowels. I have seen the dowels give way due to the fiberboard splitting at the dowel location and the bottom giving way.
To be honest, I have not given much thought about the bottom coming out. So I did a cabinet and came up with a way to solve this. I made a 3/8" dado in the end panel 3/8" up from the bottom of the panel. On the cabinet bottom I ran a 3/8" plywood rabbit. This makes a lock shoulder joint (AWI). Now this will give support to the bottom. This will add about 10 minutes of machine setup and 10 to 15 seconds per end panel to dado. On my jobs, this would add not even 30 minutes mill time. It's still a lot faster than pre-drilling for screws or inserting dowels in each bottom.
Trim screws in finished ends and pins in the face are not acceptable to today's consumer. Even the lower tiered cabinet manufacturers don't do this, regardless of somebody somewhere getting someone to accept the practice.
In reality, you're saving precious little frame material, right? You are using a thicker panel stock than you otherwise could, right? You are not using the system holes for hardware attachment, right? Full overlay hinges are available, right? Why not simply build a face frame cabinet?
I believe that you are a 1 to 5 man shop from your post. You have the 32mm machines (panel saw, edge bander, construction boring machine, line boring machine and case clamps). You've said in the past that you can only turn out around 10 to 12 cabinets per day. Your overhead has to be high for the machines and man labor. For me, there is very little machine overhead and more output in cabinets per day.
The way that I build Euro cabinets meets the architect's requirements through the shop drawings that I submit, which show the cut sections and details. AWI is used as a reference to help cabinet builders showing standards you can change and submit your way. Your shop drawings should reflect the way you plan to build the cabinets. I draw the details to show the way that I am set up to build in my shop, to make the most money that I can with as little overhead as I can.
I agree with you--face frame takes too much time to build.
I use 3/4" material for quality, as do you. Banding material is milled or I buy it from my lumber dealer. I use full overlay hinges with 1/8" gaps just like you do on the 32mm system. I just screw them on instead of pressing them in. Both of us screw them onto the cabinet. I use a coarse thread screw made for the hinges and glides, and you use the 5mm screw. You either use confirmat screws or use a construction boring machine for the dowels. I make the rabbets.
There are about as many steps in both ways to produce the cabinet. When the cabinet is finished, the overall look is the same. A Euro box with flush edge bands, full overlay doors with concealed hinges, line bored shelf holes (which I will be the first to admit is the slowest part of my milling operation, using a metal jig. I do need and am looking in to a line boring machine).
If the 32mm machines and system are right for you, you should get the complete line--use dowels and hot melt edge bands applied with a production bander, not pre-drilled confirmat screws and iron-on tape.
Your posts seem to say you are turning more towards manufacturing methods, as opposed to building on-site as before. The purchase of a boring machine is taking you closer to, not farther from your basic tool approach.
No man alive can shoot wood edge bands onto an assembled cabinet as fast as an edge bander. Not to mention the time spent puttying pinholes, or does that fall to the painter?
You are fortunate to find a market that accepts this practice, although a savvy kitchen dealer with a strong stock or semi-custom line will likely get a lot of free advertising from this level of quality.
You often quote AWI. I'm curious as to whether you are a member and have submitted your work for certification? Would you care to submit a base and wall to the NKBA?
What advantages are you getting by building a frameless cabinet? You aren't taking advantage of the speed and repeatability of systems manufacturing, so why do it?
Then there is the subjective fact that I don't like exposed fasteners myself and have spent 20 years of woodworking coming up with ideas to hide them. Which is why I like doweling, from an aesthetic point of view. But my aesthetic also has to cover progress through the shop (must be smooth, fast and minimum effort) and profitability (must be nice and fat) in order to be satisfied.
If contributor D can run a job smoothly through his shop with the methods he describes and make money doing it, he's 66% there in my book. My guess is that after studying something like True32 or reading Jon Elvrum's stuff and making a modest investment in machinery, he might do better still.
At my place, the closer we get to being pure panel processors, the smoother, prettier and fatter our jobs get, so hurray for panel saw, point to point, edge bander and dowels!
There are certain differences shop to shop, and I wouldn't expect a small shop to do everything like a large factory. It simply isn't possible to build in production with one-at-a-time methods.
Lining up by "touch" is acceptable, but not the way to crank out volume. Construction drilling for dowels or barrel screws provides for fast, consistent assembly. Just like machine edge banding.
The worst thing for Euro hardware was the day they decided to sell to anyone who didn't own the machines to properly install the hinges.
As for pre-glued edgebanding? I'd suggest a spray rig and laminate trimmer are the way to go.
Do not get me wrong--I fully understand the 32mm system and machines. It's a great system. But there are other ways to produce Euro cabinets with quality and speed. Small one or two man shops often do not want to invest large sums of money in machines and overhead. I have a one-man shop with around 70% profit out of each job. To me, that's good.
I will probably buy a line bore machine for the shelf holes and maybe use it for the hardware (someday).
What advantages do you get from building frameless cabinets? I still don't see where you gain anything, other than the labor exchanged for material savings in covering the panel edges.
2. Cut-out time - I cut my standard end panels 30" tall for both base and uppers. This saves cut-out time. Kicks are 4.5" tall, which is fine because most jobs do not run the flooring under the cabinets.
3. Milling time - on each end of the end panel the rabbet is the same set-up.
4. No face frame - with the .25" edge bands the cost of solid stock frame material is very low--about 1/4 the cost of 2" face frame lumber. Plus, now the lumberyard stocks it in oak, maple, birch, and poplar, which is my main wood.
5. Hardware - I also use the full-overlay hinges and Euro drawer glides. Without a linebore machine, it is easier to just screw them on using coarse thread hinge screws. There is no measuring or layout. I drill the doors in a drill press using a jig with stops. Each door can be switched from each side and stay the same. Doors are mounted flush on an assembly table the mounting plate is screwed on. Drawer fronts are the same way, using a drawer front screw for fine adjustment. There is no shim out for the face frame where the drawer glides mount with the Euro cabinet.
6. Installation - Euro takes much less time to install than face frame. The cabinets are flush on each side--no frame hangover to deal with. I use sex-screws through the line bore holes to pull the units together. I use kick platforms to set the base units on.
It's faster to level a platform than the cabinets.
7. Face frames - The face frame takes a lot of time sizing the wood, pocket boring, assembly, and mounting onto the cabinet. Strips are very fast--each piece can be cut out with the cut list and goes on in less than 2 minutes per cabinet. (Did you think that I cut out each piece by piece per cabinet? They're all cut out on a cut list and labeled). The only reason that I do not use tape is that I do not trust it. I have seen it peel off too many times or corners splinter off. Even using the contact glue and a laminate trimmer takes time.
8. Finishing - It's faster to finish a Euro cabinet than a frame unit. There is no frame to deal with.
9. Overall look - What do most architects draw now? Frameless cabinets. What do the home centers sell? Frameless cabinets. This is what the customers are used to seeing and seem to like.
My reasons are the same as some of yours. Overall speed, higher quality, much better hardware, installation speed and much lower cost with higher profits.
I really wish you could see the cabinet. You could see that I do put quality into the cabinet and that the units are not just jammed together.
You could always go to 1-1/4 or 1-1/2 frame stock to reduce expense, right? What advantage is the sexbolt without the predetermined alignment of line drilling? What do you feel is the maximum volume that can be produced using this method? And with semi-skilled labor? What point in volume would you consider edgebanders and drilling?
I don't count iron-on edgebanding as anything except trouble. I will rely on a machine to do the job more consistently than a glue bottle and pin-gun in this case.
Please explain in more detail about the labor in sizing the edge for material reduction. I do not understand what you are asking.
Volume -- I would convert to a panel saw, edgebander, and a construction boring machine with vertical and horizontal capability. For 500 or more units.
You have to remember that I run a small shop. I do not argue that it is a better way--just one that will work well for a small shop that does not wish to have a large machine overhead.
The maximum number of units that I have produced so far using this type of production was in 3 residential homes, all with the same type of material. The 3 homes combined had 98 cabinet units, base and uppers. Cabinets were produced in 1 1/2 weeks, working 8 to 9 hours per day. I do not try to do large jobs, but instead mostly small commercial and residential and a lot of spec homes. High volume numbers in cabinets is not what I want in a job. I go for the total job cabinets, tops, trim, and millwork (fireplace mantels and stairs). This is another reason for my way. The 32mm machines are no good for the millwork, just the case goods. This is a big reason that I stay with the basic tools-- I use them in all parts of the project, not just cabinets.
I agree with you that iron-on tape is trouble. Edgebands need to be applied with hot melt glue pot type of bander that has pressure rollers and cut off blades. These machines are costly to a 1 man shop. I just can't afford a machine that will sit in the shop for 2 to 3 weeks out of use while I am building millwork or out in the field trimming out a home. This is the reason for the hardwood 1/4" thick edgebands.
If I understand your post you have a panel saw, hotmelt bander, construction boring machine, line boring machine, and hinge machine to produce your cabinets. This puts you in a different class than me--you are set up for mass production of cabinets.
Next, if you are using comfirmat screws for your cabinets and taking time to drill each screw hole and then placing a screw in the hole, isn't that taking a lot of time? It seemed slow when I did it. I do not understand doing this when there is a machine that will drill the dowel holes in both ends and top and bottoms. I see the screws as being another way of producing the same look of cabinet without buying a high dollar machine. This is why the manufacturer does this--it's for small shops, right? Large casegoods shops use the doweling machines, not the screws. The screws are another way of connecting parts together. It's just too slow for me, so I use dados and rabbets because I am more comfortable with them.
Line bore machine -- no argument here. I need one. The machine will be a great time saver for me and give me hardware placement.
My labor is no greater than yours using the 32mm machines.
What are your reasons for not building face frame? A 32mm box will work on a frame cabinet as well as a frameless cabinet by moving your construction bore layout at the bottom of your end panels. There is machine set-up time involved, cost of frame material, frame construction with pocket bores, and mounting of frame to cabinet hulls. Then there is the hardware. You lose your 32mm line bore holes. You have to mount the hinges onto the frame. It takes too much time.
Comment from contributor A:
I hope I may be of some help on the subject of frameless kitchen units and our methods of construction: machining, assembly, and the 32 system. Four small points:
1. Frameless units should be constructed with cam fixings and not confirmats.
2. Multiple drilling on ends at 32s is unsightly when the unit doors are opened. Far better to tailor it down to your needs.
3. Always make your wall and base ends universal, not handed left and right.
4. When joining wall units in a run, take off the hinge plates and screw between the two holes to conceal them. Put the hinge plates back on and hang the doors.