How to Make Haunched Face Frames

Various woodworking techniques described for making beaded face frames for cabinets. February 6, 2007

I've done lots of straight pocket screwed face frames before. I've been asked to do a beaded face frame. I know you can apply the beading on after they are assembled. I'd like to use a one piece face frame and haunch them out. What is the best way to do this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor P:
Check the Knowledge Base. I looked into it myself a while back. I wouldn't describe any of the recommended methods as "easy." I still pin the beading on. A local supplier carries it as a molding, so it's pretty easy for me. Regardless of which way you do it, if you are pocket screwing anything (decks, partitions, etc.) flush with the inside of the FF, watch out for screws poking through the groove part of the bead!

From contributor T:
We cut these with a sled on a table saw. The haunch itself is made with a Magic molder head by LRH tooling company. It works kind of like a dado set. You do have to back up the material, as it will blow out the grain on the back side of the pass.

If you are going to do much of this, a dedicated sled with a couple of air piston hold downs would give you a real clean cut and do it very safely. The air pistons themselves will cost you about $20 a piece. Some flow control valves ($5-$6) will allow you to influence how fast the pistons engage. An air regulator will control how much force the air pistons exert. If you are clever, you should also be able come up with a set of repeatable stops for indexing the haunch positions. The whole system will cost you under $500.

From contributor A:
Route the 1/4" bead on all of your rough stock. Do it on a router table with a fence. Do not use the bearing. Make sure that the bead is 1/32" below the face. This will allow you to sand the face frame after you fasten it together without sanding into the bead.

Cut your stiles to length, but add 5/8" (bead + groove x 2) to your rail/mullion lengths. If you want to get started with a couple of face frames, use a 45 degree block of wood and cut the haunches with a fine handsaw (Japanese is preferred). Cut the waste away with a sharp chisel or the table saw if it's a stile end. The miters on the rails can be cut on a chop saw or table saw. If you need to do more, invest the time in making a table saw jig or router jig.

Like anything, after a little practice (2 complete kitchens?), these go very quickly. The first ones you do will be a little fussy.

From contributor M:
Contributor A is right on. Most of my work is beaded face frames with inset doors, and I do them as he says. I will add that a real sharp chisel guided on the 45 degree block will easily clean up the saw cut on the stile. I prefer to not nail on the beading, as I find it is not as clean looking as having it milled in the actual frame stock, and it takes a fair amount of time to glue and nail on all that beading. Good luck, and the more you do, the easier it gets!

From contributor R:
If you are doing more than once in a while, get a Hoffman hauncher. It'll set you back about $6k, but over time it is money well spent. Very quick, easy and accurate.

Also, what are you guys charging for beaded inset cabinets? I was talking to a rep for a large custom factory line and they are getting close to $1000 per ft if you figure in the whole job minus install. I need to up my rates.

From contributor M:
I need to up my rates, too, if others are getting 1k per ft! I don't know how easy it would be to get that on a regular basis, but I would be happy to be getting that if I could.

From contributor A:
Those $1k/ft kitchens must have a gold leaf inlay in the bead. There is no way anyone is getting that for a typical beaded face frame kitchen. It's got to be made of SA mahogany and have gobs of all that corbel crap the frameless guys have fallen in love with. The Hoffman is for shops that are doing full beaded kitchens everyday of the week. I can cut a lot of face frames for $6k.

Contributor T, how clean of a cut does the Magic moulder give you? About 6-7 years ago I tried a 3 cutter Delta moulding head. I ground the knives myself, so perhaps the cutting angles were all wrong. It whacked the parts pretty hard and gave inconsistent results. Is it worth the money to buy a Magic head only to use it for beaded face frames?

From contributor R:
There are a lot of discussions here about price. Our biggest challenge as small shops is justifying what we charge for our work. Most small shops undercharge for their work. The cabinets I described above are made by a company called Hampshire. There are others... Wood-Mode, Bertch Custom, Dura-Supreme, Crown Point, and Holiday. They all do beaded inset and they *start* at about $700 per foot and up. The typical kitchen with trim will run $1000-1500 per lf. If these are the market prices for large custom companies, why should we do it for half the price if the product is just as good?

From contributor T:
Contributor A, the two cutter blocks are carbide. They never do start out real sharp, but they hold the edge they have for quite a while. The front side of the cut is real clean. The back side of the cut can have blowout at the edges. You can just about eliminate this with a plywood backer behind each pass.

I don't think my system is as good as the Morso, but it is quite adequate for the scale of operation I have. The Morso only handles the chopping part of the equation. You're still responsible for the indexing, S4S, beading and pocket holes. If I was doing enough of these to warrant $6000 for the chopping part, I could probably go all the way and get a hydraulic chopper like Pistorius makes.

I would guess that the majority of shops that have a Morso still build their cabinets on a stationary work bench. For $6000, the average small shop would probably get better value from a Castle pocket drill or a scissor lift work bench or a TigerStop indexing system. Those are the things you use every day.

For what it is worth, we also use an additional Magic molder for producing the bead. This produces a pretty clean cut that does not require much sanding. You can get the job done with a router bit, but the diameter of cutting arch is so small there is usually a lot of chatter on the profile that needs to be defeated later. The Magic molder has about a 5 inch diameter and cuts it with more of a scraping action than a chopping action.

As others have noted, we also set the bead profile below the face of the board. This makes it a lot easier to get through the widebelt sander later.

From contributor A:
Do you have a right set and a left set? How much is this rig going to run me? I had a custom corrugated cutter made for the shaper about 6 years ago. The high speed steel leaves a great finish, and the powerfeed keeps the bead very consistent. The cutter is a stepped pattern with 1/4" 3/8" and 1/2" beads on one cutter. I just had it surface ground yesterday at my local machine shop. Man do they come back razor sharp.