Lock Miter Joints for Face Frame Cabinets

It's a little more work, but it makes a nice-looking corner. June 17, 2009

I have noticed lately that a number of the higher end cabinet producers are attaching the face frames to the finished side panels with a lock miter joint. Does anyone here use this process? It gives an excellent finished look. I assume you would run the panel on the table and face frame against the fence. If that's the case, the face frame would have to get run before assembly, especially if using a power feed. Any thoughts or tips on this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
I just finished building a face frame vanity where the face frame is mitered into the finished end panel. I didn't bother to use a lock miter, just a typical miter. Setting up a lock miter for a joint that is supported well seems like overkill to me. I use a lock miter quite often, but this seems a bit much for the application. But if you decide to do it, I prefer to use thinned glue since a good joint leaves no real room for squeeze out.

From contributor S:
From my little experience with lock miters, they are very difficult to set up and get exact results. Yes, one side lays flat on table and the other side lays on edge and rides against fence.

I have not seen this done like you explain, so here is what I could possibly see happening. Easing the edges after assembly could possibly expose plywood which would have to be dealt with. If pre-assembling face frames, they would have to be dead on and my usual method involves a slight overhang which I later flush trim or sand. And last, I don't believe you could staple it from inside (which I don't do anyway) or use pocket screws with there not being enough material so you'd have to either face nail or use clamps. Other than that, it does sound interesting and I may try it out just to see the look it will give. The next assembly I'm going to try is a rabbeted face frame and panel.

From contributor C:
I love the results. We do it a lot. We use the Freeborn cutter, the one that finishes on the table saw with a groover, for the reference dado. Easier setup for sure. Especially with differing thicknesses. Can't beat it, if you keep it set up.

From contributor Y:
I have a SCMI dedicated shaper with a Freeborn lock miter set up. It looks so much nicer than a simple butt joint. Also, making newel post is a breeze using this method. Setup is simple - just index everything off of center of the cutter and adjust your fence in or out - 5 minutes max setup time.

From contributor K:
We almost always miter our finished ends to face frames, but with a plain miter; attach face frame to cabinet, hinge end to frame with packing tape, glue with yellow glue, fold and clamp.

From contributor A:
We've got the lock miter shaper cutter, but for cabinet sides we typically follow contributor K's method. The high quality clear packing tape makes for really good miter joints. Do not waste time with biscuits.