Removing and Reassembling Pocket-Holed Parts

Can you pocket-screw a face frame to a cabinet, remove it, and re-attach it successfully? April 21, 2007

I'm wondering if anyone out there familiar with pocket hole jigs could tell me if they've tried anything like the following, or if it will work. I'd like to fasten an unfinished face frame to a pre-finished cabinet. The face frame will have slightly oversize mid-stiles which I will rout to size. I would then detach the face frame for finishing flat. My question is about the repeatability of this fastening method - will carefully rescrewing a previously done pocket hole place everything where it was before, or is the referencing too sloppy to do this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor K:
"I'd like to fasten an unfinished face frame to a pre-finished cabinet. The face frame will have slightly oversize mid-stiles which I will rout to size."

I am not clear as to why you would do this unless you are finishing it on the cabinet… which would be a pain, in my opinion. Make the stiles to size...

From the original questioner:
Forget the pain factor. I realize that, but it doesn't enter the equation for various reasons. Anyway, I want the edges of the stiles to be dead flush with the faces of the partitions, and if you can fabricate a face frame for an 84 inch cabinet with multiple stiles and rails, and have the stiles/rails fall exactly where they should, you're perhaps a better craftsman than I.

And no, I'm not finishing it on the cabinet. I want to finish it separately and reattach it. I have much better results in the finish room spraying with everything laying flat. Anyway, I just want to know about reassembling something exactly the same way twice. Think of it as an RTA furniture question, if that's better.

From contributor K:

Well, to answer your question, if you are using glue along with screws, yes, you can do it, but if not, anytime you remove the screw from its original hole, you run the risk of a looser fit. If you ran into this problem, you could always use a dowel fix for any loose holes.

If you route the stile to achieve a flush panel, then remove it to finish it, you will be disappointed with the results, as you are not taking into account the finish material build-up from 2-4 coats (whatever your preference) of finish material.

That said... pre-finish the face frame and use clamps with a scrap piece of material to overlay the stile and partition and make them universally flush before sinking the screw. An easier way would be to run an 1/8" - 3/16" deep dado on the inside of the frame the same size as the side panel, so when the screw pulls it, it will flush the panel and the face frame. I would still use the scrap material and clamp. If I am not clear, see below.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor J:
Another option if you're using thick enough sides would be to use biscuits on one end of the cabinet. This way you are assured the face frame will go back in the same spot. I usually leave the face frame overhanging the side/bottom panels by anywhere from 1/16"-3/32", though, then just trim the ends flush. If you're able to do this, it would make your life much easier.

From contributor T:
To answer your question… Yes, you can pocket screw, remove, and reattach later. It will line up exactly where it began. I do it all the time when gluing an edge that will be pocket screwed. I pocket screw it together first with no glue for alignment purposes, remove the screws, glue, then reassemble. It works very well. Not too much of a pain!

From contributor K:
As a side note... the pain I was referring to was finishing the frame on the cabinet. I was trying to provide a solution with the least amount of steps. In any case, best of luck whatever solution you use.

From contributor S:
Depending on material thickness, I have used 1 1/4 screws and then 1 1/2 for the final installation. If that is not possible, I go from fine thread to coarse. They probably stay put with the original screw, but it just makes me feel better.