Strong face frame assembly

Methods for attaching face frames to cabinets. September 25, 2002

What is your opinion on the best and strongest method of attaching the face frame to the cabinet? I'm thinking of purchasing a Porter Cable bench top pocket cutting machine and, since the sides of the cabinets will be covered by another cabinet or an end panel, pocket screws may be the way to go. Or should I dado out the back of the face frames and glue and clamp? This seems slower and I have two big kitchens to do. Also, when using prefinished ply, should I dado the sides to expose raw wood for a glue joint? I would rather butt joint and use confirmats, but I'm not sure how well that will work. I would also like opinions on hot melts. How well do they work and are they a good substitute for Titebond yellow?

Forum Responses
I'm going to give you the fastest and "plenty strong enough" method I used for several years building face framed cabinets (I now build frameless). Glue (Titebond II) and strategically placed 2", 15 ga. finish nails shot from a PC air nailer. At least two nails per frame (to act as a mechanical fastener, should the glue ever fail). I tried very hard to make sure they drove in behind the door/drawer front overlay along the stiles and tops of bottom and mid rails. The crown molding hides the nail head holes at the top rails on upper cabs. All nail holes are filled with matching putty after finishing.

If I were still building framed cabinets, I'd use pocket screws as you've suggested, through the unfinished (outside) of the carcass. This would eliminate the nail holes in the frames and provide considerably more clamping pressure than face nailing. Iíve always used pocket screws to assemble face frame parts but Iíve not used them to attach the frames to the cabinets. The problem I had was that I would never know where along the frame run I needed to pull the not so flat frame against the carcass. You could always wait to mount the frame and pencil mark the cabinet side, and then use a portable (Kreg Jig) to drill the pocket holes at those particular areas, where the screw could pull the frame tight against the panel edges where needed.

From contributor D:
How many screws would you be comfortable with per side? What would you do with the bottom and top rails? It would be tricky to hide those holes on the bottom shelf, and by the time you bore all 4 sides of the cases and put in the screws, I think I could clamp one and I think Titebond II and clamps are stronger, but both methods are more than strong enough, so I won't argue.

While I no longer build FF as a steady diet, when I did I always pinned them in place (so they were where I wanted them) and clamped with curved caules. Not as fast as stapling, but it meant almost no holes to fill and the frame was flat against the case. Sometimes a little extra effort is worth it.

From contributor E:
Contributor D, the only pocket holes that would be of concern would be the ones up under the bottoms of the wall cabs and possibly up under any fixed shelves in the wall cabs and tops of tall cabs. You might be able to eliminate these with careful orientation of the bow in your bottom and mid rails, so that when you screw into the stiles at the ends of the cabinets, the tightening of the screws pulls the frame down onto the edge of the carcass tightly along the entire length of the rail.

Heck, maybe it would be just as easy to use clamps and wait for the glue to dry... No, I'd glue and shoot some nails into them and keep on goin'.

I'm sure glad I don't have to worry about all that stuff anymore. Frameless is the way to go. Unfortunately, cabinets without frames bring up a few other problems. Anyone got a good edgebander they don't need anymore?

We use pocket screws for face frame assembly and carcass assembly and have for eleven years. Theyíre quick and strong, plus we hardly ever have a nail hole to fill. We run our face frames through a timesaver sander after they are assembled, and attaching them to the carcass with pocket screws leaves us minimal sanding when being prepared for the finish room. We use a kreg pocket hole machine and we buy plugs to cover up the holes that we can't hide some other way. The plugs take a little extra time but you will find that by manipulating parts, you will hide a lot of the holes.