How to Attach a Cabinet Face Frame to a Cabinet

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One challenge woodworkers face as they learn how to build cabinets is gluing the cabinet face frame to the case. A cabinet face frame is the wood fixed to the front of a cabinet case–sometimes called a carcase, which hides the edges of the case and provides the fixing point for doors and other external hardware. Properly attaching the cabinet face frame to the case is crucial to ensure your cabinets are sturdy and endure the wear and tear of repeated use.

Step-by-Step Instructions
Master Woodworker George Vondriska walks you step by step through the entire cabinet face frame gluing process with simple, easy to follow instructions.

In this 4 minute video, you’ll learn to properly attach the cabinet face frame, including:

  • – How to use brads for preliminary attachment, that won’t be visible later.
  • – The gluing process made easy.
  • – How to prevent the face frame from sliding on the case during attachment.
  • – Clamping methods and carcass manipulation for a cleaner finish and stronger fit.
  • – Tips for cleaning up the glue after attaching the cabinet face frame.

From Beginners to Pros
Everything you need to know is included in this video, and George’s detailed walk through ensures you’ll understand each step. This project is accessible to cabinetmakers and woodworkers of all levels. Whether you’re attaching your first face frame or you are a woodworking veteran looking for an easier way to complete the process, Woodworkers Guild of America can help you along the way.

Discussion
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16 Responses to “How to Attach a Cabinet Face Frame to a Cabinet”
  1. Bruce Clark

    I’m shocked that a master woodworker would not use a joint of any sort to attach a face frame. Biscuit joint? Half dado? Dowels? Any of those would not only attach the face frame with more strength, but would also help to align the frame to the case. A butt joint? Especially on plywood edges would be especially weak.

    Reply
      • George Vondriska

        You’re right, a pin nailer would overcome the need to use the brads/spurs in the case. However I prefer to not have puttied nail heads showing the face frame.

        Reply
    • George Vondriska

      There’s no need for extra reinforcement between the face frame and carcase, provided you did a good job cutting the case pieces and milling the face frame. When the parts are smooth, creating a sound joint, the bond between the two is plenty strong. Check out this video http://local.wordpress/video/000330_strength-of-glue-joints/ It shows that, provided there’s a good joint, the surrounding wood fails before the glue joint does. Nothing wrong with adding a biscuit, dowel, or other reinforcement, but in my experience it’s overkill, and not required. I’ve never seen a failure, and have built loads of cabinets using the approach shown in this video.

      Reply
    • Sternberg

      It is not a butt joint. I am like you, and would use biscuits. He has all the strength he needs, but biscuits help with alginment and are not near as fussy as dowels are.

      Reply
      • George Vondriska

        I’m not against adding biscuits to this joint but, with my face frame/case technique it doesn’t work. I make my face frames about 1/16″ larger than the case they’re going on. After the glue is dry I flush trim them to the case. Because of the dimensional difference you can’t simply reference the fence of a biscuit joiner on the case and on the frame. So yes, biscuits would help with alignment and you wouldn’t need the spurs. It’s just an approach that doesn’t jive with my face frame to case technique.

        Reply
        • Sternberg

          You can easily shim when cutting biscuit slots for the difference. Biscuits are forgiving enough that you can still use them with your method. A few biscuits save a lot of clamps.

          Reply
        • Sternberg

          I do that all the time with a shim to make up the difference. It would work just fine with your technique.

          Reply
  2. Alan Beck

    What is a brad nail? Little goofs like this really make me question that if the presenter is really a master.

    Reply
  3. Brad

    Thanks George. I hope the comments and questions you get are posted respectfully. I for one appreciate your tips and information. We all know there are many ways to do almost everything in woodworking so we shouldn’t criticize when someone shows us their tried and true methods…even if we have questions or concerns. Keep up the good work, I think this is a great tip!

    Reply
    • George Vondriska

      Thanks Brad. For the most part, interaction on the web is pretty good and respectful. I appreciate you asking about it. You’re right, there are lots of ways to do this stuff. I’m the first to say my ways aren’t necessarily the best ways, but they work for me. I wouldn’t pass anything along on this platform that hadn’t stood up to the test of time.

      G

      Reply
      • Bob

        I agree with Brad that there many ways and I liked this way. I have used biscuits and they work fine but this looks faster and if you don’t have a biscuit joiner it is a way to overcome the sliding and not have to putty the brad holes.

        Reply
  4. Christopher Harrison

    Excellent tip, or actually series of tips, all the way down to scraping the glue drops with a chisel. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Barry

    Hi George, as usual great information. I wonder if these arrogant woodworkers realize they look so foolish criticizing someone who obviously knows what he is doing and has years of experience? If they have a difference of opinion all they have to do is give an alternative method and keep their arrogance to themselves.
    Anyway I have a question about doing the same method with melamine. Would gluing a kitchen cabinet’s face frame without pocket screws work as well with Melamine as with plywood?
    Thanks for all your superlative content. Hope you will have some contests Canadians will also be able to participate in soon.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Barry. Hello and thanks for the note and the kind words. We will pass these along to George.
      You are right; this technique is tried and true, and I have been using it for years without a single incident. Many people assume that mechanical fasteners are needed in situations like this when in fact they are not, as long as you have good wood-to-wood contact.
      In terms of using this approach on melamine, it will be ok to do so if you are using a hardwood face frame because glue will bond well to the edge of the melamine panels in the carcase, as well as to the hardwood. I would not use this approach to glue a coated surface on a melamine sheet, as wood glue requires penetration into wood fibers to form a good bond, and the glossy surface of the melamine coating does not allow the necessary penetration. So, if your face frame is also melamine, I would suggest using a mechanical fastener such as pocket screws in addition to glue to secure the face frame. You can also use a melamine-specific glue, like this product from Titebond http://amzn.to/2wbBJw3 (http://amzn.to/2wbBJw3)
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply

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