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Frameless (European) and Faceframe Constructing the Box

  Euro-style (frameless) vs. Faceframe Construction: The best way to describe this difference is form vs. function. There are many reasons why euro-style (or frameless) cabinets are more functional.  However, you many prefer the look of face-frame cabinets.  It is purely a design decision since both are adequate in strength.  Faceframe cabinets look more traditional to us in the U.S. European-style cabinets were introduced to the U.S. market in the 80s.

Frameless, or European-style cabinets, have no front frame. The doors are attached directly to the sides of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets, which are more contemporary in style, offer the advantage of completely unobstructed access to the cabinet interior because there is no front frame.

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Frameless Cabinet


The traditional Faceframed cabinet has a front frame around the cabinet opening to which the door is attached. These are the most popular type of cabinets in the U.S. and are easier to install than frameless cabinetry because of their recessed end panels and rigid front frame.



Faceframed Cabinet

  Constructing the Box  

Solid wood rarely forms the cabinet box. Wood is most often used in faceframes and doors than in the larger side panel parts. That’s because wood tends to warp—a special concern in the kitchen where the moisture level changes frequently.

  Base Cabinet Specifications  

1 - Frames  All frames should be built of (minimum 3/4") thick solid wood or plywood and joined by a accepted joint (e.g., mortise & tenon, dadoe, dowel, or confirmat screw).  Glue is essential.

2 - Sides  Side panels should be (1/2") thick and made of a veneer-core particle board or better. Exterior sides should be stained to match the frames and doors. Sides should be joined into the face frames with acceptable joint.

3 - Backs  Backs should be at least 1/8" pre- finished hardboard (MDF) and notched into the sides.

4 - Bottoms  Bottoms should be made of (3/16" to 1/4") pre-finished hardboard and notched into the front frame and sides.

5 - Hanging Rails  Hanging rails should be at a minimum 3/4" x 1 1/2" solid wood notched into the cabinet sides. This will provide a very sturdy hanging system for the cabinets.

6 - Shelves  Shelves should be a minimum  1/2" particle board laminated with a wood grain wrap. Base shelves can be notched into side panels but then are not adjustable for height.

7 - Drawer Glides 

8 - Drawer Box  

  There are nearly as many methods to constructing a box (or carcass of the cabinet) as there are cabinetmakers.  Most important to quality is the material used because they contribute directly to the integrity of the product.  And without a doubt, plywood (manufactured board composed of an odd number of thin sheets of wood glued together under pressure with grains of the successive layers at right angles) is still the strongest material used.  Refer to the Materials page for a further explanation.  Another factor concerning material is the thickness used.   

Methods of joinery include:

  • Butt joints (the end of the cabinet bottom simply attached to the end of the cabinet). Not a desirable method of joinery.

  • Mortise and tenon joint where the tenon from one board fits into the mortise of another (an oval shaped, flat piece of wood that is imbedded halfway in each of the joined pieces).

  • Dado in one piece that receives a rabbit formed on the other.

  • Dowels (which are small wooden pegs imbedded into both pieces of the wood.

  • Confirmat screws - a screw and dowel combination.

All of these methods create a stronger joint than a simple butt-joint and are more than adequate.




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