Scribing Face Frames To The Wall on Two Sides

      Tricks for scribing both ends of a small cabinet to fit against walls on either side. November 19, 2006

I'm new to installing cabinets. I have a single cabinet that's 3 feet wide. It will fit between two walls so the face frames will have to be scribed on both sides. I've allowed 1/2" of scribe material on each side of the face frame. The problem is, the cabinet is currently too large because of the scribe material. If I build the cabinet exactly and allow no scribe material, then I can't scribe it to the wall and a gap will be seen due to the uneven walls. How do I fit this cabinet?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor D:
I'd take some 1/4" plywood cut into strips and make a template. Cut slots in the end of the "rails" and drill a hole in the end of the stiles. Use some small bolts and wing nuts to connect the corners. Hold the template in place and tighten the wing nuts when the template fits perfectly. Place the template over the cabinet and trace around it to cut.

From contributor W:
We do this all the time. There are a couple things you need to know. First, is the back corner a true 90? Sometimes your walls are not a true 90 and narrower at the front. In this case you need to leave the face frame off the cabinet and fasten the frame to cab on site. We usually start by measuring the depth of the cab and draw a plumb line on the wall. Then take a level to see if your wall is plum, and also to see if any bows are in the wall that you may need to allow for. Do the same thing on the other wall. Hold the face frame up against one wall at an angle to scribe one side of the face frame (bevel the cut so you will not have as much friction on the wall). Once you feel good about the fit, take your measurements and transfer them to the other stile. Cut it off about 1/8" larger than the opening and hold the frame up against the other side wall at an angle like before, transfer your scribe mark allowing the 1/8", and trim this side, beveling the cut like the other side. Slide your frame in to make sure it fits. If the walls are 90 degrees, you can fasten the frame to the cab, but if not, you will need to slide your case in and then raise the frame higher than the case. Get it lined up and slide it down over the case and fasten at that time. (Glue and 1 3/8" 23gauge pins work great - put them in a non-conspicuous place.) Easiest way I have found and works great.

From contributor L:
If the cabinet is built, you will have to do it the template method and hope you can get the cabinet to go in the hole. Next time, make the face frame proud of the cabinet by at least 1/2" (not including the extra scribe material). And leave one of the stiles unattached. You would slip the cabinet in place, scribe the stile that is attached to the cabinet, and then line up the detached stile and scribe it, making sure not to scribe too much off. Then, using pocket screws (you've already built it this way), attach your stile to the cabinet. You're done.

From contributor T:
I have, in this situation, cut the cabinet frame scribes just a little bigger than the opening and flexed the two outer walls, if possible, and then pressure-fit the cabinet in place. If it can be done, it makes for a great fit. Some walls, unfortunately, won't budge.

From contributor R:
1. Hold a piece of 1/8-1/4 x 3' scrap against the left hand wall and scribe it.

2. When it fits good, hold a level against it and mark a plumb line.

3. Buy one of those really big squares or use a 4' x 2' piece of scrap ply that you know is square to determine if the you have an 'inny' or an 'outy'; in other words, whether you need to worry about the back corner's squareness. Since you have 1/2" of scribe, I can't imagine it is that bad.

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the right hand wall and mark the templates!

5. If you want to be really accurate, measure the width of the opening at its widest point using two overlapping sticks and transfer that to the face frame. If the walls are parallelograms, then you want to put marks on the floor, using tape if it is finished, where the plumb lines from your templates meet the floor.

6. Put your templates on the correct stiles (the cab should be on its back), and align them with either the widest points if the walls diverge, or the parallel points if otherwise. Then scribe away, back-cutting the stiles, of course. It'll fit like it grew there.

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