Attaching Face Frames to Cabinets

There's more than one way to do it, as this discussion proves. August 8, 2005

From time to time I have read postings addressing an assortment of ways to fasten wood face frames to cabinet boxes. I have been using a thin glue line and finish nails in my shop. I also pre-assemble my face frames using the Kreg system and adding glue to the joints. Is there a better way to do this? Any advice is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
I have a couple of suggestions to try. One is to pocket screw it on, and the second is to use a Senco SC1. The SC1 takes some skill trial and error, but when it’s used right it’s very dynamic.

From contributor R:
I still have to bar clamp the bows out, but it is still faster than pocket holes in the long run, and it really doesn't matter how they're done as long as they get done. Many great cabinet makers are still face nailing them right to a 3/4'' plywood box, without dado's or anything - just glue and nails.

From contributor J:
I clamp all my frames on. No nails, screws, or special nail guns. I just glue and the clamp and do as many I can with the amount of clamps I have.

From contributor P:
I use white glue and Castle screws. I use clamps to hold it in alignment until the screws go in, The 3/4" finished end panels get glued to the frame and box after assembly.

From contributor B:
We use glue and clamps only, leaving them in clamps for 20-30 minutes. We haven’t had a failure in 27 years.

From contributor F:
Just keep in mind that with a sufficient amount of glue, solid wood that is held tightly to either plywood, particle board or MDFf while the glue dries will form a very strong bond that does not require any additional strength from biscuits, screws, nails or even dado's.

The use of nails or screws is only necessary to keep the parts in intimate contact until the glue sets up. The same can of course be accomplished with clamps; it just takes more time and effort.

From contributor A:
We've always used a 15 gauge trim gun to nail the face frames on paint grade. About five five years ago we started pocket screwing the clear finish frames on only. I believe that it's a wash on paint grade if you nail and putty versus pocket and screw.

From contributor K:
I'm with Joe and Brad. Glue and clamp only. I dado the stiles 1/8" deep to accept the sides. The width of the dado is approximately 13/16" wide. I like the dado to be as wide or wider than the thickest sheeting being used. No more forcing a side into a too tight dado. The dados serve two purposes for me. It hides any melamine chip out or glue and also helps line things up.

From contributor H:
I use pocket screws, yellow glue, and lots of clamping with Universal Aluminum Bar Clamps. These bar clamps are great. I bought 40 about 20 years ago, and they’ve held up great. They’re also much lighter than steel pipe clamps.

From contributor M:
I would suggest that you shoot your face frames on with nails and then veneer over the face frame with pre-finished veneer. There are no nail holes to fill and sand, no standing around waiting for glue to dry, no expensive hardwood solid stock for face frames, and no finishing of assembled cabinets.

From the original questioner:
I was a little surprised that someone has not used hot melt glue to fasten the face frame to the boxes. Perhaps the setup time is too fast to position the frame.

From contributor L:
It may take a little more time, but I still cut a dado in the stiles and rabbet the carcasses sides. Nothing but glue is needed. The upside is that it is easy to align the box and creates perfect margins on the side. It is time well spent and saved for later on.

From contributor H:
I glue and clamp all my finished ends without nails. I pocket screw everything else, and maybe use a few nails here and there on a partition, but only a few. I get repeat business from builders and homeowners that do want well made custom cabinets. Going the extra mile, maybe throwing in a few low cost extras the customer didn't expect and creating a good design up front can go along way towards good referrals also.