Dowels: Best for frameless construction?

The case is made (no pun intended) for doweling in frameless cabinet construction. 1998.

by Jon Elvrum

Jon, I've enjoyed your just can't beat frameless cabinetry. I stopped building face-framed cabinets 8 months ago, and with no regrets.

I screw my cabinets boxes together and use full overlay gables flush with the doors. I don't have a boring machine, and feel that if I start using dowels, I will have to clamp the box...time wasted. What do you think? Is there an easier way (overlaying gables is an expensive approach).

To dowel is, in the long run, the easiest way to implement production for frameless construction.

You are correct that to do it well requires not just a drill, but a construction drill. This should be used in conjunction with a system line drill. System line drilling is drilling which honors a fixed reference edge, from which all drilling is referenced.

I freely admit that frameless can be achieved in many ways, but with drilling equipment suited to the task of dowel construction you can produce virtually seamless casework construction in very fast times with the least physical effort.

Screw systems are solid, but it is easy to suffer the pain of misalignment, and physically it is the most demanding on the assembler. Most of the work is hand-fitted and hand-held and the screws are individually installed.

Biscuit joinery is very neat, but the slowest. Dowels assemble the fastest, and case clamps assure the most important (and the most under-appreciated) consideration--squareness.

Square boxes pay off all the way through the installation process in ways those who have never experienced them can scarcely imagine. Keep pushing your limits.

Jon Elvrum, Director of Distribution and Sales at Ritter Manufacturing in Antioch California, is also a well known author and consultant to the cabinetmaking industry. He has written numerous articles on the 32mm cabinetmaking system and production woodworking in general.