Setting Up for Beaded Face-Frame Joinery

A discussion of practical machinery and jig options for haunch cuts on beaded face frames. August 31, 2010

I built a kitchen full of applied bead, face framed, inset cabinets a while ago. They turned out great, but I would like to improve the process and eliminate the applied part. I was milling my stock, then milling the bead, then notching the frames for the joints. It seems that is just about as long as applying it. I have been looking at the Kreg's system for notching and they notch it then apply the bead after. This got me thinking. Is this what everyone else does without a notcher? I can't justify a notcher.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
Short of having a dedicated notching machine, using a router table sled with a 45 degree router bit is the best way I have found. The router bit needs to have the bearing removed and the stud ground flush.

A good tight setup will give consistent good results. The bead should be run after the notching in order to clean up any tearout caused by notching. I notch on the router table and run the beads on the shaper with powerfeed. I also cut the 45 degree miters on the rail ends using a chop saw set up prior to running the beads. Having all three setups at the same time ensures accurate machining.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Your method is the same as I learned today. I made a sled for notching with a 45 router bit like you described. It works well but I'm having a tough time with referencing the piece on the sled to the bit and having the cut at the line I need for the rail.

From contributor F:
That is the tough part... alignment. You need to design your sled to have refreshable/replaceable zero clearance material, both on the sled fence and at the edges of the bit in the sled bottom.

As far as alignment goes, refreshable zero clearance in the sled bottom is the important spot; that's where your pencil marks on the frame backs will be seen. With all three setups dialed in, you will undoubtedly have had the router bit too high at some point. After the router bit elevation is perfected, the zero clearance needs to be refreshed on both sides of the bit so you can see the exact edges of the cut line when you begin notching.

I let in thin strips of hardwood to the sled bottom with screw slot adjustment. I installed some plunger style "de-sta-co" clamps to hold the wood still for the shoulder cuts and just use my hands for the rest of the clamping while routing.

From contributor F:
As far as the pros and cons of notching versus applied molding, even if they both take the same labor time, you are getting a better product in terms of strength and appearance with notched frames. Not to mention nail holes and glue squeeze out with applied molding method.

Inset beaded face frame cabinetry is time consuming, and cabinetmakers charge a good deal more than overlay face frame.

From contributor R:
I saw a system by Kreg. It has a fence, alignment bars and router bits. If you are doing a lot but not enough for a Hoffman type machine, it may be worth looking into. I did not try it, only watched a small demo, but it was worth a second look.

From the original questioner:
I just ordered it. Looks pretty impressive. I am doing a major remodel and addition and I'm thinking I'm going to be able to use it a lot. I built a sled and tried a bathroom vanity with it and there was just too much gaping and inconsistency. It would be faster and cleaner to just apply it over using the sled.

From contributor E:
I set up my sliding table saw with dado blades at a 45 degree angle, and use the stops on the slider and the fence as starts and stops for the notches in the stiles. I do the ends first, then the mid rail last. We set up a mitre saw to cut the bevels on the rails, then run everything through a router table with a beading bit, and pocket screw the joints. It adds about two man hours to a job. Fitting the doors takes another couple of hours. Definitely takes some practice.

From contributor D:
I've been doing frames like contributor F does for years and never been very happy with the consistency of alignment and tightness of miters, but could not afford a notching machine. For my next beaded frame job I plan to get the Kreg system, which will hopefully ease some of my frustration with notching and mitering corners of rails. Even if you don't get the Kreg jig, get their router bit, which will allow you to make a single pass on notching.

From contributor W:
For $500, the Kreg is worth every penny. I never could wrap my head around spending $8000 for a glorified hole punch. I guess they charge that much because they can?

From contributor N:
I'm not familiar with the Kreg jig, but if you do beaded face frames often, the Morso is also worth every penny. They speed the process and do a great job. They also come in handy for many things other than face frames.