Cabinet Basics pt 2: Face Frames

Last week, I covered how I create the carcass of a base cabinet.  At this point, we have two sides, a back and a floor: doesn’t look much like a cabinet at this point.  Here is the fun part…

I make my face frames 1/2″ wider than my carcass.  I do this for two reasons:

  1. An exposed side accepts a 1/4″ piece of plywood nicely; the plywood tucks in just behind the edge of the face frame to make a nice flush plane.
  2. Two cabinets that sit side by side can hold a half inch thick piece of plywood between them.  This helps for spacing and for clamping the cabinets together during installation.
Knowing this rule of thumb, we can now start designing the face frame.  One of my current projects around the house is redoing the bathroom.  I’m pulling up the floor and putting down new tile, etc.  I am also putting in a new sink.  The bathroom isn’t big, so a standard sink base is much too large for the space.  A sane person would put in a pedestal sink, but my wife wants his and her sinks (two basins).  There is no way I can fit a standard double sink in my bathroom, so custom work, here I come.  I decided to make a base cabinet that is 48″ wide by 19″ deep.  This is just wide enough that I can get two sink bowls into the unit without it intruding into the tub.  Given this dimension, I had to modify my normal carcass design a bit, but I followed that process the same way, just with narrower sides.  The face frame width is the overall width, so the carcass became 47.5″ wide.
I opened up Microsoft Visio, my favorite tool for designing cabinets and other woodworking projects, and began laying out the parts that would become the face frame.  I started with some basics:
  1. All pieces are 2″ wide.  I sometimes break this rule if I have side-by-side doors, in which case I will go up to 4″ depending on the spacing of the rest of the parts (basically filler).
  2. The outside-most vertical pieces stretch the entire way up (toe kick to the counter top).  This is always unbroken; no cuts, no jogs, etc.
  3. The top-most and bottom-most horizontal but into the sides of the outer-most verticals.  Again, no cuts or jogs.
  4. If you are using premade doors like I did, know the dimensions of the doors before designing the openings for the doors.  Don’t assume that you will find a door that perfectly matches your arbitrary opening dimension.
After some design work, I came up with the following:
Face Frame
Just to note, the inner verticals are also 2″ in real life.
Time for cutting!  I picked up 2 8′ 1×6 oak boards at Menards and ripped them down to 4 1″x2″x8′.  From these, I cut two 30.5 inch boards for the outer verticals.  This takes up a total of 4″ from the overall width of 48″.  This means I have a length of 44″ for the top, middle, and bottom cross pieces.  From there, I took the dimension of the doors and subtracted one inch from both the height and width.  This gave me a half-inch overlap all the way around the door.  Using these dimensions, I was able to place the inner horizontal from the bottom horizontal and also the inner verticals.   As for the heights of the drawers, this became arbitrary.  Since I’m making the drawer faces myself, they didn’t have to match anything.   I found that four drawers with a two inch gap between seemed to create a good proportion given the remaining width after the doors and verticals.  The top three gaps will be false drawer fronts.
Assembly:  If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, please invest the money.  I have a $15 set from Kreg.  I love it.  I can’t imagine building any piece of furniture without it.  It is simple, it creates excellent joints.  Seriously, pocket hole jigs are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, so do yourself a favor and get one.  Seriously.
Having said that, find the worse side of each piece and designate this as the back.  The butt end of each piece that matches up against a side of another will be drilled using the pocket hole jig.  In this case, the 2″ board is wide enough for two holes.  Each hole then accepts a screw which is driven in and, therefore, into the side of the adjoining piece.  Easy as pie.
Joining the face frame to the carcass:  I’ve done this several ways.  My favorite way is using my biscuit jointer and cutting biscuit slots in the edge of the carcass sides and the back of the face frame.  This takes a little time and not everyone has a biscuit jointer.  Alternatively, I have found that a 1″ wide piece of the same material used to create the face frame can be glued to the carcass flush with the edge of the side.  This creates a 1.5″ wide flange to glue the face frame onto the carcass.  It may be a bit kludgy, but it works.
Let it all dry.  Next week, we tackle the countertop.
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