Custom Cabinet Construction #2: Finishing the base ends

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Blog entry by rhett posted 06-24-2010 01:58 AM 6264 reads 3 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Basic Base Part 2 of Custom Cabinet Construction series Part 3: Simply Turning a Corner »

I am going to assume you have read my previous entries for this series, this way I can just keep rambling without backtracking.

So, putting a finished end on that base cabinet. There are more than a few ways to do this and unless you are building a galley style, wall to wall kitchen, you will need to think of a way to address this issue. There are more than a few ways to reach your desired destination and each way will give your finished project a look all its own.

Let me begin by saying that a standard base finished end (BFE) will be 34 1/2” x 23 1/4”. The addition of the 1/4” gives you material to rebate out to hide the end of the 1/4” back. No plywood sold is nominally 1/4” thick unless it is MDF. Therefore cutting your rebates a solid 1/4” will not leave material proud. I will ellaborate on this further into the tutorial.


Most factory or manufactured cabinets cut all their BWS’s in large batches. This leaves only one option for finishing that end cabinet, staining the side and calling it done. Personally, I do not like this look and find myself seeing it in every kitchen I enter as this is a sure sign of “semi” custom cabinetry.

Should you find yourself fond of this look and with enough skill to make it look correct, this is the best way I have found to do so. It is labor intensive but avoids unsightly end grain on the toekick (TK). This would be a good spot to mention I only use solid 3/4” hardwood for my TK’s.

With your BFE cut to size, you then cut your TK notch 3” in depth by 4” in height. The trick is cutting the height at a 45 degree angle. This gives you the opportunity to cut a matching 45 degree angle in your TK to hide the end grain. You must also notch the top of the 45 to fit under the material left on your BFE. Labor intensive and not a real good look if you ask me. This is the best solution I have found


I like to see the TK wrap around and under any finished end. To me it looks as if the design is more cohesive and doesn’t just stop at the end. In order for this to take place a few change must be made to your BFE.

First, the height of your cut changes to 30 1/2”. This takes the other 4” out for the toe kick. You now need to add an additional 1/4” of width to the rip to account for the rebate I mentioned earlier. The bottom dadoe is cut so the top of the dadoe is at 1 1/2”, the height of your bottom rail, this keeps the bottom FXS on the same plane. Your TK is now a simple miter that is kept at a consistent 3” in from the side.


Be aware that if you add your TK prior to your back, you must add that extra 1/4” to the lenght of your TK. If not, you will have a gap between the wall and your TK

This is how I prefer to attach FF’s to my cabinetry. On a standard base cabinet, as I spoke of in a previous blog, I cut a pocket hole, with a dedicated PH cutter, on the outsides where it cannot be seen from the interior of the cabinets. Glued and screwed, it isn’t going anywhere. On a finished end, I cut my stile with an extra 1/32” of width, 2 1/32”, and use a domino and clamps to attach it. A biscuit cutter was my previous tool. I leave the extra 1 /32” proud of the end and it is then flush trimmed off after the glue has dried to give a nice smooth finished end. Wipe off the glue shorty after squeeze out to save the bearing on your flush trim bit.

Now, let me tell you how I finish my cabinet ends to make the very best looking cabinetry. I have made it standard issue to put these finished panel ends on all my cabinets. Should you see a set of “semi” custom cabinetry, you will notice that the upgraded panel ends are little more than extra doors screwed to the side of the cabinets.


You start with the BFE, but instead of adding the extra 1/4”, you rip it to 23” with the rest of your parts. The panel end makes your rebate once it is installed. Build the case as you would with the 30 1/2” high finished side. The style of door you have chosen for your kitchen will determine the style in which you make your panel end.

Start be making a large 24” x 30 1/2” door/panel. Use the rails and stile widths you have chosen for your doors for this panel as well. Rough sand and square it up. Now, go back to your tabel saw and rip the “door” down to 23 1/4” +. Once screwed to your BFE, the ripped off portion will match the thickness of your faceframe giving the illussion of a solid post corner as well as giving you a 1/4” rebate to cover the backing.


Take your previously built case and install the FF. The overhang should be the thickness of your panel + 1/32” This allows you to use pocket hole screws to attach your FF on the side, the panel end will cover them once installed. With the additional 1/32” added, you will have material to flush trim off.

This becomes an exercise in tightening screws and clamps at the same time. The objective is to have a seemless glue joint, so focus your attention the the clamps and less on the screws. Since this is a long grain to long grain glue up, I don’t bother to fuss with biscuits or dominos.

This should be enough info to get your started or in trouble. Use whatever labels you like, the ones I have developed, like BWS or BFE, are to help me in my shop. Building a kitchen or large set of built in is more about staying organized in the shop than it is about being a master woodworker.

Please ask for clarification on any points that may seem foggy. This is how I build them and its not written in stone. Take what you like and leave what you don’t.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

1 comment so far

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1041 posts in 3560 days

#1 posted 06-24-2010 03:56 AM

Thanks, any more in the series?

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

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