Attaching face frames, dado or ?

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Forum topic by SweetTea posted 05-11-2017 01:14 PM 5068 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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478 posts in 1712 days

05-11-2017 01:14 PM

Hey guys, I want to get some opinions from the cabinet builders here on this forum. The topic is attaching face frames. There are basically two primary methods of doing this, one is to dado the stiles. That is what I have traditionally always done. I use 1/2” UV ply for the sides and put a 1/4” deep dado into the stiles. I have never tried any other way of doing this. I assemble the cabinet after I paint the face frames and do it all at once..

However, I have noticed that some cabinet shops assemble the carcass first, then attach the face frame afterwards by pocket screwing the cabinet sides from the edges into the face frame with only glue and pocket screws and no dado.

Which do you prefer and why?

28 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4630 days

#1 posted 05-11-2017 01:30 PM

Some folks just glue and clamp face frames others just pin nail and fill holes. I assume you mean that you put a groove in your face frames styles and stub tenons on your cabinet’s edges all said and done your approach is one of the best in my opinion.


View BurlyBob's profile


8702 posts in 3318 days

#2 posted 05-11-2017 02:39 PM

I’ve always used the glue, clamp and brad nailer technique that Jim is talking about. My friend with cabinet shop recommends it. I figure since he’s in the business he knows what he’s talking about.

View waho6o9's profile


9016 posts in 3630 days

#3 posted 05-11-2017 02:51 PM

Stick with what you know.

Which do you prefer and why?

Glue clamps and nail it because it’s effective and saves time.

View bandit571's profile


28247 posts in 3736 days

#4 posted 05-11-2017 02:58 PM

Perhaps another way…

Tongue & Groove. Groove the faceframe, set it on a tongue milled on the edge of the carcass.

Face frame groove..

Carcass tongue.

Or….groove both mating surfaces, and add a spline of plywood?

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View splintergroup's profile


4972 posts in 2275 days

#5 posted 05-11-2017 03:12 PM

Your dado method has a good glue surface and keeps everything square and aligned. Sure it’s more work, but it’s solid.

Screws are fast and cheap when time is money (staples are even faster), but unless I was trying to make a living at this, I’d go with what I felt was the more refined approach.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8337 posts in 1765 days

#6 posted 05-11-2017 03:15 PM

in our cabinet shop for face frame cabinets….... we always put the carcass together first….... then fit face frames on…... then dado them…...... then glue and clamp….... all you need titebond 1 in red label ….. :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View PPK's profile


1856 posts in 1862 days

#7 posted 05-11-2017 03:27 PM

When I worked in a cabinet shop, the only way we ever did it was to glue and clamp the face frame on. No biscuits, dados, etc. We never had a frame come loose. Glue is stronger than wood :-) That is, if you you use yellow glue (titebond or similar) Hot melt glue does not count. But I would assume you are not using that option!

Once in a great while we’d use pocket screws in BLIND areas if we didn’t have enough clamps to hold all the frames on. However, this is not a good option unless its going to be hidden, because pocket screw holes look very poor even on the inside of a cabinet. Plugging them is not time or cost effective, and still looks poor, in my opinion. They add no significant strength to the frame to carcass connection either.

Further, we would always make the face frame 1/16” proud on the side, then use a flush trim but to trim the frame flush with the sides of the carcass. This makes for easier glue-ups and better joints. Unless it is a blind side (one that butts into another cabinet, then leave a 1/4” “ear”, and don’t trim the frame flush.

Hope that helps.

-- Pete

View PPK's profile


1856 posts in 1862 days

#8 posted 05-11-2017 03:30 PM

One more thought – Using pins or brads to fasten the frame leaves holes, obviously. And if you’re shooting for a really nice looking product, having holes (filled or unfilled) in the face frame just doesn’t go well. The nails only serve to hold it tight while the glue dries, (replacing the need for clamps) again, they don’t really add significantly to the structural soundness of the joint. I’ve also found that nails don’t exert the same pressure as a good old clamp does, and you still often end up with gaps in the joint. Soo…. Glue and clamps. Easiest, and best!

-- Pete

View waho6o9's profile


9016 posts in 3630 days

#9 posted 05-11-2017 03:30 PM

I leave a 1/4” “ear” to scribe to the wall when needed.

View mramseyISU's profile


594 posts in 2598 days

#10 posted 05-11-2017 03:32 PM

I like a few pocket screws myself assuming I won’t see them on the sides. I’ve tried the dado method you’re talking about and had issues with tolerance stack between the case and the face. I ended up having to make the groove wide on one side so it would go together. Sure seems to me like those are going to end up being weaker at the end of the day because of the monster gap between the tongue and dado on the one side.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4284 days

#11 posted 05-11-2017 04:00 PM

I build my face frames using pocket hole joinery. Then attach it to the carcase with glue and…sometimes 18 ga brad nails…sometimes with pin nails. The nails are just mini clamps to hold the pieces together until the glue dries. Your cabinet won’t fail at the glue joint. The wood may separate but the glue will hold fast!

Here is some reading for ya.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View bandit571's profile


28247 posts in 3736 days

#12 posted 05-11-2017 04:02 PM

I use it on corners..

Rather than screws and plugs..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View AlaskaGuy's profile


6480 posts in 3362 days

#13 posted 05-11-2017 05:15 PM

Most of the time I use a method I picked from Norm. Mill a grove in the front of the cabinet box and put biscuits in the back side of the face frame. Depending on my mood/application I’ll use pocket screw to hole it what the glue dries. Sometimes I’ll use clamps and no pocket screws. I have even did biscuits and pocket screws and no glue (removable frame). I always use the milled grove and biscuits.

BTW the reason I do it this way (biscuits) is for self aliment not strength. Glue alone is strong enough. The pocket are just for clamping the frame to the case until the glue dries.

 photo Nodado4.jpg

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5349 posts in 5013 days

#14 posted 05-11-2017 05:42 PM

I’m in PPK’s camp.

-- [email protected]

View TungOil's profile


1383 posts in 1548 days

#15 posted 05-13-2017 12:35 AM

Assuming you mean kitchen cabinets. .I’ve tried most of the methods above at one time or another. I keep returning to using grooved stiles with rabbeted carcasses. I like the way it helps align the case sides (it seems impossible to get flat ply these days) , offers some extra glue area and is quicker for me to make with a dado stack on the TS than either pocket holes or biscuits. Of course this applies to the tooling I have for each method in my shop.

With the oddball plywood sizes these days it can be tricky to get the grooves in just the right place on the stiles. To address this, I build the frames without grooves. After I build and assemble the carcasses, I measure the box and cut the grooves to fit just before I assemble.

Works for me in my little shop!

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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