Cabinet carcass - pocket holes vs reg screw and glue

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Forum topic by Jaison posted 01-04-2018 12:45 AM 5015 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 1203 days

01-04-2018 12:45 AM

Working on ny first real cabinet design, it is just a vanity for the bathroom and I have a question that I’m sure has been answered but I can’t seem to find a straight answer.

In the event I am not concerned about screws showing, is a butt joint joined with glue and pocket holes stronger than one that is glued and screwed through the face into the end of plywood.

Carcass is made of 3/4 Birch ply. Paint grade.
One side will be against a wall, the other will have a veneer.

I have a cheapo kreg jig, which I hate to use. I was planning on just screwing through the face to save time and hassle?

Thoughts and opinions? The cabinet will have a solid material counter so I’m looking for as much strength as possible.

Also, if I am screwing through the face are #8, 1 1/4 screws my best bet?

8 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4425 days

#1 posted 01-04-2018 01:06 AM

It’s easier to screw flush corner carcase joints
by putting them through the face. I used
to use biscuits for alignment, clamp up for
assembly and complete the pilot holes for
the screws. Case corners came out very nicely
that way. Not super fast but nice. The clamps
just stay on long enough to get the screws in.
You can use air nails or crown staples too.

If you don’t have a biscuit joiner rabbets/dados
are another alignment option. Screws provide
strength and clamping but unless you have an
accurate way of pilot drilling all parts it can be
tricky to get the parts assembled.

View Be58pilot's profile


3 posts in 892 days

#2 posted 01-04-2018 01:17 AM

I will confess that I am no expert on the matter, but if it was me, I would probably consider cutting rabbets and/or dados and using a healthy amount of glue.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4008 days

#3 posted 01-04-2018 01:35 AM

Pocket screws driven into the side of the cabinet will hold the face frame securely until the glue dries. There have been times that I removed the screws after the glue had plenty of time to dry.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View MrRon's profile


5913 posts in 4020 days

#4 posted 01-04-2018 07:33 PM

In any cabinet construction, a good glue joint is all that is needed. The joint has to be clamped until the glue sets, but if clamps cannot be used, nails or screws serve as clamps. A good glue joint needs to be; clean, well fitting with no gaps. Glue has to be spread on both surfaces and there has to be squeeze out. That ensures there is adequate glue in the joint. Of course it needs a good glue. I would use Titebond II. Pocket screws into solid wood is OK, but I don’t like using pocket screws into plywood, especially if the plywood is of poor quality. Baltic Birch is fine.

View Carloz's profile


1147 posts in 1368 days

#5 posted 01-04-2018 09:15 PM

If possible screw threads should only go into the stronger material and the weaker material should be held by the screw cap not the threads. In case of pocket holes you are screwing into hardwood ( good ) in case of through screws you are screwing into plywood ( weak ).

View rbrjr1's profile


208 posts in 983 days

#6 posted 01-05-2018 08:32 PM

screwing into the edge of plywood will split it every time due to the nature of the lamination (sometimes even if you pre-drill the holes).

pocket holes from the side are a better bet.

-- only an idiot dismisses an intelligent statement because they dont know anything about the person delivering it.

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1236 posts in 1737 days

#7 posted 01-06-2018 01:16 AM

But a waste if you have glue and clamps…

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5807 posts in 3086 days

#8 posted 01-06-2018 02:50 AM

I have used butt joints and screws for way over 20 years, plenty strong even for your heavy countertop. The 20 years or so before that I did the dado, glue and nail or screw thing. You most certainly can screw into the edge of plywood, MDF and other material without splitting. I know because I do it/ done it a lot. Never had a cabinet fall apart.

That being said, there about a million ways to build a cabinet box. Most any of them work fine. It’s more about how you like to do it than anything else.

I now build with butt joints and good quality screws. Good quality screws are not drywall screws. Depending on material I use confirmats screws or a good brand name assembly screw.

I tack my boxe together with a brad nailer, use a rubber mallet to fine tune anything that might be misaligned and the add the screws. When adding the screws use as counter sink setup that drill a pilot hole and dimples the surface at the same time and drive your screw in. If I have intermediate shelves or parts I’ll use a couple of spacers to position them in place and tack them there and add the screws. If I do have a very complicated peace and a set of cubbies then I’ll dado a 1/8 deep dado to help aling parts.
The KISS system works every time.

Edit to add. I use 3/4 backs

Plenty of screws going into the edge of the plywood and no splitting.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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