cabinet problem

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Forum topic by dbouch posted 05-28-2018 03:30 PM 1347 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1505 days

05-28-2018 03:30 PM

i post this question with no small amount of embarassment and frustration.

i’m in the process of building kitchen cabinets for/with my son. this is my third kitchen and i had no problems with the first two in this regard. about half of my cabinets have turned out slightly out of square. diagonal measurements show them to be roughtly 1/8 th to 1/4 inch OOS. the sides are not plumb to the floor/ceiling by a commensurate amount.

i haven’t attached face frames yet. i feel like i should be able to remedy these discrepancies by attaching a square face frame that will at least make the frame sit plumb and make joining two cabinets come out right.

however, i feel like there may be other factors that i’m not considering.

i’d be grateful for any advice.

thanks in advance,


14 replies so far

View woodbutcherbynight's profile (online now)


9959 posts in 3573 days

#1 posted 05-28-2018 04:44 PM

Take a picture of what you have thus far let us see how you built this. 1/4 out is not small, that is alot out.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View bondogaposis's profile


6000 posts in 3515 days

#2 posted 05-28-2018 05:10 PM

1/4” is huge. You might be able to tweak it back to square by applying a clamp diagonally across the long diagonal when you attach the face frame. At least improve it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View pintodeluxe's profile


6449 posts in 3977 days

#3 posted 05-28-2018 05:23 PM

Why would they be square with no face frames? Are the backs installed yet?

Depending on what stage of construction you’re in, you could be just fine.

Furthermore, screwing the cabinets together can bring things back into square.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Firewood's profile


1543 posts in 2798 days

#4 posted 05-28-2018 05:45 PM

I agree with Bondo, but if it springs back after the face frame is attached andvthe clamp is removed, the frame will be twisted and the doors won’t close flat to the frame. Can you maybe attach blocks with pocket screws in the corners to help pull it square?

-- Mike - Waukesha, WI

View Rich's profile


7125 posts in 1753 days

#5 posted 05-28-2018 06:07 PM

Good advice above. I’ll add that I wouldn’t be concerned about how the cabinets align to the house, since the house is probably not square. That’s what scribing or scribe moulding is for.

I use clamping squares when I glue up the carcasses. With them they always start square and stay square.

You can make your own too:

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View AlaskaGuy's profile


6701 posts in 3473 days

#6 posted 05-28-2018 06:17 PM

Square cut cabinet parts = a square cabinet box. The all faces need to be square cut to the faces too (this means make dams sure the saw blade is 90 degrees to the saw table). Out of square parts = out of square cabinet boxes. I learned this the hard way. I tend to make a cut list and cut all my parts at the same time. I once cut parts for 22 cabinet boxes out of square. If you try to square an out of square box by forcing it with clamps you’ll just distort another part of the box, most likely you’ll pull the back out of flat . My fix (I’m picky) was, I gave all the boxes to my neighbors and they use them of storage. I now check my part frequently when cutting.

If you haven’t put all the boxes together you may be able to salvage some material by re-cutting to square and use those part for a smaller box.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2160 days

#7 posted 05-29-2018 12:10 AM

I’m with the others that it all depends on what stage the cabinets are in. I’d add it may matter how the cabinet is joined at each corner. While I agree that 1/4” difference in the diagonals is a large error for a completed cabinet. Even that only means the long diagonal needs to be pulled in half that amount (1/8”) as the short diagonal will then move out the same amount.

I suspect the backs are on, because of course it should be almost trivial to pull it square with the back.

If the back is on, is it possible the back of the cabinet is square, and the front is not? If the back is square (diagonals equal), then the face frame can be used to help pull the front square and the face frame will be flat.

On the other hand, if the back is not square, and you pull the front square with the face frame, the front won’t be flat. It will have a twist in it. Then as Mike said, the doors may not work correctly. And of course, if the out of square cabinet needs a lot of force to pull it square, a face frame may not be stiff enough to do that.

In that case, maybe you could get away with pulling the front more square, but not all the way, tolerating a little of the front not being flat, and as the suggested, attaching a square face from to the out of square cabinet.

And sometimes it’s just easier to start over.

-- Clin

View htl's profile


5520 posts in 2323 days

#8 posted 05-29-2018 12:58 AM

We need pictures to see how far along you are in this build.
My thoughts have always been that the back would keep everything squared up but if for some reason the backs are not cut square, trouble is in the making.
I’m an old school cabinet builder that only used face frames.

”“i post this question with no small amount of embarassment and frustration.””
There’s noting to be embarrassed about, something went wrong and it’s time to have fun figuring it out and set it right, and I’ll bet it doesn’t happen again after this.
Just my $.02

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs

View Redoak49's profile


5328 posts in 3153 days

#9 posted 05-29-2018 01:34 AM

I think that many of us have had similar issues. I use the clamping squares as shown earlier in the thread.

Also, cutting everything square and exact is critical.

Next time, you will be much more careful.

View dbouch's profile


8 posts in 1505 days

#10 posted 06-08-2018 07:02 PM

thanks everybody for the input. only three of nine cabs are oos. and it turns out the backs on those three are dead square. so something happened when i assembled the boxes… not sure what. in any event i managed to pull things back into square on the fronts while attaching face frames so i’m moving forward. my only frustration is that i still don’t know why those three cabs had issues. all the components were cut to perfect dimensions and were square. again, thanks.

moving on…


View bc4393's profile


105 posts in 2307 days

#11 posted 06-08-2018 07:52 PM

When putting together some shelving for my closet even though I used decent quality plywood I still had a little twist during assembly. There are more capable guys here with cabinet making so correct me if I’m wrong. Some lessons I learned and was taught.

Cut as exact as you can, check edges with a carpenter square before you assemble. (sounds like you did this)

Make sure your blade is a square 90 degrees on your saw. Use a drafting triangle or the head from a combination square. Don’t blindly rely on your table saw stops or squareness of the fence to the blade. If you use a circular saw double check the squareness. If if you use a straight edge they might still be off. I cut em a hair big and clean up the ends to square on the table saw using a miter gage (that i also double check for square.) This is why the big boys have gigantic table saws and tables to do cabinet work. Makes life so much easier.

It’s tough to assemble things on a floor which can be uneven, just not to the naked eye. Your floor is imperfect too If you rely on how the boards sit on the ground for glue/screw and the perception is they are together flush with edges etc, it’ll most likely be off.

Clamp 90 degree angle blocks between the 2 pieces you are gluing and screwing to get it to come together square. You can do one side at a time, it’ll hold while you assemble, just don’t get rough with it.

A good flat assembly table will help but it’s not in everyone’s shop. I use my my table saw top if I can. For big stuff I clamp angle plates or corner jigs like suggested to get everything nice and neat and square one piece at a time before I drill and screw it.

Even if you do the above if your lumber is twisted it’ll still bite you. I used 3/4 ACX (outdoor rated) plywood because i was painting it and it was in the closet. Not as nice as 3/4 Baltic birch (which has more plies and is more stable) but not as expensive either. So depending on your application and finish you can cut a corner with this. If you use cheaper lumber you’ll be prone to more issues especially the bigger you get. Plywood from China is generally not a good idea for anything but in your shop or stuff you’re just doing quick that won’t get any scrutiny. It’s inconsistent with it’s thickness, and can be warped pretty bad. All things that can cause you problems.

For smaller pieces this is where a jointer comes in handy for taking the twist out of boards and squaring up an edge exactly. Also cutting rabbits on the edges. will help ease of glue up but if your boards are twisted it won’t come together as nice as you would expect (regardless of the exactness of the cuts)

to dig yourself out of your current predicament like was stated already, I would glue and screw some blocks into the corners. It might twist it back to a shape that’s acceptable and hide-able with the face frame. Or if you can take the back off make sure it’s dead nuts square and clamp it in place and reattach it so youll have the face frame and the back twisting it back into square.

Agree with the above. No question is stupid. It’s how you learn and every one of us has been there. You can read all you want but unless you do it and make mistakes and dig yourself out it’s the only way to get better. Like my dad always tells me. “Slow down and use your head”

View enazle's profile


66 posts in 1172 days

#12 posted 06-09-2018 02:27 PM

What you can do to fix the problem depends largely on how they are constructed. They can certainly be fixed, but how is a matter of the type of joinery you used. Generally, if your cabinets haven’t a back panel, use a bearing mounted rabbit bit and route the backside for one. Then cut your panels to width on you table saw. Use a trued framing square and make certain the end your going to cut from is squared. Don’t trust a factory corner to be square. Cut the panels to length. You will have to radios the corners to match what ever rabbit bit you used, check them for fit by measuring the clamped width after installation. If you need to, spray lacquer the inside before you nail down the back. Now the back half of the box will be square when you install the face frame. To square the front, clamp a stiff leg or “L” brace in 2 opposing corners to hold the front of the cabinet square while the face frame is installed. Once the frame is nailed down and while the “L” braces are still holding the box square, glue a few 45 degree corner blocks behind the frame to lock it in place.

View Robert's profile


4643 posts in 2645 days

#13 posted 06-09-2018 02:57 PM

Don’t worry about it if the backs are square when you attach the face frame everything will be ok.

The edge cuts could be OOS. I would check my table saw blade for dead 90° ;-)

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Rich's profile


7125 posts in 1753 days

#14 posted 06-12-2018 12:17 AM

You will have to radios the corners to match what ever rabbit bit you used, check them for fit by measuring the clamped width after installation.

- enazle

Seriously? Radius the corners of the back panel? That’s pretty lame advice. The right way to do it is to square the corners of the rabbet (not rabbit). Assuming you know how to use a chisel that is.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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