Gilles' Outlet

April 16, 2007

Cabinetry 101: Face Frame

Filed under: Woodworking — Gilles @ 3:59 am

A face frame for custom cabinet is built and assembled using pocket screws. The frame is attached to the carcass.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About One Hour

There are many ways to build face frame for cabinets. One of the most popular technique uses pocket screws jointery. This technique is described below.

Left: After carefully measuring the carcass of the cabinet, I cut all pieces to length using a power miter saw. It took only a few minutes.

I built the frame out of poplar 3/4” x 1-1/2”.


Right: I dry fitted all pieces on a flat surface and double checked all measurements one last time.

Left: I drilled these two pocket holes in a piece of scrap lumber to illustrate the concept of pocket screw jointery.

A pocket hole is essentially a hole which guides screws at a low angle.

Right: this is the side of the joint. Notice how screws appear to be straight and centered on the workpiece.

Pocket screws can very quickly create surprisingly strong joints. In fact, most pre-built face frame kitchen cabinets in North America use pocket screw jointery.

Left: I used Kreg’s Rocket Pocket Hole System. This tool is indispensable.

The workpiece is first clamped onto the workbench and the jig (blue, rightmost end of the picture) is clamped on one end. Kreg’s special drill bit is installed on a cordless drill.

Right: I inserted the bit into the first hole of the jig and drilled until the collar prevented the bit from drilling further. I then drilled the second hole.

Notice the stop collar: it needs to be adjusted properly before drilling. I set it up for 3/4” thick stock according to Kreg’s instructions a while back and I have never moved it since.

I drilled pocket holes at the end of the two horizontal elements of the frame. I did not drill all pieces.

Left: I applied yellow wood glue at the ends which were drilled for pocket holes.


Right: I assembled the first joint and clamped it on a workbench to prevent pieces to move as I drove screws. I use Kreg’s bit to drive the screws.

I removed the clamp: the piece held strongly.

I assembled the whole frame. When using pocket screws jointery, pieces are held in place so tight that the frame can be manipulated almost immediately, without having to wait for the glue to dry. I actually did wait for the glue to dry overnight but this was not required.

I applied yellow wood glue on edges of the cabinet (aka the "carcass") and positionned the frame on it. I checked for alignment and clamped the frame in place.

This for me the best way to produce and attach a face frame to a cabinet. However, There are many ways to attach face frames to cabinets:

  1. Glued to the cabinet. This is the simplest way. It produces a very joint strong – no mecanical fasterners are required. This technique is very popular, 
  2. Glued to the cabinet and face (or back) nailed with brad nails or micro pins. Brad nails or pins leave visible holes. This technique is common for mass produced, inexpensive cabinets,
  3. Using pocket screws. Pocket holes are drilled in the carcass. The frame is positioned and pocket screws are driven from the carcass into the frame. This leaves those low angle holes visible but woodworking suppliers sell plastic pieces which will fill them. It is also possible to cover the carcass with solid wood panels hidding pocket screws nicely.

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw
  • Cordless Impact Driver
  • Cordless Drill
  • Kreg’s Rocket Pocket Hole
  • Clamps
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Poplar 3×4” x 1-1/2”
  • Yellow Wood Glue
  • Pocket Screws 1”

1 Comment »

  1. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate
    you penning this post and also the rest of the site is really

    Comment by Vernell — July 16, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

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