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  • Kitchen Cabinet Construction Questions

    I have been studying cabinet construction, in a couple of books I checked out from the county library. I note they show cabinets built with a frame, as well as those built like a plywood box with no frame. I have closely scrutinized my cabinets in my home, and note the lower ones have a frame of 2X2 yellow pine lumber, while the uppers are built of 1" plyboard, with no frame. I have studied the new cabinets at Lowes and I see most of them are built without a frame as well. I wonder, are there big advantages in a cabinet built without a frame? I am not concerned about the difficulty of building them; my greater interest is in building the very best cabinets I can build. I have secured some black cherry 1X lumber, to construct all that shows externally. What is best to use for the main body, and which is stronger, better, more durable, more desirable, a frame or a plywood construction? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and opinions here. What method makes the very best finished product? Building them will be a few months of work and study, using them will be the rest of our days.

    Hardly Workin
    If it won\'t fit you need a bigger hammer!

  • #2
    I think the biggest issue is your personal taste and what would look right/nice in your kitchen.

    Frameless have been popular for a number of years----one advantage, you can use European style hinges which are somewhat easier to install once you get the hang of them----But----disadvantages---if this is one of your first cabinet projects----lack of frames will require a bit more care in joining the cabinet carcus----since you don't have a face frame to prevent racking.----Secondly, if using plywood or melemine, you will still have to cover the front edge of the plywood or mel', as it will show when the doors are open.

    Now, you should be aware, that the latest trend is away from the more modern frameless look and indeed, there seems to be a movement to more of a "furniture" look----even though they're still cabinets, the appearance looks more like early furniture, first used in Victorian kitchens.
    Dave

    Comment


    • #3
      OK Dave, thanks for that info. May i ask also, is it appropriate for the frames to continue to the floor? Should the cabinets stand on their own frames or, do you build a box at the bottom for them to sit upon? I would think a frame built of hardwood 2X2s and 2X4s would be the very best. And i am thinking it would be best to build that frame so it supports the cabinet on the floor through the verticle members. Am i barkin up the wrong tree so to speak or is this customary in framed cabinet construction?
      Thanks for the warning about the plywood box construction, i was tending away from it anyway, figuring it was not as high quality, and now i see your point about the techiques required to construct that type being more difficult. I studied the hinges, latches, drawer slides and other hardware, i am somewhat familiar with the 35MM euro hinges. I figured it was better because it is more adjustable. I would think i could mount those hinges, i will put a lot of effort and practice into that part as well. Thanks so much for the advice and help here.
      HW
      If it won\'t fit you need a bigger hammer!

      Comment


      • #4
        One more thing Dave, I am not sure what racking is, i can guess. I understand a good bit of what you are saying, but certainly know i miss some of it. My background is diesel truck fleet maintenance. That is a far cry from cabinet making, and i only embarked on this project to avoid a huge cost the LOML was about to plop down for some cabinets that did not impress me at all.
        They were basically particle board with a white plastic cover, faced with hardwood doors and drawer fronts. I think i can do better than that for a lot less, as well as acquire woodworking equipment in the process that could be used throughout my retirement.
        thanks again for your help here. I am interested in hearing any thoughts you might have about this process.

        HW
        If it won\'t fit you need a bigger hammer!

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Hardly, Building a frame under your cabinets is to allow for room for a toe kick which is usually 3 1/2 inches in from the face of the cabinets and 3 1/2 off the floor. You then use a quarter inch veneer of the same wood to cover the face of the toe kick. Even though you feel the 84" or taller can support their own weight, if you want a pantry type cabinet from floor to ceiling, you will never be able to stand it up because of the diagonal measurement which will be greater than the ceiling height. so if you build the base frame first, you can lift the cabinet on top of the frame, and use a decorative molding to fill in between the top of your cabinet and the ceiling. The enjoyment in building your own cabinets will keep you going for a long time.I wish you luck in your endeavor.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks a lot Hammerman. I went and pried the cover off the front of mine at the base, they are old, built in `68 when the house was built, but that is exactly how they are built. i see what you mean now. I figure the frame is the best way to go. I appreciate the advice. I am beginning to see the light as to how they are constructed, and have some ideas of my own as to how to make ours functional, as well as look nice. My wife has a lot of "displayable" items. I figure to make the upper foot or so of each cabinet, along the ceiling, with glass doors a foot tall or so, so she can display these many items. That is better than wasted space, and will add a nice look too, we hope. I figure to use halogen display lighting, did that in her curio in the dining room and it is nice. I also wanted to make the vast majority of the lower cabinets with deep drawers instead of cabinet doors. I figure drawers are much easier to get things in and out of without bending over. I know i will have to have doors under the sink. That way the plumbing is readily accessible, and so forth. We can make these things exactly as we want them too, that is a very good part of making them yourself too.
            thanks again.
            hardly workin
            If it won\'t fit you need a bigger hammer!

            Comment


            • #7
              Glad I could offer some insight for you. If you are going to substitute drawers on your base cabinets you could make doors on your sink base cab and put false drawer faces on them to match the rest of your cabinets, and use the hidden European hinges. They would be actual doors but with false drawer faces attatched, they would be in keeping with the total drawer look. just a litle input. good luck

              Comment


              • #8
                Have seen the fake draw fronts----once saw fake doors on a pull-out shelf-----a lot is in what's pleasing to you. I'd plan a trip with the wife, to your main library and start looking through mags' and books for what you like---also a few trips to the local retailers for ideas as well.

                100% agree----drawers or sliding shelves are the way to go for lower cabinets----built some for the wife 10 years ago----she still loves them---first thing she shows visiters.

                Racking: If you look at a cabinet, from the front, and note that the top and shelves are at right angles to the sides----racking is when the cabinet sides start to lean, loosing your right angles----on basic cabinets, the plywood back, into rabbeted sides, and the face frames generally keep things from racking.

                One thing----floors and walls are never straight---when making any part of the cabinet that touchs the wall, always allow a little extra for scribing in----a good book on cabinet installation will tell you all about it---also check the TV show sites for Home Time, This Old House, etc.
                Dave

                Comment


                • #9
                  I don't know if this will work or not,but if it does you might use this idea to use drawers under your sink.
                  http://www.woodworking.org/Exchange/...ML/008770.html
                  If it don't work maybe you can type it in.
                  Dave

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks so much. That opened no problem at all. I like the look of that too, i could use that to make it all match better. I don't know what watco means. I am guessing watco is a material, like plywood, particle board or something? I know what lee valey is, and i do intend to make an oak frame using mortise and tenon, dovetail the drawers and so forth. Spar top means they have joined several boards to make a panel? I am guessing here. I know ship builders used to use spars, ribs i thought. And there is a spar varnish for boatbuilders. I do so much appreciate this information. I like the idea of making the doors look like drawers too. I will explore both ideas. Thanks so much for this info.
                    If it won\'t fit you need a bigger hammer!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Someone said:

                      "Frameless have been popular for a number of years----one advantage, you can use European style hinges which are somewhat easier to install once you get the hang of them"

                      You can use euro style hinges with faceframes. Amerock System 3200 has them.

                      If you go with traditional faceframes, you can make the boxes out of melamine for a bright interior without painting and easy to clean interior surfaces. Then you can make your faceframes out of whatever type of wood you want to and fasten them to the boxes, make the doors of the same wood and use eurostyle hinges to hang them.

                      gator

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Blum has face frames hinges also. I would bet all the majors do.

                        I'm not sure at all that face frames are what HW was referring to, however. I have certainly never seen face frames made of "2X2 yellow pine".

                        I suspect what HW's seen is cabinets with internal structural framework. I believe these are pretty rare these days.

                        Dave

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          HW,

                          Just a thought on your lighting for the upper cabinets...you could consider uplights with glass shelves or get that low-voltage rope lighting and have it run up the sides on the back side of the front face frame. This will light the cabinet and not have the person looking up at the display stare right into a light.

                          Just a thought.

                          Michael

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yes, that is exactly how these were built. My current cabinets were built by the contractor that built this house. The cabinets have a frame of 2X2 and 2X4 lumber. One inch plywood is nailed to that frame to build the cabinets. The doors are made from 3/4" plywood, with routered edges. The drawers are 1/2" plywood that is rabbit jointed, if i understand that term correctly. My wife wants hardwood cabinets that are a lot better. I said before, i am unwilling to shell out $15K for the stuff they call top of the line, that they want to sell her. My quest for info here, is a result of my agreeing to tackle this project myself. I do believe i can build much better cabinets for a lot less.
                            Having said that, i am uncertain what face frames are. I have purchased a pocket jointer from kreig, i believe the brand is. I have 1000 board ft of cherry lumber waiting for me to go and pick it up in michigan. My plan is to construct a frame, similar to the pine frame i have now on these cabinets, but from some live oak 2X4s i have here. I figure to rip them to 2X2 and plane them accordingly. I hope to finish the 1X cherry lumber, and use that to construct the fronts, and all sides, backs ect that might show. I hope to join this lumber, using the pocket joiner, to make it like plywood that has been sawn into the appropriate shapes. I figure to use this same 1X cherry lumber, to construct the doors and drawer fronts. Not yet certain what lumber to use to make the drawer boxes with. I would appreciate any info or opinions you might wish to add to this plan. I guess that stuff the $15K cabinets my wife chose was the melamine stuff you folks speak of. I figured it was cheap junk. Is this not so? It appeared to me to be akin to particle board. If i use an oak frame, i could line these cabinets with some of the cedar i have here, cut a few years back and now good and dry. Or i could simply line the frame with more of the 1X cherry lumber. Is this not a good idea?
                            thanks for your trouble;
                            HW
                            If it won\'t fit you need a bigger hammer!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              OK---here's some additional thoughts.

                              I think you'd be better off with traditional cabinet construction, rather than built-in-place, which it sounds like your current cabinets are. One big reason is kitchen disruption. In order to build your cabinets in place, you'll have to tear out the existing kitchen and then build the new cabinets, make the drawers, doors and stain----whereas, if you go with traditional, pre-built cabinets, you can build them and finsh them in the shop and have a much shorter down time for the kitchen.

                              You should do some searching for a good book on making kitchen cabinets---essentially, you have plywood sides and plywood shelves---attached with glue dados and nails. There is an open top frame to attach the counter top. The back is usually 1/4" plywood, with 1x3-4" cleats to attach the cabinet to the studs.

                              The face frame is simply a solid wood frame formed on the front of the exposed plywood edges of the cabinet. Many ways to assemble this, but pocket screws are very popular.

                              You said you wanted to use dovetails for the drawers. Think you'll want poplar instead of plywood, because cutting dovetails in plywood is a bear. If you opt for plywood----get Baltic birch because of it's lack of voids.

                              If you have enough cherry for face frames, doors and drawer fronts, you can easily get cherry plywood for the exposed sides. It's not easy to stain (and we're talking about a lot of staining). You might want to see how your wife likes it with a clear finish.
                              Dave

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