Building Kitchen Cabinet Face Frames
by Seth Townsend
There are many steps in building kitchen cabinets. In this step, we'll look at
building kitchen cabinet face frames.
The face frame is, as the name implies, the frame on the "face" - or front - of the cabinet. The function of the
face frame is to add strength to the cabinet and to segment the function of the cabinet. It also serves to hold
cabinet doors in place with hinges.
The first step in building kitchen cabinet face frames is choosing board stock. Whether it's maple, cherry,
birch, oak, or any other wood, choose boards that are straight and flat. This is especially true if you're buying
lumber from any place other than the big home centers. Most home center board stock is usually ready for ripping
Be aware that if you're buying wood from a lumber yard, most boards are roughly planed and edged on one side.
You'll need to take the additional step of planing your boards and running the edges through a jointer.
Once your board stock has been planed and jointed, the next step is to review your face frame cut list and begin
to lay out the boards for cutting. If you follow the methods I suggest, this becomes an easy task in that the width
for all of your face frame stock is 1 1/2".
Rip your board stock on a table saw for the quantity of face frame stock you need. I suggest ripping the boards
1/8" wider so that you can clean up the sawn edge on the jointer.
Next, using a miter saw or chop saw, cut your face frame stock to length, starting with longest lengths first. A
fine tooth blade makes for a clean cut without splinters on the back side of the cut. Reference the good side of
the face frame stock with a pencil mark.
Note or set aside your face frame stock into rails and stiles. Rails are the horizontal members of the face
frame and stiles are the vertical members.
Now you're for the assembly of the cabinet face frames. I recommend pocket
hole joinery and using the Kreg Jig makes this an easy task. Use the jig on all
face frame rails. You may have a need to use the jig on stiles, depending on the configuration of your face
frame. The reference mark you made earlier on the good side of the face frame stock will be a visual reminder
on which side to use the jig.
See the Kreg Jig in action.
Next, it's just a matter of putting the face frames together with pocket screws. Be sure that your face frames
are square by measuring the length of opposite corners on the frames. If you've cut all your parts accurately, your
frames should be nice and square.
Finally, a little bit of sanding of the face frame, and you're ready for staining and finishing.
Seth Townsend is a kitchen designer and cabinetmaker. He writes general interest articles about kitchen design,
building kitchen cabinets and tool reviews. His most recent
site reviews Makita Table Saws.