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By monster
I'm about to embark on a new project - face frame kitchen cabinets - and having never made any before I have a lot of questions that maybe the good people here who are far more experienced may be able to help me out with. I'll also post pics here as I go and document the project.

The cabinets are for our own house and will be built on site. I have a workshop I have set up here in the house and have recently made a sash window that I documented here and a pair of internal doors - that is about the extent of my woodworking, I have never made any cabinets before, although I am pretty handy and keen to get started.

I plan to make the carcasses then add face frame and in frame doors / drawers.

I'm erring towards investing in a Domino as its seems the ideal tool and method for holding the carcasses together attaching the face frame to them and maybe even for the doors - although I may make the doors on the router table with their own mortice and tenons, not got that far yet in my thinking ....


1) Am I right in thinking that glued up dominos alone are sufficient to hold the carcass together and attach the face frame if clamped properly - so no screws or additional fixings needed?

2) What material do people recommend to use for the carcass - I would like them to have finished faces and to work well with the Domino system - if indeed that is the route i go?

3) What should I make the face frames and doors out of - I see a lot of the kitchen manufactures use tulip wood - or is there a better alternative?

Thanks in advance.
By Yojevol
It sounds as though you are about to embark on a similar enterprise to one of my first serious attempts at woodworking. This was a new kitchen for our local village hall. Here is a view of it
I used moisture resistant (green) MDF for the basic carcass. It was all put together in situ using biscuits - Dominoes were well into the future back then. The front frames were made as a complete run and again joined with biscuits. I think the front frame was fixed to the carcass with screw blocks. The exposed ends of the carcass were in ash faced MDF - fortunately this only applied to the wall units so green MDF not necessary.
The front frames and doors were, and still are, made of ash. This was chosen, no dictated, by the fact that the local estate provided the timber for free. As you can see the doors and drawer fronts are planted on the front of the frame, which is a lot less time consuming that fitting them flush with the frame.

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By deema
Making cabinets doesn’t necessitate the investment in expensive tools, although that’s not to say it’s not a good reason to buy them :D
You can make a carcass which is extremely durable with just glue, or glue and screw, or biscuit and glue, dowel and glue or indeed domino and glue. I’ve made a number just screw and glue. I noticed recently that Peter Millard has released a new uTube video showing how durable and strong a glued MDF joint can actually be.

For face frames pocket screws are a cheap alternative for fixing that’s used.

Cabinets made from MRMDF, Plywood (the old designation used to be water and boil proof, WBP. Most plywood has a better face side, so just be aware when laying out for joints) or indeed faced chipboard are all good solutions. With chipboard the usual failure mode is water penetrating the edges due to poor application of the edging strip. You can now get portable, hand held hot melt edge machines.

For IMO a higher quality finish, I personally like to apply beach to the edges about 20~25mm thick for painted carcasses, and matching wood for veneered stuff.
By mbartlett99
I made the decision to get a domino years ago - I was working in the states at the time - and haven't regretted it one bit. I know its painfully expensive but it is very very precise and very very quick. I've just finished my kitchen - 20 cabinets - and am glad I had it to hand.
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By Farmer Giles
I'm making a kitchen for the first time, and its a face frame, and I've made my own carcasses. All dominoed/glued birch ply. Plenty strong enough. The sides are 18mm birch ply, the rear panel 9mm. I fit the rear immediately after assembling the rest of the carcass using glue and an air brad gun but an electric brad gun would do it.

I make sure the rear panel is cut really square, that way you can use it to square up the rest of the cabinet, but I do use parallel clamps which help too. If I get a cabinet that isn't quite square, I clamp across the long diagonal until it is square, fit the rear panel, turn it over and check the other side. I haven't had many issues like this as I have been using a track saw and a big MFT style table with stops so all panels come out the same size and are square.

Here's my thread on it so far.

Domino machines are expensive but you can sell them afterwards for not much less than you paid new, however I bet you will find more uses. I also use them to lip the ply shelves with oak and joint the face frame, and make the doors........

By Doug71
Domino is good for carcasses as it holds them together while you get some screws in. You can just use dominos and glue but screws let things move along a bit quicker.

Domino is okay for fitting face frames, only thing is it's almost too precise, you have to get things absolutely spot on for size. You can use pocket hole screws where they wont be seen or Hafele do a small bracket for this purpose. ... B01FHP8R66

You can make the carcasses out of whatever you want, some people don't like it but MFC is ideal.

Tulip wood is the industry standard for doors and frames, nothing wrong with it but if you don't mind spending a bit more and want something tougher colour no defect maple is a good alternative, that's what I used for mine.

Domino is great for making doors and frames.
By owen
If you don't want to splash out on a domino, a pocket hole jig will make making cabinets easy, and you can also use it for the faceframes. Doors you wouldn't use either for.
By monster
Thanks guys for all your input, lots of good points there for me to mull over.

For those who use birch ply for carcasses - how do you finish it afterwards? - and why use that over something with a finished surface like MDF or MFC?
By monster
Andy (Farmer Giles) loved reading through your build thread and what you have done to your farmhouse! - I like your ideas on how you made your kitchen too. thanks for that.
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By deema
I personally wouldn’t use ply. You need really top quality to avoid it having voids, too many surface defects / patches. Ply moves more than the other two alternatives as well, and it’s difficult to find truly flat stuff as it moves if it’s not stored absolutely flat. Ply is also far more difficult to paint if you want a flat surface without the grain showing through. I might be wrong but I think the perception is that ply is a higher quality more durable material.

I have a few rentals, all with Chipboard carcasses in the kitchen. When properly made they withstand tenants use. For my own next kitchen I will be using MRMDF with beach edging. For face frames, again I prefer beach. It’s very very durable to knocks and bangs. The edges take the brunt of kitchen utensil ‘incidents’ and when they start to deteriorate is when the kitchen starts to look tired.
Last edited by deema on 13 Mar 2020, 11:52, edited 1 time in total.
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By Farmer Giles
Thanks Monster

I agree that ply may not be the flatest, but I hate working with MDF or chipboard. I edge shelves with oak to match the kitchen and being a face frame kitchen you don't see any other edges so the occasional void doesn't matter.

I hate melamine too and edge banding, both can look cheap. Especially if moisture gets on the edges and when heavy pans scratch it.

Finishing ply is an issue, I have used water based polyurethane, Bona Mega, usually used on wooden floors. However it doesn't like prolonged moisture, so if you get a cup with water on the base out of the dishwasher and put it in the cupboard, it can leave a ring as the water can't escape. To prevent this I have lined the cupboards with plastic mesh that you buy on a roll from catering suppliers, it stops heavy pans scratching the surface too.

Each to there own, I'm making our kitchen which is a big difference to fitting kitchens for a living for other people and making a profit. I wouldn't do it how I have done it if I was a kitchen fitter!

+1 for the pocket hole jig, I have used one to fix the face frame and for the odd joint where I couldn't get a domino in.

By monster
Ok, I'm ready to start this project now and am in the midst of drawing up the carcasses which against better advice I want to have a go at making myself. I'm pretty sure I'm going to use a quality MFC like Egger - although Im struggling to find a local supplier (Bournemouth) and it would be nice to have it cut to size first.

So I'm looking at other kitchen carcasses for inspiration as I design my own and I'm wondering why all the sides are secured into the edge of the bottom panel rather than sitting on top of it? With all the weight from a heavy worktop coming down these sides, surely it's better to put that load onto the base panel than onto whatever fixing system is used to secure the sides to the base...? Can anyone help me understand why this seems to be the standard method?

Also, what are peoples thoughts on what the carcasses should sit on - Hafele type plastic kick board legs or should I make up a ladder frame to drop the carcasses onto...?
By Doug71
The sides do normally run top to bottom and often the plastic legs go partly under the bottom edge of the side to transfer the weight down to the floor if that makes sense.
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By Trainee neophyte
Just a thought - if you are planning on buying the doors rather than making them, don't make the cabinets until you have the doors, just in case the doors are a different size to your cabinets.

I did it the wrong way around, so had to remake all the cabinets, because the doors were available in 5mm increments only, and I had gone very bespoke. If you are making the doors, I believe it is normal to make the doors first, and fit the carcasses to them, for the same reason. It's also easier to have a load of doors kicking around, rather than a huge pile of boxes, while you assemble the rest of the stuff.