Face frame kitchen


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Established Member
21 Oct 2014
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South Norfolk
Morning, seeking guidance on making a face frame kitchen.

Admittedly, I've never built a face frame kitchen before, so trying to rationlise the elements I need to consider.

Excuse the rambling, but I thought Id give you a run down:

Firstly, carcasses will be 18mm Birch ply, I usally finish these with Rustins Acrylic varnish, and will be 800mm tall (taller than the normal standard of 720mm) with a 90mm plinth space.

I will have various configurations of widths of base units, 450, 600, 800 & 900, with a combination of door units and draw units, several tall units, to include a double cooker housing, with a 300mm wide, tall unit either side, a 1200mm wide pantry unit with push back doors, also tall units to work around and over an American style fridge.

With regards face frames, these will be Tulip wood, having drawn up my design I am leaning towards keeping the face frames slim, stiles on each unit will be 23mm wide, with an internal cupboard oversail of 5mm, (so frames are flush to the outside of carcase) the top and dividing rails will be 25mm,(planning to use 6mm Dominos to join them to stiles, (just about get away with the 25mm) with the bottom rails being 38mm, with the stiles being 23mm wide when joining 2 units together I will have combined cover width of 43mm.

I need to keep the overall unit width dimensions to a minimum in order to fit the units into the given space, and maintain standard opening widths for appliances in the run.

So my first couple of questions are, for consideration, please:

Would it be better for me to oversail the frames on the outside of the carcasses by a nominal amount to allow for irregularities in the ply.

One of the critical sized units to make is for the sink, which will have 2 draws under, the space is 1200 wide, is this to wide to make as a single unit,(I intend to make the draws 600 wide) or should I make 2 separate 600 units and/or with a single face frame made to cover one or both units.
cooker & pantry wall framed units.jpg

For now.. Thanks


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I don't do kitchens professionally. Can't advise on your other layout items, but to the extent that you can put biases in your favor in your cabinets, that'll be helpful.

I had ply that was flat enough to hand plane (but only 12mm), so that wasn't an issue, but my house is 60 years old and with minimum tooling, I also knew that glue ups to perfect squareness would problematic (less so if you're screwing the bits together - mine are all dado and rebate).

At any rate, your question about overhang on the face frames, I think that's one of your outlets for errors and I'd do it as long as you know how you'll trim up parts to fit when installing the cabinets. Many ways to do it (I hand plane the overhang to fit on mine while installing - it made the job very uneventful vs. what I was expecting and my father - who I enlisted as a second pair of hands remarked that the cabinet and countertop installation was far less "interesting" than his pro installers' installation was in his own kitchen (they were shimming for hours).

Am I correct that you're hoping not to have a box reveal at this point with the face frames? I'd look at it two ways. Yes on preventing box reveal behind the face frames, but also on the fitting - give yourself a little extra to work with. If there's a quarter of an inch between cabinets behind flush faces, nobody will ever see it. Once you get into your kitchen installing stuff, you'll want it to be as easy as possible.
There are so many ways of skinning a cat, but a few points on the basis of what I have done in the past:

- I make face frames at 40mm all round
- the overhang depends on the situation
- at exposed ends the ff is flush to the side (but I fix a 6mm bead board or similar on the sides)
- against a wall the ff is scribed to the wall
- for an appliance the ff usually has to be flush to the appliance housing withe difference taken up on the adjoining unit (or a hidden spacer between units)
- my strong preference is to have a single ff (so that adjoining units only have a single stile facing the two adjoined cabinet sides. So the ff is made as a single unit and fixed last.
- I fix the ff with a continuous spline of 6mm birch ply - once setup that is quicker than dominoes.
- where the tall cabinets abut the worktop level cabinets, I have a step back 15 or 20mm so that the worktop comes flush to the front of the tall cabinet ff (also means that you don’t have the hated double ff stile - see above)

Just a few thoughts from me.

I could suggest you could simplify the run you have drawn, but the design variables are endless, so it would depend on subjective preferences and practical constraints.

This is a workshop cabinet I am just putting together - not a kitchen unit, but it shows how I do the birch ply splines.

This is the router cutter I use (easiest in the router table, but also can use it handheld).


PS I cannot work out how to show these pics the right way up!


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I like to use blum hinges and these can use an 18mm cruciform spacer. that therefore makes the side of the ff 37mm(36 using birch ply). I like to make each ff up individually so its fitted to the cab beforehand. also we use acid cat lacquer on the oak veneer mdf. we then paint the ff bringing both together so we avoid masking.
for the drawers we use blum movento. the boxes we make using redwood or oak and sometimes pin them then domino right through. a 6mm oak mdf bottom. these need sizing and fitting carefully. the doors are usually tulip and we put a simple mould planted around the inside with glue. also we literally make boxes for the carcases the service void we use space plugs. so we get more rips per 8 by 4. beaded frames are nice but can be a bit fussy to piece together.
we size doors on the planer. dont make them to tight and fit using a level carcase. not to tight as there painted and fitting means repainting.
Thanks for the all the replies, started on carcasses today, going to make up a few , and then work on the face frames, DW, still thinking about the option of going out by 1/4, but space is really tight, also looking at the option Scholar suggested with using a ply tongue, I have a 6mm groover so will try that tomorrow, however my "6mm" ply is 5.3mm so may be a bit slack.

Johnnyb, I use the space plugs, and are making the carcasses where I need a void 560 deep, no integrated appliances to worry about, but noted your solution.

Will update when I get chance.

I only build faceframe cabinets (and mostly beaded inset at that) so this may not be all that applicable.

I typically try to build a monolithic face frame as large as possible for a run of cabinets to avoid any seams. The boxes are ganged together and attached to the single face frame. When that can not be accomplished the standard overhang is 6mm/.25" for modular boxes.

All of my end run cabinets get a 18mm or 3/4" overhang for the scribe. Any ends that show get a wrapped face frame and panel.

The faceframes are attached with pocket screws and some biscuits for alignment when they can be hidden and or only biscuits when the screws would be seen.

Single faceframe for a 11' run of base cabinets


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