Cabinets 2: How to Build Face Frame European Cabinets

In my previous article, I discussed how to build the frameless European kitchen cabinet to add a Modern Home Decor. Now, lets talk about the companion to the frameless cabinet, the face frame cabinet. The cabinet with a frame around the doors is referred to in the trade as a face frame cabinet, since the frame is on the front face of the cabinet. The construction of the cabinets is the same in both designs, so I'll concentrate this article only on the face frame, door hinges and consequences of this design for drawer attachment pertaining to kitchen cabinets.

Photo of lap hinge.Some kitchen cabinet designers prefer the wider look of the frame of the cabinet showing with the doors, sharing some of the beauty with the cabinet as opposed to the cabinet doors stealing all the glory in a frameless design. I tend to agree. That is the "old school" coming out in me. I do prefer the euro cabinet hinges, though, to the old style Amerock cabinet hinges (shown on the left) which added to the decor of the kitchen cabinet. Today we can enjoy the look of the old kitchen cabinets, but benefit from modern technology with the European style of cabinet hinges. Once you build kitchen cabinets with the European cabinet hinges, you will have a tough time going back to the Amerock cabinet style, due to the ease in adjusting these cabinet hinges in the three different directions: up, down and out.

Photo of a face frame cabinet.The face frame is basically a wide edging on the gable fronts, top and bottom. It usually is from 1 1/2" to 2 1/2" wide and 3/4" thick, made from plywood or solid lumber, whichever is preferred. If plywood or multicore fiberboards are used, the raw edge should be covered with hot glued tape. The horizontal pieces are called rails and the vertical pieces are called stiles. Together they comprise the face frame. The cabinet hinges are attached to the edge of the stiles about 3" up from the bottom and down from the top of the cabinet doors. The cabinet hinges are hidden from view from the face of the cabinet. Order face frame euro cabinet hinges with the appropriate overlap of the stile to fit your design. Photo of the hinge on a face frame cabinet.Notice in the picture, the rails do not cover the face of the cabinet shelves. The upper rail is ripped wider to allow for a crown molding at the top, if desired. The cabinet doors usually are flush with the bottom of the kitchen cabinet. An optional light rail set back from the cabinet face a bit on the bottom of the cabinet may be installed to cover any puck or thin fluorescent lights.

Photo of packing behind a drawer slide.The consequences I mentioned at the start of this article refer to extra packing required for bottom mount cabinet drawer slides. Mounting these cabinet slides is definitely easier without a frame to contend with. I feel it is worth it in the long run though. Since the inside of the gable is not flush with the inside of the stile, packing material is used to fill in this gap. Then mount the cabinet slides onto this packing. Rip to required thickness and size as shown in the picture to the left.

As you can see, part of the beauty of a set of face frame kitchen cabinets is shared with the design of the cabinet frame as well as that of the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

The next article will explain how to make your own kitchen cabinet doors. Also, have a look at my plans for building kitchen cabinets and china cabinets for more ideas.


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