Kreg Owners' Community

Greetings Kreg Family,

I need a lesson on face frames and the doors that attach to them. I am a visual person and I've been reading things and looking at pictures, but for some reason I just CAN'T wrap my head around the concept. For example, I want to build some standard-size upper cabinets for my laundry room that will have doors, so I will build the "box" that I want to put the face frames on. Are the frames built the same size as the box or smaller? What about the doors; will they be slightly smaller than the face frames so that they can swing open and closed? I'm so confused. Can someone help a sister out please?


Cheryl :-)

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Hi Cheryl, If you mount the face frames on the out side of the box , they will be the same size as the box !!  The doors must be a little smaller , so you can open and close them, they will fit inside the face frames, with about 1/16 to 1/8  " clearance on on four sides , Hope this helps, JIM !!

You might want to look at some videos:

Building a Face Frame with a Kreg Jig

Make a Cabinet with Doors

Sometimes seeing someone doing it helps.

Hi Cheryl,  This will be a hard one to answer with out actually physically showing you by making a face frame and door combinations.  However I will give it a serious try.  Doors and face frames can be a mystery until you understand the principal about how they are made.  First there is need to determine what type doors do you want to have,  Inset or overlay doors.  Overlay doors have face frames and the European or what is also called a frameless cabinet can be a cabinet without a face frame but it also can be one with a face frame and can have overlay doors or they can be inset doors.  This is what is confusing as until you become acquainted as to how face frames doors and cabinets work.

 First I will cover cabinets with face frames and overlay doors That are not European style.  The standard overlay of a door on a face frame is 1/2 inch for the top and the bottom as well as both sides of the door.

This is also standard for drawer faces as well.

The face frame is built so that the frame is the same size in height as the cabinet box in most instances and 1/4 inch wider that the cabinet box.  ( 1/8 inch overlay on the edge of each cabinet) In upper cabinets the bottom of the box is left higher than the side of the cabinets by the amount of the size of the face frame.  This allows you to set the face frame so that the face frame is set with the inside edge(top) of the lower rail is even with the shelf so that there is no face frame edge above the shelf.

I should at this point explain what the parts of a face frame is.  The horizontal members are called "Rails"  These are located at the top and at the bottom and can have rails that are located within the frame.  if they run horizontal then they are "Rails".  The members that run vertical they are called "Stiles"  They are located on each side and can also be located within the frame.  Here again is they run vertical they are called "stiles".

There are no actual set rule as to the width of the stiles and rails but most often the upper rail is at least 2" in width but also can be wider depending on how the cabinet is being built or styled to look like. most often the cabinets that I build will have a 2 1/2 inch wide rail at the top and a 2 inch rail at the bottom.  The stiles will normally be 2 inches is width as well but on some occasions will differ depending on the adjoining cabinets if any.  Stiles located inside the frame will also normally be 2 inches.  In building the face frame place any mid stiles so that they center over the cabinet box inter panels. 

Now for the doors.  Measure the inside of the cabinet box opening between any stile and add One inch to the width and the height of the opening.  This gives you the !/2 inch overlay.  The door style makes no difference here as you are only needing to build the door so that it will overlay the face frame opening.

Hinges for the door:  Here there the hidden style of which is the European hinge.  You will need to purchase what is known as a 1/2 in over lay hinge.  It may be of several styles that fit one of either the clip on or screw on hinge.  You will encounter the "cam lock" the soft close and or silent hinge to name a few. you will also find the hinge to be the type that are dowel style of which have a plastic dowel attached with a screw.  the difference being how they attach to the door to the hinge.  Most hinges are 35mm cup size but some are smaller in cup size.  you are better off to take the 35mm cup hinge and the ones that screw on other wise you will need to bore the 35mm cup size hole for the hinge cup and then two more 8mm holes for the hinge dowel,  I should mention also that to confuse matter more there is the face frame mounting compact hinge that takes the sane hole configuration as mentioned in the cup hole and dowel hole. the difference would be how it is mounted to the face frame.  The clip on hinges are used most often mounting them on the cabinet box sides but there are also the mounting plates that allow you to mount them on the face frame as well.  Mounting plates are metal plates that attach the hinge body to a mountable configuration to a cabinet box panel or as mentioned directly to the face frame.

This is in a nut shell the basics of a overlay door and face frame.  Since I have been a cabinet maker for a long time now there are some photos of some of my work posted on my page that will show several examples of how face frames and doors work.  I have one on building doors as well.

Since you seem interested and willing to learn I will continue this discussion either later tonight or tomorrow and cover the inset door face frame on a European cabinet style.  I will round up some photo examples to show you the difference.  Any questions on what I have covered post them and I will address them later. 

Cheryl, I forgot to mention that I recently wrote a large article on European hinges.  However if you are interested in the hinges that mount on the outside and visable it is a pretty straight forward job.  being truthful with you I am a big fan of European hinges as they are strong and adjustable and leave you a clean cabinet surface.  if you have a cabinet design in mind and have its sizes send it to me and I will be glad to walk you through the building of a cabinet that will work for you,

Cheryl,   You will enjoy making your laundry room cabinet and once you have the face frame built, you can really see the cabinet come together.  You can choose to have your face frame flush to the exact size of the cabinet or with a slight over hang.   You will want to be certain that everything is level and square.   For me, the doors are the most intimidating.   A variety of styles are open to you.   Inset doors set inside the face frame.  Over lay doors sit on the outside of the frame and over lap just a bit.  A half inch over lay seems to be a popular option.  I am getting started today on making cabinet doors for a project that I am working on and it requires 6 total.   I have browsed many videos, read books and articles and talked to friends.   Hang in there, we can do this!

Cheryl, in continuing with the explanation of the European cabinet and its variations.  European styled cabinets are the ones that have no face frame and can have either inset doors that actually are housed within the inside of the cabinet box.  They can also be ones that have the doors that are located outside of the cabinet box and hinged using European (concealed hinges).  The cabinet box construction is straight forward however due to the configuration of the European hinge the best material thickness to build the cabinet box out of is 3/4 Inch.  In to days practice most think of the European cabinet as being made of melamine which is the usual white color and is some applications is the best such as used in the industrial cabinetry and medical uses.  It is preferred as a material as it is easy to clean and does not leave a finish that is preferred as germ free surface.  However the use of 3/4inch plywood is also a good choice as it gives you an easy option to finish in a variety of ways and is lighter in weight than melamine.  Melamine is also a chip problem in both cutting with a saw and also edge chipping.   Getting back to the cabinet box design.

Once the cabinet box is built the raw edge of the plywood or melamine should be concealed by either a tape or using wood face frame where it is built in two ways.  I prefer to use wood and if I wish to build a true styled European cabinet I will use wood that is also 3/4 inch thick and 3/4 in wide and glue and nail it to the cabinet box.  I will use a pocket hole in places where you can hide the pocket hole such as on the sides where it will be concealed by another cabinet and in cases where the use of a pocket hole can be hidden such as in a drawer bank.  A word about glue, the use of standard wood glue is excellent on the raw edges of both plywood and the raw edges of melamine.  The is the time when you must alter from the standard wood glue and that is when you need to glue actual melamine surface to melamine surface and this will require the use of a different glue.  My choice is "Roo Glue" which is produced in two types, one for wood and one for plastic.  You will need to use the one for plastic when gluing melamine to melamine.

Should this be you choice of design they you must cut the cabinet members down to accommodate the thickness or you will have a cabinet that is 3/4 inch deeper.  It would be like sizing the cabinet box cuts the same as you would should you be building one with a standard face frame.  When cutting sizes of the cabinet box members for the inset doors then you need to cut the members to the width that you wish the cabinet to be.  That is the difference that you must determine when cutting your cabinet box members.

In hinging doors for the true frameless or the ones that have a 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch face frame it becomes different when you begin to order European hinges.  You will be faced with a large number of combinations.  The most difficult is determining on what mounting you will need and how many doors do you have to hang on the cabinet panel members.  An example is you can have either one door per a cabinet panel such as the  cabinet with one door.  Here you can use a hinge that will overlap the full panel or one that over laps only 1/2 of the panel.   For a full overlapping of the panel you can use a hinge called a "full overlay".  In this case you will make sure that the door is sized to fit the cabinet and since it is a one door cabinet then you can cut the door the same size as the cabinet box.  I normally cut the doors for this 1/4 inch smaller in width and about 1/8 inch shorter than the cabinet height.  Here again it will depend on the design that you want and taking into considerations any obstructions that might require a different hinging such as walls.   If I am building a cabinet that will set on a wall that is open to both ends then I will most often use a full overlay hinge.

If you are building a multi-door cabinet it will now become different.   In this case you have an option of using either a "full overlay" hinge or a "1/2 crank" hinge on the end doors.  Since there is going to be a door that either hinges from or closes on the panel that the outside door closes on you will need to be sure to cut the door width to close on that panel at or near 1/2 of that panel which would be 3/8".  To be save I would cut it the door an additional 1/8 shy so that the door will close on 1/4 inch.  In doing this you allow the doors to open and close with close tolerance.  Since European are adjustable 6 ways (actually for practical terms 4 ways even though they are often advertised and sold as adjustable in 6 ways.  They get this by saying you and also tip the doors as well as adjust up and down and inward and outward at the hinged corner.)

Now that you have the end door hinged, the door that will mount on the cabinet panel that the end door closed on you will now note that there is about 3/8 of one inch in which to hang the door on.  Here you will need to use what is called a "half crank" hinge which allows the door to be inset a distance of near 3/8 of one inch.  A European hinge is designed to open the door by moving it inward and then outward as you open the door.  It is also adjustable so it allows you to work with  tolerances not possible with the standard mounted hinges.  This will explain the principals of this type of cabinet building.  It should be noted thought that there is also a combination of different mounting plates of which are different in thickness and screw pattern combinations that will also change how these same hinges work.  There are specialty hinges that allow the mounting of doors to almost any combinations of cabinet box configurations that you can imagine.  Also in the mix is the free swing and spring loaded hinges.  In addition these hinges come is different degree of swing making it a great assortment of combinations to use but also causes confusion

 Now to explain inset doors.  This is a design of which is known as the hall mark of the cabinet maker and is the most difficult to build.  This is a door that sits inside of the cabinet box and here is should be noted is the first thing you must take into account for is when building the cabinet box you must cut the cabinet members to the depth of the desired cabinet.  The face frame that is added must have its thickness deducted to the overall depth of the desired cabinet.  These face frames can be a standard type however it is best to limit the face frame inter stiles to be around 1 1/2 inches as this looks the best and allows better access to the interior of the cabinet.  In this construction of the doors this is where the problems begin as the door must be sized to a tight fitting door and everything in the cabinet face frame opening must be absolute square or it will require to preform some magic and cut the tapers and oddities of the face frame to the door.  Here is where the "full crank" hinge comes into play as it is the best hinge to use as it requires less building out of the cabinet side panels to fit the opening in the face frames.  The "half crank" is used as well as it means that the cabinet panel must be built out to 3/8 of an inch larger that the face frame opening. The "full crank' hinge is approximately a 3/4 inch kick back so that means that the panel can be about 3/4 inch larger that the face frame opening.

The only other way to accompolish this is to use blocks attached to the cabinet panels and attach the hinge to these blocks.  Unless done carefully it can be eye catching and a distasteful touch to an otherwise beautiful cabinet.  If the panel is flush to the face frame opening then there is the  full overlay hinge that can be used in this application,

All of this makes it a difficult job and the use of several hinge combinations need to be used and careful placing of the cabinet panels must be done in such a way as they are square and plumb with the cabinet bottom and face frames.

The frameless European cabinet where the face frame is actually present and sized the same thickness as the panels  the procedures are the same.  It all requires careful craftsmanship and demanding planning before the first board is cut.  It is a challenging venture and one of which I hope every member at one time or another build some cabinets using the European hinge and its technology.  I think you will like the hinge and what it can do for you.

Cheryl, I hope this had given you some back ground in what you are doing,  If you go to my page and look at my discussions you will find many items of interest to you.  Just type in cabinets in the search  of my discussions.  Enjoy you work and project and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me,  I will add to this discussion when I find something that may be of help to you.  Anyone else who is interested, please feel free to join in.  

Something I might add the standard overlay in door making is 1/2 inch due to the design of the European hinge and cabinet construction looks.  It is the tried and tested desirable design.

jay,   that is quite a in depth explanation and it shows your experience in years of cabinet making.   Just curious, do you recall your first attempt?   Did you grow up around wood working or start in later years?  I just started last year and the few projects I have attempted, I have learned a little more with each oops and each high five.   Enjoying the process and it is evident that you have gotten much pleasure from it as well.

Hi Rita, Thank you for your nice words.  I was born a farm boy and learned quite a bit of carpentry from my Dad.  As I grew up my Dad remained a farmer however he built a house and also built on to another. Out of necessity it was doing your own woodworking.   Of course by then I was growing up and was nearing my high school days and was interested in woodworking but also in automotive mechanics.  During my high school years I took shop but was advanced enough that I taught the class in shop teaching  automotive mechanics metal and wood shop.  I graduated from high school and worked on a farm for the next two years and then entered the Unites States Army serving in the Vietnam war.  Then I went to work as a mechanic for a automotive machine shop in my home town and pursued high performance engines building race engines.  I did this for the next 11 years reaching the spot of being a the shop foreman.  I left there when the government began sticking their nose into the pollution and regulating what you could do to an engine and made them where they no longer would run.  I quit and went to work for the  Sheriff's office reaching the rank of senior detective working crimes against persons.  I left there and with 20 years of experience in criminals and crimes working some of nations high profile cases from the Northwest.  I saw all the blood and mangled bodies and what people do to others that I could stand and still looking for a career in something where I was my own boss.  I began building cabinets in my home oversized garage and even though times were hard with stiff competition from other cabinet shops I began building cabinets in a method that no one else was doing.  This is when I first met up with a young craftsman that was selling and demonstrating the pocket hole system and the resulting meeting caused my real cabinet shop, Cabinet Technology,  to open and become a success.  Kreg tools and the brother to the kreg tool owner changed my total philopsy of how to build cabinets and the pocket hole technology became my standard method of work.  I did work that others could not do as I could build custom curved and off set cabinets and other woodwork that was very difficult to do yet I could do it fast and with ease because the pocket hole was not well known.  Many refused the challenge as the work would be difficult and to them it was something that was not a product that they wanted to attempt because of the difficulty and it was not going to make them money as they had to do the work the old fashioned way.   To me it was a challenge and it became my gravy. About five years ago I closed down the big shop and came back to where I originally built cabinets and tried to retire but customers have refused to allow me to do that.  I probably would not any way as I  know the rocking chair will kill most.   I need a piece of wood in my hand as that is when I am happy and at most peace with the world.

I was able to train two others the trade and they have gone on to open and built a successful cabinet shop in fact I recently talked to one who told me that he had made near $80,000 this last year.  Of course he is like me he works all the time and thinks nothing of working 7 days a week and works long hours of 10 plus hours a day.   

Yes I remember the first cabinet that I built and it was really a challenge and it was a total different way than I do it now.  That was before I met Kreg Tools and their technology.  Every time I think of Kreg Tools I think of Technology and even used the word technology in the name of my business. I do owe a debt of gratitude to kreg Tools for building the tools that gave me a successful business for all these years and also to the young ambitious and talented brother to the owner that was selling and demonstrating the kreg tool.  The brother is one of my best friends and if I ever need to know anything about building a cabinet this whom I will seek out for the answer.  To get to where I am in woodworking has taken me hours  of dedication to working wood and figuring out how to do something better.  I have read as many books as I could get my hands on and even gone to furniture stores and cabinet retail out let and done nothing but study them and how they were made.

I saw something on the last news letter that really making me stop and think as it is some ideal  to stream line this site where some survey was supposed to have been taken where most of the members are desiring a picture book look where they just look at a photos.  There is talk of removing all the repetitive and out dated material that is on the site.  I did not know that there is outdated material on here as it is this material that is there for members to refer back to when needed.  This was on a news letter that came to my mail box just a few days ago.  I for one think that this is a bad idea as everyday the older members who have experience are leaving the site for one reason or another so where is the remaining members going to do for research material.  It should be noted that there are very few who contribute anything in the way of educational value other than posting a photo.  With all the years of experience that I have had i still can not look at just a photo and tell you everything about it.  I just do not get it.

As for enjoyment part of this venture of being a cabinet maker and woodworker ,Yes it has been a very enjoyable ride over the years and as I think back probably the best times of my life. 

The reason that I am a member is to teach but it seems like many do not want to learn and when it comes to that and the opportunity to teach, I will take my saw and hammer and go. 

Thank you so much!!! Jay you rock! This probably the best explanation I've had. I'm going to print this out and try to draw something out instead of trying to draw a picture in my head. Thanks again.  I think I'm going to try next weekend. Will post results if not too ugly.

Cheryl :-)

Cheryl, What do you mean ugly?   hey now you need to have some confidence and don't be intimidated by how hard it looks.  I have faith in your ability and if you have problems contact me and we can work them out.
 You are very welcome as I really like see a member  take on a big challenge as this is how you learn.  you do this and I guarantee that you will learn a lot from doing it.
Cheryl Coleman said:

Thank you so much!!! Jay you rock! This probably the best explanation I've had. I'm going to print this out and try to draw something out instead of trying to draw a picture in my head. Thanks again.  I think I'm going to try next weekend. Will post results if not too ugly.

Cheryl :-)

Hi Cheryl. I just wrote another post on European hinges that you might be interested in taking a look at.  It is located under Tim Hadaway ' discussion about European hinges. 

Rita here is the link to the cabinet door building that I promise you a while ago.   Hope it will explain more of the process that I use.  I do have one on building raised panel doors on my page.   It is all the same until you get to building the raised panels then it gets more doors.  Here is the link for the flat panel doors using a routher table and  a set of cabinet door building bits. 
Rita B. said:

jay,   that is quite a in depth explanation and it shows your experience in years of cabinet making.   Just curious, do you recall your first attempt?   Did you grow up around wood working or start in later years?  I just started last year and the few projects I have attempted, I have learned a little more with each oops and each high five.   Enjoying the process and it is evident that you have gotten much pleasure from it as well.

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