How to Build Face-Frame Kitchen Cabinets

Just as it is important to put on your best face before heading off to work, it is as vital for the face frames of kitchen cabinets to be durable.

Prepping the Parts

Drawer Cabinet Face FrameDrawer Cabinet Face Frame
With all the attention given to the doors and drawer fronts, the face frames tend to get neglected. The space between the doors is as vital to the overall look of the cabinets as the doors are.

Set the fence of the table saw on 32-inches. Cut the plywood cross grain twice to give you two pieces of plywood 48-inches wide and 32-inches long.

Set the fence of the table saw on 30-inches and repeat the latter part of Step 1. Next, set the fence of the table saw at 24-inches. Try to center the 24-inch mark with the center of the blade. Rip the four freshly cut blocks to give you four pieces 32-inches long and four pieces 30-inches long. All eight are about 24-inches wide. Set these aside for now.

Place another full sheet of plywood on the table saw with the fence still set at about 24-inches. Rip the full sheet down the middle to give you two pieces 96-inches long and about 24-inches wide.

Set the fence of the table saw at 2-inches. Rip all of the blocks from Steps 1 and 2. These pieces are the ends for the face frames. Set them aside for now. Next, rip the two 96-inch pieces of plywood until you have fifteen 2-inch strips.

Set the fence of the table saw at 1½-inches and rip the remaining 96-inch piece of plywood. Depending on the number of cabinets that need face frames, these parts should be enough to build face frames for an average size kitchen.

Cutting Them Down to Size

Measure the widths of the cabinets and record your findings. Some cabinet builders allow the face frame to hang over the end panels of the cabinets about ¼-inch. This is to ensure that when the cabinets are installed side-by-side, the face frames will meet before the cabinets do to give a solid face frame look.

Subtract the 2-inch face frame ends from the overall width of the cabinet. For example, if the cabinet is 30-inches wide, subtract 4-inches from the width to give you 26-inch rails. Rails are the part of the face frame that is horizontal. Ends and stiles run vertically. Stiles are the vertical pieces that divide the frame into the openings that become the space covered with a door or drawer.

Divide the face frame openings when they reach 32-inches. A 30-inch opening doesn't need a stile because two doors can cover the opening without sagging.

Cut one 2-inch rail and one 1½-inch rail for each wall cabinet. Stiles for 30-inch wall cabinets are 26½-inches long. Base cabinets use two 2-inch rails and one 1½-inch rail. The 2-inch rails separate the door opening from the drawer opening.

Cut the stiles for the drawer opening at 4½-inches and the door openings at 22-inches. Measure the widths of the base or wall cabinets, subtract 4-inches and you will have the needed length for the rails. All that's left to do is divide the openings as evenly as possible.

Assemble the ends and rails by placing them perpendicular to each other. For example, to build a face frame for a 30-inch wall cabinet place the rails at either end of the frame ends. Hold the pieces together as tightly as possible and shoot a corrugated fastener across the joint. For more information on corrugated fasteners, see "Corrugated Fasteners Joiners" in the reference section of this article.

Place the 4½-inch drawer-opening stile between the two 2-inch rails of the base cabinet face frames with one of the rails at the top of the frame end. When marking the location of the stiles, it is a good practice to mark all the rails at the same time by placing them adjacent to each other.

Things You Will Need

  • ¾- inch plywood
  • Table saw
  • Electric miter box
  • Corrugated fastener

Tip

  • Practice using the corrugated fastener on extra plywood and lumber. Once the frame is together, do not be discouraged if there are gaps at the joints. These usually disappear when the frame is secured to the cabinet. Wait to putty and sand face frames until they are secured to the cabinet.

Warning

  • Do not leave power tools unattended in the presence of children. Do not raise the blade of the table saw any higher than necessary to make the cut. Don not paint or stain face frames without proper ventilation.

About the Author

Michael Straessle has written professionally about the construction industry since 1988. He authored “What a Strange Little Man,” among other books, and his work has appeared in various online publications. Straessle earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in professional/technical writing.