Frameless Cabinet Joinery
Hassle free and fast
By Dave Munkittrick
I’ve always liked the clean, modern look of cabinets built without face frames. My early attempts involved building plywood boxes first and applying hardwood edging later. But cutting, fitting, gluing and clamping each edging piece was frustratingly slow — and that was nothing compared to leveling the edging flush with the plywood. A task that was especially aggravating on the inside corners.
I had almost given up making this style of cabinet when I learned a new technique that streamlines construction. It allows you to put the edging on before assembly. Flushing up the edging on a flat panel is no problem. I can even pre-finish the cabinet parts before gluing them together. I get perfect looking butt joints and an almost invisible line where the edging joins the plywood (see first photo at right).
Here’s how it works
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This blind dado joint is quick to make and nearly invisible.
1. Cut all dadoes and rabbets with a router, a pattern bit and a simple dado jig. A couple of offcuts are all you need to perfectly size your dadoes without fussy trial and error set-ups.
2. Glue a single strip of hardwood edging to two panels at once. The single piece of edging is twice the desired thickness of the finished edge plus a saw kerf thickness more. Scrap wood protects the plywood edges.
3. Rip the panels down the middle of the edging.
4. Plane the edging flush with the panel sides. A block plane gives better control than a power sander. Set the blade for a light cut and ride the plane’s heel on the panel.
5. Test cut a notch on the leading edge of a shelf that’s been cut extra long. The jointer’s depth of cut must exactly equal the dado’s depth. It takes a little trial and error to get the right setting on the jointer.
6. Slide the shelf forward in the joint to test the depth of the notch. The notch is cut long enough to leave no trace of the cutterhead radius on the hardwood edge.
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