Friday, March 11, 2011

Face Frame Glue-Ups Made Easy

When you're making a cabinet with a face frame, life can get
real interesting when it comes time to glue the face frame to
the carcass. You need to deploy a lot of glue, get everything
positioned properly, and then apply a bunch of cauls and
clamps, all before the glue begins to set up. After the glue
has been spread, it can be especially tricky to keep the face
frame from sliding out of position as you apply the first
couple of clamps.

So, although a simple butt joint is more than adequate to
attach the face frame to the carcass, lots of people use some
sort of joinery there anyway, simply to help align the parts
during glue-up. A shallow rabbet around the back of the face
frame works for this purpose.  Biscuits do, too.

Both of those options take some extra effort, though, and
neither one adds any extra value to the final project. Here's a
different way to keep the face frame and the carcass aligned
during assembly that doesn't involve any superfluous joinery.

Make the carcass and the face frame as usual.  Make the face frame slightly larger than the carcass so you can trim the edges of the frame flush with the sides of the cabinet later.
Without applying any glue, carefully position the face frame on the carcass so there is a little bit of overhang all around the edge.  Clamp the parts together in this position.
Next, position four temporary alignment blocks in the corners behind the face frame.  Press these tightly against the carcass walls, and clamp them to the face frame only.
Here's how it looks from the back with the alignment blocks in place.
Now remove the face frame from the carcass, but leave the alignment blocks clamped to the face frame.

At this point, you can go ahead with the actual glue-up.  The temporary blocks will guarantee the alignment of the parts, leaving you with two hands free to juggle your clamps, any excess glue, and your beer.  Just be sure to remove the alignment blocks before you're done, lest some of that excess glue stick them permanently to the inside of the cabinet.

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