Kitchen Cabinet Anatomy

Kitchen Cabinet Anatomy

There are specific names identifying cabinet parts used throughout the book. These names simply describe the various parts of a cabinet and are widely used in the industry.

An upper cabinet carcass is made up of five pieces: two sides, a back, top and bottom. The standard base is constructed with two sides, a back and a bottom. The base units have adjustable legs and don’t require a top because the countertop sits on the cabinet. See Figure 3-2 for standard cabinet assembly.


A hardwood face frame is constructed and installed to replace the European method of taping the PCB edges on a frameless-style cabinet. This face frame gives the cabinet a North American appearance. Face frame components consist of vertical members called stiles and horizontal members called rails.

You may notice that this building system eliminates the center stile, which was traditional on older North American cabinets. There are many important reasons why this stile is left out on these hybrid cabinets. With a center stile in place, you wouldn’t be able to install pull-out drawers in the base cabinets. Access to the cabinet interior is improved by eliminating this member, and installing adjustable shelves is much easier. We can now build the cabinet without the center stile because of the high-quality European hidden hinge. It is stronger, more durable and can be adjusted sideways, in a vertical plane, or toward or away from the cabinet face frame.

The hinge will allow you to adjust the gap between doors on a two-door cabinet to very close tolerances, and it will hold the position.

European Hinge

The high quality of this cabinet-building system depends in part on the European door hinge and its ability to adjust in three directions. The design of this hinge allows for very accurate placement of the cabinet doors because of the hinge’s mechanical ability to hold that placement. Because the European hinge was developed for and is almost exclusively used on European-style cabinetry or cabinets without the traditional North American face frame, hinge styles are named in reference to the European cabinet. A full-overlay European hinge is meant to fully cover or overlay the side edge of the cabinet. Carcass thickness is normally 5/8″, so a full-overlay European hinge covers approximately 5/8″ of the cabinet face. I say approximately because metric measure is widely used with these hinges, as they are European based, and there is a slight difference. However, for our purposes we can assume a full-overlay hinge covers Ys” of the cabinet face and a half-overlay hinge covers approximately 5 / 16″ of the face.

The high quality of this hinge is the reason why its incorporated in this cabinet design. The other reason is one of cost. Although initially it can be more expensive than the traditional hinges, you only require two or three types. Since the hinges are hidden, style is not a major consideration. In effect, we don’t have to be concerned that the hinges will match the choice of handles.

With our construction method we use a 1″ stile covering the side edge as our standard. We also use a full-overlay Euro hinge as the standard hinge; therefore, the door will overlap Ys ” of the stile, leaving 3/8″ exposed. The result is a traditional-looking cabinet style.

Hinges are classified by degrees of opening. A 90° hinge will allow the door to swing fully open at a right angle to the face frame. For the majority of situations I use a 120° hinge. As you will see, applications such as the corner base cabinet, with a lazy susan installed, require a wider degree of door opening to provide easy access to the cabinet. However, there are instances where a 90° hinge is more appropriate, particularly if the cabinet door opens beside a wall or another restriction close to the cabinet. The flexibility of these hinges is impressive and installation is easy.

Adjustable Legs

Adjustable cabinet legs on the base cabinets, which are used extensively in this building system, change the traditional side design. In systems without the legs, the sides were longer and required a notch to provide the under-cabinet clearance called the toe kick space. When the side couldn’t be seen, the traditional method was to build a base support frame of 2 x 4 lumber. That traditional method was strong, but gave rise to problems when the floor wasn’t level. You had to shim the base frame support until you had a level surface, which was very time-consuming.

Drawer Glides

Another dramatic departure from the traditional North American style of cabinetry is the use of European drawer glides. These glides consist of two drawer runners and two side runners. You do not have to build hardwood drawer rails and inset drawer bottoms, which increases the design possibilities. In this building method, we use the 7 5 -pound-rated bottom-mount drawer glide. The drawer body is built in the same method as an upper cabinet carcass. Drawer building will be detailed in chapter nine.

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