High quality kitchen cabinets are the equivalent of good furniture.
Unfortunately most people don’t know what to look for. What you need to look for is usually hidden.
Let us briefly discuss what goes into a quality kitchen cabinet.
All pieces should be visible from the front of a cabinet. The wood used on the face of a quality cabinet shouldn’t have knots, pitch pockets, sanding scars, grain irregularities or color differences.
Face-frame stiles and rails should be joined with long tenons (protruding wood tongues) and deep mortises (the slots into which tenons fit). Where two pieces of wood meet in a joint, the line between them almost disappears.
Drawer fronts should be cut from a single piece of solid wood.
Flat door panels are made from solid pieces of wood.
The carcass is the plywood box that forms the cabinet’s interior.
Side and floor panels should be 1/2 inch minimum thickness.
Plywood shelves should be at least 3/4 inch thick.
Cabinet floor and back fit into a routed side panel.
The end panel is the side of the cabinet exposed to view.
Solid wood is chosen for similarity of grain and color.
Frame pieces have mortise-and-tenon joinery; assembled panel is attached to the carcass (a plywood box) with screws driven from the inside out.
For the drawer, all sides are made from hardwood 5/8 inch or thicker.
All sides should be routed with a groove that supports drawer base.
Joints should be dovetailed at all corners.
Tunable Hinges: Whether visible or hidden, a hinge should be not only strong but also adjustable so that doors can align with the surrounding face-frame.
Drawer Slides: A drawer supported by two side-mounted slides is much stronger than one that runs over a single slide centered underneath. The quietest slides run on nylon bearings. A good slide can carry loads of at least 75 pounds and will allow a drawer to open fully.
Frame-to-Carcass Joints: A strong connection between the carcass and the face frame (the five narrow pieces of wood that surround the drawer and the doors) is a mark of good craftsmanship. At the bottom corner of the back of the face frame, the vertical piece (the stile) has a wide groove, which locks onto the side panel of the carcass. The narrow groove across the horizontal piece (the rail) lines up with an identical groove in the floor of the cabinet. Biscuits glued into these grooves join the rail to the cabinet floor.
Shelf Locks: Shelves should be adjustable and supported by metal brackets, not plastic ones. To keep the shelf from wandering, a locking device such as a plastic retainer plugs into an adjustment hole above.
Floating Panels: The frames around panels on the cabinet doors and on the exposed side of the cabinet have deep grooves. Panels shouldn’t be glued or fastened into the grooves, which allows them to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity without cracking or pushing the frame apart. Tiny pads keep the panels centered.
Hopefully this brief article gave you an insight into what a good quality kitchen cabinet is comprised of.
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