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I'm trying to design a cabinet with three sections of two drawers. I want the cabinet to be three carcasses and a face frame so I can build it in one location and install it in another. Here's a drawing from SketchUp to show you what I mean.

triple cabinet design

I've got the three boxes with the same external width and the face frame with three identical openings. But there's this uneven overhang on the inside of the cabinet and the two middle stiles don't align with the edges of the middle box! Based on the undermount drawer slides I plan on using, I don't think this difference is critically important, but it does look odd in the drawing.

What is the right way to build this? Is that overlap ok? Is this something I might regret as I put this together? I could make the middle box smaller (and have sketched that up already) but that complicates the cuts and measurements and I'd like this to be fairly straightforward.

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  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. Since that odd spacing relative to the face frame I presume is just predicated on the boxes being equal widths I was going to suggest exactly what you don't want to do, make the central one narrower (by twice the thickness of the stock I guess) Honestly, while it is handy to have fixed dimension for all repeat element, how much extra complexity is added by a single alteration that will affect the cutting of exactly one panel? – Graphus Mar 23 at 4:29
  • @Graphus Is this a normal situation when building a cabinet, though? The videos I've watched make it sound like even boxes and even frame openings is the way to go. – pian0 Mar 23 at 12:49
  • I couldn't say if this is normal. Almost all of what I've seen (in terms of stuff I've examined closely enough to know the design details) the cabinets were split in two, so you don't face this issue. And where there was a run of four it was merely two two-opening cabinets butted together side to side so again sidesteps the problem. I know a kitchen with a run of five, but I can't check it for you because of lockdown LOL – Graphus Mar 23 at 23:22
  • Are these butted up on the left and right against one, two, or no walls? – Aloysius Defenestrate Mar 27 at 23:57
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If you break this down into a design-requirements problem — the face frame is THE fixed element, and in your case so is the requirement for what's behind it to be three separate cabinets.

So the question is really about how to reconcile the two things, avoid the issue you're facing. The best option I see available is narrowing the centre cabinet. It's a simple and direct solution, still bread-and-butter stuff that adds no real complication — you cut two panel bottoms one size, one panel bottom a different size (the alteration being equivalent to the thickness of your board material in both cases).

The only hard part is getting used to the idea since it's a change to what you expected to do but as the saying goes, 'no plan survives contact with the enemy'. Take it as a valuable learning experience, that initial plans often need to be revised when problems crop up.... such as one's mental picture of something not matching up with the three-dimensional reality of it. Believe me, this is not uncommon! :-)

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Not sure if your cab is freestanding, butted up against one wall, or sandwiched between two walls. The strategy below applies mostly to a cabinet sandwiched between walls, but you can easily add a panel on one or both sides to correct the overlap at the outside stile(s).

Given your existing face frame, let's say that the center of the stile to the center of the next stile is 30".

That means your center cab would be 30" wide to be balanced behind the face frame.

Make all 3 of your cabs 30" wide. They'll all be balanced with respect to the face frame. They'll be universal to build. (No farging around with 2 different drawer/door/panel widths.) And -- and this is the best part -- you'll have room for wall/corner irregularities to pop the bank of cabs right into place and scribe the face frame gently to be an exact match to the adjacent walls.

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The issue is that all your vertical stiles are the same thickness but you are aligning them in different locations in relation to the side walls of the sections.

I would suggest aligning all the sidewalls equally on the face frame. So if you have a 2" wide stile and the side walls are 5/8" thick then you would have a 3/8" gap from inside face of sidewall to the inside edge of stiles where there are two cabinet sections abutting.

For the two ends on the outside face there will be a 1" gap from side wall face to outside of face frame. If this is a visible face you can just add another finish sheet and blocking to reduce this gap of if you will be securing to a wall you can just use blocking to fill the gap where you are securing.

Cabinet layout

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