Part 3 : Cabinet Box Construction Methods

The important thing about cabinet construction methods is that there is a relationship between the type of construction and the cabinet's level of quality and durability.

The following terms describe some common methods of wood cabinet joinery.

Dovetail joints - this is a strong method of joining two boards together at right angles, such as with drawer boxes. The ends of two boards or panels are notched with v-shaped cutouts that mesh with corresponding notches on the adjoining panel. If they're tight, these types of joints are considered very solid.

Dado - this is a groove that's cut into a board or panel that the edge of another board/panel can fit into. A good example is the sides and back of a cabinet drawer that are dadoed to accept the edges of the drawer bottom. It's a stronger way to 'capture' the drawer bottom than just gluing or nailing the drawer bottom edges to the side panels.

Rabbet - this is a notch or step that's cut into the edge of a board to accept the edge of another board to form a 90-degree angle. It's similar to a dado cut except one side is left "open".


Butt joint - on a butt joint, the ends of two pieces of material are brought or "butted" together, edge to edge. Some form of mechanical retention like nails, screws, dowels or glue holds this joint together.


Good joinery techniques where the parts 'lock' together or where one piece is captured in the other makes for the strongest joints. Supplemental fastening methods on these joints makes an even stronger connection. Stronger joints equate to more durable cabinets.