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  • Melamine Cabinet Construction

    I plan on making some upper cabinets for the laundry room later this year. I want to use 3/4” melamine for the cabinet material. It’s cheaper than plywood and it’s already prefinished.

    My question has to do with both the joinery, and where the top and base panels should sit with respect to the sides.

    I normally use dados, rabbets, and pocket screws when I’m constructing a plywood cabinet. Unfortunately with melamine I can’t use pocket screws and I feel like if I try cutting a dado on melamine will cause a lot of chipping. Therefore, from my research it appears course drywall screws are commonly used a long with biscuits. I have a biscuit joiner so this will work. My concern is with hiding the drywall screws on the outside of the cabinet. This is especially a problem when the top and base panels sit between the sides of the cabinet. The screws will be visible from the outside of the cabinet. I was thinking about using those white screw cap sticker to hide the screws. I’m just not sure how effective these screw caps are and whether or not they’ll still be noticeable.

    The other option is to have the top and base sit on top of the sides that way the screws will be underneath and above the cabinet and won’t be visible. The main problem with this is the linear flow of the cabinet on the outside will be interrupted with an edge banded top and base also I was told you have less shear strength when screwing a cabinet in this direction.

    Attached is a photo showing what I mean about whether or not top and base should sit between or on top of the sides.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by CLS1989; 07-22-2021, 12:36 PM.
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  • #2

    Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

    You don’t need screws. All the joinery on mine were done using biscuits. The upper centre 3 cupboards have a back panel, inset 3/4”, to allow a french cleat. The other cupboard openings have no back, as you can see the wall on the back. Since the whole cabinet hangs on the wall, support is from the back panel, biscuited to the sides, upper and middle shelve. No need to overly support the side ends of the cabinet, since there is little load on them.
    Anyone who doesn’t think money grows on trees hasn’t bought any lumber lately.

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    • #3

      Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

      How about dowels? I assume you don't have a Domino but for one or two cabinets you could use dowels even if you don't have a dowel jig, just careful measurement. Depending on which faces will show, you could use the arrangement with the top and bottom inside the sides and use screws where it won't show and dowels where the screws would show.

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      • #4

        Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

        You can just glue and screw, no clamps required no rabbets to worry about. I've done dowels and biscuits before too. Glue and screw works good, make sure to use the laminate glue. I use the joinery on the left.

        And I totally missed the screw issue, lol. Dowels or biscuits and glue and clamps.


        What thickness back are you going to use?
        Last edited by schor; 07-22-2021, 02:57 PM.
        Steve The Drill Sergeant
        Check out MyShopNotes on YouTube.

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        • #5

          Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

          We used to build Melamine covered Particle Board cabinets for commercial use with a life span outlook of five to ten years max (remember : commercial use). We cut all the panels ahead, NO dadoes for joining, NO biscuits, NO dowels, NO glue. Our verticals (sides) went top to bottom. Our horizontals (shelves, top and bottom panels) were set inside the verticals. Our backs were 1/8" Melamine covered pressboard (I forget the name) *** that were set into a 1/8" dado cut all the way around the top, bottom and sides, 5/8" in from the back to allow room for mounting strips to be placed.
          We assembled by setting two pieces together at their corners, aligning them by hand, then firing in two or three brads. Then we screwed them with PB screws, countersunk, every four to six inches.

          That's it, that's all ..... some of the stuff we removed when we did installs were cabinets that my boss had built a decade earlier .... still working fine .... built the same way.

          EDIT : *** = Masonite
          Last edited by John Bartley; 07-22-2021, 04:40 PM.

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          • #6

            Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

            I agree with John, particle board screws will make a sturdy cabinet, and it’s really easy…..Rod.
            Work is the curse of the riding class.

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            • #7

              Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

              I work in a commercial cabinet shop...we do mainly cabinetry for retail stores, as well as store fixtures. Our melamine cabinets are built and screwed together with the top and bottoms INSIDE the side gables. Backs are 1/8 melamine in dadoes, or, in the case of upper cabinets, the backs are 5/8 melamine screwed on the back ( tops and bottom stop 5/8 short of the back of the sides, and the 5/8 back is screwed directly onto the top and bottom, and through the sides into the back). DO NOT USE DRYWALL SCREWS...use quality screws! For the sides of the boxes that will show, a finish panel is screwed on to cover the sides, and this is screwed on from the inside, so no screws are visible from outside the cabinet.

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              • #8

                Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                I made a kitchen over cupboard when I renovated, I will let the pictures tell the story, as you can see the theme I chose was end panels that I painted to match the doors through out the house, the end panels cover the screw fixings and there are 4 such panels in the kitchen, I would do it all the same again, I used a plywood with a thin Formica type laminate on both sides it was called a carcase grade which meant it had some defects so those end panels cover some of those defects.
                Good luck whatever you decide to do.

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                • #9

                  Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                  Originally posted by John Bartley View Post
                  We used to build Melamine covered Particle Board cabinets for commercial use with a life span outlook of five to ten years max (remember : commercial use). We cut all the panels ahead, NO dadoes for joining, NO biscuits, NO dowels, NO glue. Our verticals (sides) went top to bottom. Our horizontals (shelves, top and bottom panels) were set inside the verticals. Our backs were 1/8" Melamine covered pressboard (I forget the name) *** that were set into a 1/8" dado cut all the way around the top, bottom and sides, 5/8" in from the back to allow room for mounting strips to be placed.
                  We assembled by setting two pieces together at their corners, aligning them by hand, then firing in two or three brads. Then we screwed them with PB screws, countersunk, every four to six inches.

                  That's it, that's all ..... some of the stuff we removed when we did installs were cabinets that my boss had built a decade earlier .... still working fine .... built the same way.

                  EDIT : *** = Masonite
                  For some reason I can’t find particle board screws on any of the big box stores websites. Can you link me to a particle board screw supplier?

                  Also how do you hide the screws?


                  Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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                  • #10

                    Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                    Originally posted by Steve in Nova Scotia View Post
                    I work in a commercial cabinet shop...we do mainly cabinetry for retail stores, as well as store fixtures. Our melamine cabinets are built and screwed together with the top and bottoms INSIDE the side gables. Backs are 1/8 melamine in dadoes, or, in the case of upper cabinets, the backs are 5/8 melamine screwed on the back ( tops and bottom stop 5/8 short of the back of the sides, and the 5/8 back is screwed directly onto the top and bottom, and through the sides into the back). DO NOT USE DRYWALL SCREWS...use quality screws! For the sides of the boxes that will show, a finish panel is screwed on to cover the sides, and this is screwed on from the inside, so no screws are visible from outside the cabinet.
                    What is used for the finished panel? Also since adding a finished panel to the sides exposes the edges, how does your shop deal with this? Face frames? What if you want to do frameless cabinets?


                    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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                    • #11

                      Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                      Originally posted by CLS1989 View Post

                      For some reason I can’t find particle board screws on any of the big box stores websites. Can you link me to a particle board screw supplier?

                      Also how do you hide the screws?


                      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                      Ours came from Richelieu as I recall. Sorry, no links .... been over ten years since ...

                      Depending on the position of the cabinet, the type of installation and the intended use, hiding the screws was often not really important. When we did have to, the hiding was done (again depending on the level of finish required) by using "Fastcaps", laminating a layer of matching colour laminate over the end or by using an end gable.

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                      • #12

                        Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                        Something to consider, many of the responses are from guys who have worked in commercial cabinet shops. The advice they give needs to be taken in perspective. What makes sense when you are on the clock and need to turn out a bunch of cabinets where an extra hour per cabinet doubles the cost may not apply to a DYI'er making two or three cabinets for their house.

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                        • #13

                          Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                          Originally posted by CLS1989 View Post

                          What is used for the finished panel? Also since adding a finished panel to the sides exposes the edges, how does your shop deal with this? Face frames? What if you want to do frameless cabinets?


                          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                          If using melamine, it would be another piece of 3/4 melamine (same size as the end gable you are covering) screwed to the end of the cabinet from the inside. The edges would be banded to cover the particleboard edges. This is what we do for frameless cabinets.

                          We use these screws from Richelieu, 1-1/2 for cabinet assembly, 1-1/4 for finish panel attachment.


                          Last edited by Steve in Nova Scotia; 07-22-2021, 08:41 PM.

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                          • #14

                            Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                            Forgot to attach photo... :-)
                            Click image for larger version  Name:	Capture21.PNG Views:	0 Size:	81.3 KB ID:	1337385

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                            • #15

                              Re: Melamine Cabinet Construction

                              Originally posted by Steve in Nova Scotia View Post
                              Forgot to attach photo... :-)
                              Click image for larger version  Name:	Capture21.PNG Views:	0 Size:	81.3 KB ID:	1337385
                              Thanks. Do these require a special drill bit like confirmat screws?


                              Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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