Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back panels...

Much of my cabinet design and build process involves the creation of a cabinet back. Conventional wisdom says the back of a cabinet is not nearly as important as the front or sides, so it merely needs a panel which is rabbeted into the sides, top and bottom. The problem with this thinking is that it assumes the back of the cabinet will be placed against a surface or wall and never seen. This doesn't apply to all cabinets as many cabinets are designed as showcases which are away from walls, sometimes placed in the center of a room or even a foot or two away from a wall. Something also feels wrong about diminishing the importance of the back of a cabinet when so much emphasis is placed on the design and structure of the front and sides of the cabinet. With this in mind, the need for a more aesthetically nice cabinet back becomes important, along with the function that it introduces to the cabinet. An example of function is if the cabinet is a wall-mounted cabinet and needs a structurally strong back.

The resulting back panel which best meets the criteria of both aesthetics and function is the frame and panel back; a panel inset into a surrounding frame composed of rails and stiles. The frame and panel back is inset into the cabinet back much like a panel would be and in the process the frame and panel also provide some rigidity to the cabinet. In those situations where a single panel is too wide, a middle stile is installed to divide the frame into two halves, otherwise for smaller cabinets a single panel is sufficient. The panel itself can either complement or contrast the cabinet, providing an interesting focal point once the doors of the cabinet are opened, as well as drawing the eye to the pleasing back of the cabinet.


Anonymous said...

What thickness do you make the back panel stiles and rails?

Norman Pirollo said...

The back panel rails and stiles are approximately 5/8 inch thick and 1.85 inches wide or thereabouts.

Anonymous said...

Hey Norm,
I agree about the virtue of dressing up the back of cases. How do you attach the back frame/panel to the back of the case?

Norman Pirollo said...

The safe approach is to screw the frame and panel into the back of the cabinet for easy removal if any future maintenance is necessary.
Nowadays I go ahead , take a leap of faith, and glue the assembly into the rabbett once I've fitted it correctly and done some preliminary finishing.

In the past I have screwed, then moved to gluing to add structural strength to the cabinet.


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