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Cabinet Terminology: Glossary of Woodworking Terms

Replacing cabinet doors is a simple and effective project for anyone wanting to refresh their kitchen. Still, when you shop for cabinet doors, you might come across some unfamiliar cabinetry terms that complicate your search for a fresh new door style. Don’t worry—you don’t have to be an expert on cabinetry terms to shop for replacement cabinet doors.

At CabinetDoors.com, we pride ourselves on making high-quality cabinet doors accessible to homeowners and manufacturers alike. Explore some of the most common woodworking terms and cabinet terminology to simplify your search for brand-new cabinet doors.

Common Woodworking Terms and Cabinet Terminology

The following are some of the most common cabinetry terms and woodworking phrases you’ll find when searching for replacement cabinet doors. From the parts of a cabinet construction to the different styles of construction you might find, this guide covers nearly all the cabinet terminology you might encounter.

A

Accessories – Supplemental parts of cabinets that are not necessary but improve the appearance or function. Examples of accessories include nonessential components like rollouts, pullouts, tilt-outs, molding, and hardware.

Angled Corner – Any cabinet type designed to fit on an end of an upper or lower cabinet creating a fixed angle.

Arch – A curve shape added to a cabinet door to provide a decorative design.

B

Base Cabinet – Cabinet types that install directly on the floor. These types often have a top material applied in the field, such as laminate, wood or granite.

BERP – (Base End Raised Panel) A decorative panel, usually matching the door style, designed to be applied to the side or back of a cabinet, an island for example.

Bevel – A portion of material removed from the edge of a piece of wood. This technique can be used to create a natural finger-pull such as on a beveled-edge door. Also is used to create a specific angle when two pieces of wood are joined together. For example, when two pieces have a 45-degree bevel they create a right angle when joined.

Blind Corner – Any cabinet type that installs next to the corner of a cabinet box setup and has space that is not easily accessed by the cabinet opening. Often, another cabinet is installed next to the corner, hiding the space, known as a blind corner.

Bumper Pads – A small spongy material placed on any cabinet door designed to soften the noise as the door is closed.

Bun Foot – A round decorative furniture grade foot used on the bottom corners of base cabinets.

Butt Doors – Two cabinet doors that cover a single opening that is normally too large for one door. The edges of both doors nearly meet in the middle without a center mullion.

Butt JointA joint construction where the edges of two pieces of wood are joined together.

C

Cabinet Box – The structure of your cabinets where the items are stored inside, including the complete box shape of the cabinet from the depth to the width. Your cabinet doors rest over the cabinet box.

Cathedral Arch – A term used when the top cabinet door has a curved shape in the panel and frame.

Center Stile – Also referred to as a mullion, the center stile is a vertical strip of hardwood that is part of the face frame. It usually divides a cabinet opening directly in the middle.

Cherry – A moderate hardwood having a fine to medium uniform grain.

Close Grain – Having fine and closely arranged fibers or fine texture. Maple is considered to have close grain.

Color Variation – A natural variation of color inherent in any wood species. Soil type, mineral deposits, water levels, temperature and geographical location are all factors in the degree of variation.

Concealed Hinge – A term used to describe a cabinet hinge that is not visible from the outside. Referred to as a cup hinge.

Corbel – A decorative wooden bracket used as a support mechanism for mantels, bar tops, etc.

Corner Blocks – Any type of wooden, plastic or metal component used to strengthen any joint. The typical application is where the face frame and end panel are joined.

Crown Molding – A term for any molding that is applied to the top of upper cabinets.

Custom Cabinets – Cabinets built to suit very specific needs. They are generally not limited to product lines, dimensions or design. They are typically more expensive but don’t necessarily offer the best value available in the marketplace.

D

Dado – A 1/4" +/- deep channel or groove cut across the wood’s grain is called a dado. A dado joint is formed when a cross member is fitted perpendicularly into the channel.

Dentil Mold – A decorative tooth-like pattern used on trim molding.

Door Styles – A variety of cabinet door designs the consumer has to choose from when choosing their cabinet doors. Some common styles are:

  • Arched raised panel (arch can be any of several arch designs)

  • Square raised panel

  • Arched flat panel

  • Square flat panel

  • Mitered raised panel

  • Mitered flat panel

Dovetail – A term used to describe a joining process of two pieces of material. Both pieces have wing-shaped notches that interlock. Generally known as one of the strongest joints typically used in furniture and cabinet drawers.

Drawer Face – Finished front panel of the drawer assembly. The profiles will match the door chosen.

E

End Panel – The panel forming the cabinet side, supporting the rails and other parts of the cabinet.

Engineered Wood – A term used to describe several new types of construction material. Fiberboard, such as MDF and HDF, is more dimensionally stable than solid wood.

Exposed Hinge – A term used to describe a cabinet hinge that is visible from the outside. Some types are barrel hinges.

F

Face Frame – The front facing of a cabinet typically constructed of hardwood. The vertical pieces, called stiles, and the horizontal pieces, called rails, reinforce the cabinet structure and provide mounting support for doors and drawers.

Fillers – Pieces of hardwood matching a chosen cabinet color. Sizes range from 1" to 6" wide and 30" to 96" long. The common use is to fill the space where a modular cabinet does not fill a specific wall dimension.

Finishes – A term for the surface treatment of a wood product to enhance the beauty of its natural wood color and grain definition. Usually applied in steps, such as stain, sealer and a clear top coat such as a catalyzed varnish.

Flute – A concave shallow groove milled into a wood surface, usually vertically along a shaft. A flute is often used to provide a decorative effect as an overlay on a cabinet stile or filler.

Framed Cabinet – A traditional style of cabinetry. The box is built behind a picture frame-like structure on which the doors and drawers are applied.

Frameless Cabinets – Often referred to as European-style cabinets. Components, doors and drawers are applied to the inside of the box thus eliminating the traditional face frame.

French Leg – A furniture-grade decorative leg used on the bottom corners of base cabinets.

Full Overlay – Doors and drawers are sized large enough to cover the cabinet face with only minimal clearances between them.

Furr-Down – A box-out at the ceiling, typically 12" high and 14" deep. Often used for AC ductwork. Kitchen cabinets are installed up to it creating a step effect. Also called a soffit or bulkhead.

G

Galley Rail – Any molding using tiny spindles to create a front retainer along a plate rail cabinet top. It gets its name because of its likeness to galley rails used on ships.

Grain Variation – A term used to describe the inconsistent nature of a species of wood’s grain pattern.

H

Hickory – A heavy, strong, and rigid hardwood with a fine uniform grain.

Hinge – A mechanical device used to attach a cabinet door to a cabinet box so it can swing open and closed. There are many styles offering different applications, degrees of swing and visibility.

J

Joint – A construction term used when two pieces of material are joined or attached together. Common types of joints are:

  • Cope and Stick

  • Dado

  • Dovetail

  • Miter

  • Mortise and Tenon

  • Rabbet

  • Tongue and Groove

K

Kerf – A saw cut that is made on the surface to relieve stress. It is used to create a curve, such as with a toe kick around a curved base cabinet.

Kiln Dry – The process of oven-drying fresh-cut lumber. The process removes excess moisture so raw lumber can be fabricated into a finished product.

Knob – A hardware item, typically round in shape, that attaches to doors and drawers, allowing you to open the doors and enjoy a decorative element.

Knot – A hard node and visible imperfection in any type of wood species, indicating where a branch once grew.

L

Laminate – v. A term used when layers of wood are bonded together through a process of heat and pressure. n. The plastic product used to fabricate kitchen countertops.

Lazy Susan – A corner kitchen base cabinet utilizing shelves rotating on a center poll for easy access.

M

Maple – A hard closed grain, light-colored wood.

MDF – (Medium Density Fiberboard) A common grade of engineered construction material that uses pieces of wood fibers packed into a rigid board.

Melamine – A durable, easy-to-clean, and plastic-like material that covers a piece of engineered wood or MDF.

Millwork – Any type of machined woodwork.

Mineral Streak – A discoloration in wood caused by mineral deposits in the soil during the life of the tree.These streaks are commonly noticed as a blackish-blue color within the grain.

Miter – A joint made when two beveled surfaces connect and form a right angle. For example, two pieces of wood each beveled at 22 1/2” will form a  45-degree angle when joined together.

Modular – A standardized increment of measurements specific to a product. Modular cabinets are generally manufactured in 3" increments.

Mortise and TenonA technique used to join two pieces of wood, where the mortise groove is cut into a piece of wood. Then, a piece called a tenon is inserted into the groove, creating a joint.

Mullion DoorsDoors without a solid center panel that feature horizontal or vertical mullions, or pieces that divide the open panel into smaller panels. Mullion doors are often great for inserting glass or glazing.

N

Nomenclature – A string of letters and numbers used to identify specific cabinet types or accessories.

O

Oak – A durable open grained hardwood.

Onlay – A carved or etched decorative ornament installed on the cabinet face. Also referred to as an applique.

Open Grain – Large pores or course texture in grain. Oak is an example of an open-grained wood. (See Oak.)

OverlayWhen cabinet doors or drawer fronts rest over the face frame of the cabinet boxes. Doors can have a full overlay or partial overlay. This style is the most common cabinet style in the US.

P

Peninsula – Similar to a kitchen island except it is only open on three sides. This construction is often used in L-shaped kitchens as a breakfast bar that divides the kitchen from another room.

Plywood – Multiple layers of wood veneer bonded by an adhesive forming panels of varying thickness.

Pull – A hardware item, usually crescent shaped, attached to doors and drawers for function and decoration, allowing you to open and close drawers and cabinets.

 

R

Rabbet – A technique for joining two pieces at right angles. A portion of the material is removed from the edge of one piece similar to the thickness of the other piece. When the two are attached the joint is strengthened. Also called a half-lap joint.

Racking – Generally caused by poor installation. The cabinet is twisted out of square resulting in poor door and drawer alignment and operation.

Rail – The horizontal piece of a cabinet door or cabinet frame component.

Reveal – The exposed portion of the cabinet face frame when the cabinet door and drawer are closed.

Rope Molding – A piece of molding milled in a pattern to appear twisted like strands of rope.

Rout – To drill or gouge out an area of wood, either for decoration or to join another piece of wood.

RTF – (Rigid Thermo Foil) Used as a laminate in the process of fabricating a one-piece door.

S

Sapwood – The younger, softer outer portion of the tree trunk, just under the bark.

Scribe Allowance – Face frame extensions beyond the cabinet box for trimming to ensure proper fit.

Scribe Molding – A generic piece of molding, usually 1/4" thick and up to 1" wide, for the purpose of trimming and concealing any discrepancy where the cabinet meets a sheetrock wall.

Semi-Concealed Hinge – A term used to describe a cabinet hinge that is barely visible from the outside. Some types are called kerf or knuckle hinges.

Semi-Custom Cabinets – Cabinets built in 1/8" increments, as opposed to modular cabinets built in 3" increments. Most have certain limitations in their product lines but are usually more flexible in dimension and design than a typical modular or stock cabinet product. They are typically more expensive but don’t necessarily offer the best value available in the marketplace.

Skin – A 3/16"-thick veneer panel generally used on the ends or backs of upper or base cabinets.

Soffit – A box-out at the ceiling typically 12" high and 14" deep. Often used for AC ductwork. Kitchen cabinets are installed up to it creating a step effect. Also called a fur-down or bulkhead.

Standard Overlay – A door style designed with a specific hinge type. The cabinet door overlaps the cabinet opening 1/2" on all four sides.

Stile – A vertical piece on a cabinet door or cabinet frame component.

Stretcher or Nailer – A structural component of the cabinet box. They are hidden horizontal members connecting the end panels at the back of a cabinet. During the installation process, 2" to 3" screws are used to mount the cabinet to the wall through the stretchers.

Substrate – The original surface or the structural material beneath the layer of veneer or laminate.

T

TERP –  (Tall End Raised Panel) A decorative panel, usually matching the door style, designed to be applied to the side or back of a cabinet, a pantry or refrigerator end panel.

Thermofoil – A 100% flexible vinyl laminate that is applied to the substrate by using an adhesive or heat and pressure.

Tilt-Out Trays – A popular accessory item ideal for storing sponges and other dishwashing supplies. They are plastic trays attached to the back of false fronts at the sink area.

Toe Kick – The recessed area at the bottom of base cabinets that is usually 4" high and 3" deep.

Tongue and Groove – A specific joining technique, the groove is cut into one piece of wood. The joint is made when an opposing piece cut with a tongue (a collared protrusion) is slipped into the groove.

V

Valance – A hardwood panel installed above an open area for décor, like desks, sinks, or windows.

Varnish – A hard, transparent coating used to protect the cabinet surface.

Veneer – A thin layer of wood (1/32") of solid wood that is applied with an adhesive to a substrate, usually to improve the appearance of the wood.

VERP – (Vanity End Raised Panel) A decorative panel, usually matching the door style, applied to the side or back of a cabinet, a vanity end panel.

W

Wainscot – A wooden facing or paneling that is generally applied to a wall or large end panel of a cabinet.

Wall Cabinet – Any cabinet type designed to install at or above eye level. Common application is 18" above the kitchen base cabinets. Also referred to as an upper cabinet.

Warp – Any wood product that distorts or twists out of shape. The general cause is excessive heat or moisture.

WERP – (Wall End Raised Panel) A decorative panel, usually matching the door style, applied to the side or back of an upper cabinet.

Put Your Cabinet Terminology Knowledge To Use

Now that you have a full picture of the woodworking terms you might come across, it’s time to put your new knowledge to use. Replacing your cabinet doors and hardware is an excellent way to revitalize your space. Whether you need parts of a cabinet, like cabinet hardware, or want to completely replace your cabinet doors, CabinetDoors.com is here to help. Our inventory features dozens of styles of replacement cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and cabinet door hardware, giving you the highest-quality materials at manufacturer’s rates.

If you have any questions about woodworking or cabinetry terms along the way, we’ll be here for support. Our goal is to make your buying process as smooth as possiblecontact us today for assistance.

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