All of these cabinets were face framed, meaning the front of the box was constructed of stiles and rails joined together, typically using butt or half-lap joints that were then glued and nailed. Dovetails, a traditional cabinetmaker’s joint and a contemporary must-have, were rare even for drawers.
Doors were also face framed, with floating panels at the center held in place by stiles and rails. To give them strength and stability, the stiles and rails were fastened using mortise-and-tenon joinery. Doors were typically inset, meaning the door closed flush into the cabinet’s face frame. Drawer faces, also composed with stiles, rails, and panels, were the fourth side of drawer, not applied over a finished drawer box, a distinction many reproduction cabinetmakers follow today.
In many ways, those early 20th-century cabinets set the standard for what a traditional or “restoration” kitchen looks like today, even when the kitchen is going into an earlier house. Cabinetmakers replicate details like flat-panel or raised-panel doors, face-frame boxes, and sculpted feet, adding higher-end construction details such as dovetail joinery to cabinet styles that would never have had them.