Cabinet Terminology Defined

JSI Essex Castle RTA Cabinets

Knowing the specific parts of a cabinet and general terminology better informs your decisions when you’re shopping for new assembled or RTA kitchen cabinets. Here we cover the basic glossary of cabinet terms, including standard hardware vocabulary.

Common Cabinet Terminology Defined

5-piece panel drawer front: This style of cabinet drawer front refers to a four-piece frame around a center panel.

BLUM technology: BLUM is an innovative company that develops pioneering motion technology for cabinets, such as quiet close and soft close hinges and drawer slides.

Cabinet hardware: The handles, knobs, hinges, and other fastening parts of a cabinet, typically made of metal.

Examples of cabinet hardware

Cam lock: A cam lock is a type of fastener that uses an L-shaped locking mechanism to secure cabinet pieces together. The cam lock inserts into a pre-drilled hole and is turned to “lock” around a bolt, which holds the parts in place. 

Concealed hinges: Concealed hinges fit inside drawers and doors so they are not visible from the outside.

Cup pull: A cup pull is an option for cabinet hardware. These drawer pulls feature a closed, curved design, unlike bar pulls or knobs. Fingers are tucked into the cup pull to open the door or drawer. Cup pulls are also called bin pulls or half-moon pulls.

Door face: The cabinet door face is the part of the door you see when looking at the cabinets. The door face shows the décor style, such as shaker, traditional, or slab front.

Cabinet door face

Door frame or face frame: The door face frame is the structural section of the cabinet to which the doors are attached.

Dovetail joint/dovetail assembly: A dovetail joint is an interlocking corner joint. “Pins” on one board interlock with “tails” on a second piece, fitting the sections together like puzzle pieces.

Drawer box: The square or rectangular framed construction inside the drawer frame is the drawer box. The drawer box is typically wood, with four sides and a bottom.

Fabuwood Cabinet Drawer Slides from CS Hardware
A basic drawer box

Drawer face/drawer front: This decorative slab fixes to the front of the drawer box.

Drawer knob: Drawer knobs are a type of drawer pull with a single shape designed for grasping and pulling. Knobs are often round or square but can be any geometric shape or material. Knobs offer a different aesthetic from bar pulls or cup pulls.

Drawer knobs

Drawer pull: A drawer pull is the cabinet hardware used to open and close the drawer. Drawer pulls can be knobs, bars, or cups. 

Edge banding: Edge banding is a narrow strip of material used in wood working to finish exposed edges and give them a clean, finished appearance. 

Framed cabinets: A traditional American-style cabinet, framed cabinets include a box construction with rails and stiles. The cabinet doors are attached to the frame.

Frameless cabinets: A European-style cabinet, this construction features the basic cabinet box with no additional rails and stiles. The cabinet doors affix directly to the cabinet box.

Illume Bianco Gloss Kitchen Cabinets
Frameless cabinets

Full extension drawer slide: Full extension drawer slides enable the drawer to pull out to the end of the drawer box, allowing for access to the entire drawer space.

Full overlay cabinet door: In a full overlay cabinet door, there is no space between the door faces. They close right next to each other with no part of the face frame showing.

MDF core: Medium Density Fiberboard core refers to a type of hardwood plywood core used to make cabinets. MDF is stable and has a consistent thickness.

Mortise and tenon joint: This type of woodworking joint dates back thousands of years, used primarily in furniture and cabinetry. This is a “housed” joint, where one piece fits into another. The mortise is a slot carved in one piece of wood, and the tenon is a tab carved from another piece of wood. The tab slides snugly into the slot, securing the two pieces of wood together.

Partial overlay cabinet door: In a partial overlay cabinet door, some of the door face frame shows when the doors are closed.

Partial overlay, in which some of the door face frame shows

Plywood box construction: Plywood box construction refers to cabinets constructed from sturdy plywood versus particle board, furniture board, or other compressed wood particulate.

Rail: A rail is any horizontal framing piece of a cabinet.

RTA cabinets (ready-to-assemble cabinets): RTA cabinets arrive flat-packed in component parts so the buyer is able to assemble and install them at home. This style of cabinet offers a much more affordable option than shipping fully assembled cabinets or ordering custom cabinets.

Shaker cabinets: Created by the minimalist Shaker community, this style of cabinet consists of a simple flat center panel and square edges with no embellishments.

shaker cabinets
Traditional shaker style cabinets with modern hardware

Slab door cabinets: Also called frameless cabinets, the slab door style is a single-piece plain door face with no embellishments. This style is a more modern, European design that is becoming more popular in America.

Illume Bianco Gloss Kitchen Cabinets
Slab door cabinets, also called frameless cabinets

Soft close: Soft close refers to a type of hinge or drawer slide that allows the door or drawer to gently self-shut, preventing slamming.

Stile: A stile is any vertical framing piece of a cabinet. 

Toe kick: The recessed space at the bottom of a base cabinet that allows for foot space.

base cabinet
The toe kick is the section of the bottom of the base cabinet.

Traditional style cabinets: Traditional style cabinets have a raised front square panel on the door face, typical of American cabinetry.

Transitional style cabinets: Transitional style cabinets offer the clean lines of more modern styles, but the door face has a beveled frame.