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The usefulness of veneered and melamine-faced
chipboard has been revolutionised by the wide range
of fittings available for joining it together and for
making furniture, such as fitted cupboards and
All the fittings described on this article are sold
separately in do-it-yourself shops and by mail order,
but the fittings supplied with bought furniture
(particularly kitchen units) are identical. Many of the
fittings are known as KD (knockdown) because they
have the characteristic (unlike conventional
woodworking joints) that the furniture can be taken
apart once it has been assembled.
Chipboard screws and plugs
Ordinary woodscrews do not take well in chipboard, and
special chipboard screws have been developed.
Looking more like self-tapping screws than
woodscrews. chipboard screws are usually threaded
all the way to the head and often have a double
thread, which means the screw goes in faster. The
screw bites into the chipboard as it is put in to give a
good grip. Some larger chipboard screws come with a
special drilling jig to make sure the holes to receive
them are drilled in the correct place. To cover the
normal chipboard screws, special plastic covering
plugs are available in white, magnolia or brown,
depending on the type of chipboard being used.
These cither push into the Pozidriv head of the screw
or into a counterbored hole in which the screw is
To get a stronger connection, a chipboard plug can be
used. Some of these work on the same principle as
solid-wall fixing (expanding as the screw is driven in)
while others are glued into the chipboard; both allow
ordinary woodscrews to be used. A hole (typically
8mm in diameter) is drilled in the edge of the
chipboard which will receive the screw and the screw
is driven into the plug to give a secure fixing. Again, a
dowelling or other jig will keep the hole square.
Where the countersunk head of a screw could damage
a thin surface, surface or recessed screw cups can
These plastic blocks are used for joining two pieces of
chipboard at right-angles.
The simplest type the mini-block - has a dowel to locate
in one piece and a single screw to secure to the
other. This makes for an unobtrusive joint, but not a
very strong one.
A better connection is given by the one-piece block joint
which is fitted into an internal corner and is simply
screwed to the two pieces of chipboard. A neater
result is given by a rigid triangular corner joint.
Better still is the two-part (or 'knockdown') block joint
where one part is screwed to each piece of chipboard
and the two joined together by a slotted-head
machine screw. This joint has the advantage that it
can easily be taken apart but, like the one-piece joint,
takes up room inside the cupboard. Block joints
generally come in a choice of white or brown colours.
A cam joint is more complicated than a block joint, but is
completely unobtrusive once fitted. A nylon dowel is
inserted in the edge of one board and is locked by
driving a steel pin into it. A large plug is fitted in the
other board in a hole drilled by an end mill. The dowel
fits into the plug and a cam screw is then turned to
lock it in place. Although neat, this type of joint is
more difficult to make than other types and is not
always very rigid.
There are two special connectors you can use for
joining panels end to end or back to back.
For joining panels end to end (two adjacent lengths of
worktop, for example), a panel butt joint connector is
used. This fits into a pair of holes drilled in the surface
of the two boards to be joined (again using an end
mill) and a slot is cut to join the two holes. The
connector is positioned and tightened with a spanner,
drawing the two boards together.
For joining panels back to back (connecting together
two adjacent kitchen cupboards, for example), a
cabinet connecting screw is used. This simply fits into
a hole drilled through the walls of both cupboards and
tightening it will bring them together.
There is a wide selection of other types of hinge
available for making your own furniture.
For kitchen cupboards, the most useful type of hinge is
probably the adjustable concealed hinge which is
fitted into two large holes drilled in the back face of
the door and the side of the cupboard. This hole
(typically 35mm) has to be made with a special drill
bit called an end mill, which drills a flat-bottomed
hole. For control on the depth to which it is drilled
(which is crucial), the end mill is best used in an
electric drill fitted to a vertical drill stand equipped with
a depth stop.
When it comes to fitting cupboards in place, there are
several different types of fittings which can help.
First there is a variety of catches, including magnetic
catches, magnetic touch catches (push to open; push
again to close), roller catches and ball catches. If
certain types of hinge have been used (and the door
is hung properly), no catch is needed at all the hinge
will hold il closed.
Hanging wall cupboards can often be a problem if the
securing holes (for wall plugs) in the wall have not
been made in exactly the correct place. Cabinet
suspension fittings and cabinet hanging brackets both
allow a degree of adjustment once lilted; the hanging
bracket provides the more secure fixing.
An angle plate can also be used for holding cupboards
to the wall, but is more commonly used for securing
worktops to the sides of base unit kitchen cupboards.
For lightweight cupboards (or wall shelving units), glass
plates can be used: these are simply screwed to the
back of the cupboard and the surface of the wall,
which means the cupboard stands out from the
surface of the wall by the thickness of the plate.
At the bottom of kitchen base unit cup¬boards, some
kind of foot is necessary to keep the chipboard sides
off the floor -particularly important if the chipboard is
left unsealed when any water on the floor could
damage it. Feet may also be needed to deal with
uneven floors, though many kitchen fitters will simply
pack the cup¬boards out with slips of hardboard. The
simplest type is the metal foot, which is banged into
the bottom of the cupboard sides. More sophisticated
are the cabinet leveller, the base levelling screw and
the adjustable foot, all of which allow for adjustments
to be made to allow for discrepancies in the floor
surface. As well as feet, there is a range of castors
which can be used if the cupboard is to be movable.
Making drawers in the traditional way can be very
satisfying, but is hard work and, for a kitchen cupboard,
may not be the best solution as all-timber drawers can
be difficult to keep clean.
There are various drawer-making kits on the market,
which use plastic slotted sections for the two sides and
back of the drawer: you add your own front (sometimes
attached to a fourth plastic section) and base (typically
melamine-faced hard-board, positioned melamine face
Making your own drawer like this is fairly simple and
involves only cutting the profiles to length, screwing
pieces on to the back of the drawer front and slotting
the whole thing together. You must double-check that
everything is correct before you assemble the drawers
(for example, the base is the right way up), because,
once assembled, these drawers cannot readily be taken