Building Drawers: Understand Options for Drawer Joints, Mounting Methods and Fronts

There are three main elements to the anatomy of a drawer. Understanding them is the secret to building drawers that glide smoothly, hold their weight and never jam.

| August 21, 2012

The world is complicated enough; that’s why your woodworking information shouldn’t be. Cabinet Construction (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2011) by the editors at Skills Institute Press provides technical woodworking information in the plain-spoken language you would hear from a trusted friend or relative. The following excerpt on building drawers is taken from Chapter 3, “Drawers.” 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Cabinet Construction.

Building Drawers 

In essence, a drawer is nothing more than a box without a top—a front, a back, two sides and a bottom. Individual examples, however, belie this simplicity. They run the gamut from the modern kitchen drawer slamming shut on metal slides to the drawer of a well-made Victorian desk whispering home with a nearly airtight sigh. The former is often an anonymous, interchangeable unit with a false front. The latter may be a finicky individual precisely fit to an opening in a particular piece of furniture, its unique face blending beautifully with the grain of the wood surrounding it.

Pulled open, a drawer reveals more of its personality. Each of its five pieces may be cut from a different wood. The front, which shows most, is chosen for its species, color and grain; the thinner sides for long wear; the back for strength; the bottom for stability.

Not only is the front the most visible part of a drawer, it also takes the most abuse. Keeping it attached to the sides requires a durable, solid joint.

A drawer’s most basic function is to hold things. But it must also slip in and out of the piece of furniture housing it without jamming or chattering. As with joinery, mounting a drawer offers many choices. Every method must support the drawer, prevent it from tipping as it is pulled out and stop it as it slides home. The perfect drawer will glide nearly out, then hesitate a bit; drawer stops prevent the unit from being inadvertently pulled all the way out or pushed too far in.

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