How Do You Make Drawers? from Sawmill Creek
One saying regarding woodworking that's been heard around our offices more than once is that "there are many ways to skin a cat" -- or to accomplish something in woodworking. The responses to the original query from this thread aptly demonstrated that. The original poster wanted to know others' guidelines for making drawers. - Editor
"Embarrassed to ask this, but: How deep should the groove be? How tight should the bottom be? How thick should my sides be? I have been making drawers by creating a dovetailed rectangle carcass and then cutting a groove for the bottom. I usually use plywood for the bottom (1/4" or 1/2"). Assume I make the groove 3/16" deep and the bottom 1/16" undersized. I can have 1/16" play on either side. Even if the board moves 1/16" to the side, I still have 1/8" in both grooves to support the bottom. Is this safe? If I make a 3/16" groove, then how thick must the sides be? If the board is not thick enough, might the drawer break along the groove? Are there any rules of thumb, such as, 'for a large dresser drawer, use sides that are at least 5/8" thick (or 1/2" thick) and cut a groove 1/4" thick'? How about a small desk drawer? When I start thinking that I want a drawer that might be 2" or less deep, then cutting a groove starts taking a bunch of the depth because I might lose about 1/2" just to making room for the bottom." - Andrew P.
Several people said that, while there is no one right way, it's helpful to find "your" way.. - Editor
"If you are just making drawers on rare occasion, then how you make them might not really matter as long as they will last. But if you make drawers on a good basis, then you would want to get a system for yourself that you can just use over and over again, Using the same type and thickness of materials to make you life easier by having the materials questions already answered for you." - Leo G.
"There is no one right way. I usually do half-blind dovetails front and back. 5/8" stock. 1/4" ply bottom. Groove is 5/16" deep into the stock, and 1/2" up from the bottom (because I often use Blum undermount Blumotion slides). Everything fits tightly together. Whether it's dressers, bedside tables, or kitchen cabinets, I do them all this way. I have varied these dimensions for various projects, but like I said, there is no one right way." - Clint O.
"As the others have said, there's a whole lot of ways to make drawers, and none is necessarily better than another. Having made a lot of drawers, I've revised my system several times, and this is my setup now. I use either 5/8" or 3/4" drawer stock depending on the application. I use 3/8" veneered MDF for the drawer bottoms as I just don't like how thin and flexible the 1/4" material is, especially on larger drawers. I make the groove for the drawer bottom as deep as the dovetail allows.
"Basically, I run a front through the dado blade, adjusting so the groove runs exactly down the inside of a dovetail recess, then I raise the blade up until it's just shy of the top of the recess. This way, the groove disappears when you assemble the box. I also go one step further and rip the back groove of the box off. This way allows me to install the bottom after I assemble the drawers, which make sit much easier for me to finish and allows for removal of the bottom down the road if necessary. Now, if you're not using dovetails, you can make your grooves any size you want. I don't see a reason to have them any exact size. And further, if you're not using undermount slides, you can have as little material under the bottom as you feel practical. I think 1/4" in a maple drawer, for instance, would be fine." - Jeff D.
Others shared their own favorite drawer making techniques and specifications. - Editor
"I use 1/2" stock(usually poplar) for the sides. I use 1/4" plywood for the bottom. I cut a 1/4" x 1/4" grove 1/4" from the bottom. Slides usually determine the grove height for the bottom, though. If the drawer is really big, I use 1/2" plywood and cut a 1/4" rabbet around the edge so it fits into the 1/4" grove. On good stuff, I use dovetails. For quick stuff, I use dado/rabbet combo. I got a really good deal on a drawer lock bit I want to try sometime." - Cary F.
"For cabinetry, I frequently do pocket-hole screw drawers made from 5/8" Baltic birch. However, for my kitchen, I bought pre-made, pre-finished dovetailed drawers in maple for about $40/drawer. I'll go that route in the future for cabinetry if I need more than a couple. If I hadn't already bought slides, they could have provided those, too, and with the cost savings from their pricing, it would have been about break even vs. the cost of materials and slides purchased on my own. For furniture, I've dovetailed with a jig, by hand, and used through Dominos. On a couple very small drawers, I've just done rabbets. " - Matt M.
"Shop drawers, I favor drawer-lock joints or even pocket-holes. [Greene and Greene] stuff gets the traditional exaggerated finger joints. Traditional stuff will get a hodgepodge of joinery as I see fit. My go-to joint for drawers is the drawer-lock as it is quick, self-aligning and not unattractive. I see too many dovetails and tend to avoid them except for panels, but that's just me. They are a staple of any crafts
Treated Wood from WoodCentral
The woodworker who asked this question wanted to know if it was OK to use a resource on hand -- exterior treated lumber -- for other purposes, or if that raised concerns. As he put it, "What's in it, anyhow?" - Editor
"I have a lot of that treated pine that 's used for decks, walkways, etc. I was thinking of using it now and then for jigs and stuff -- nothing special. But I'm worried about chemicals or whatever. What's in it, anyhow? Should I just throw it out? I cut a few pieces yesterday, and it just looks and smells like ordinary pine to me. What's the story?" - Eliot D.
One response dealt with the "stuff" that used to be in exterior treated lumber, vs. what's in it now. - Editor
"Several years ago, the treatment included arsenic, but that has been replaced with a different forumlation with copper, chrome and something else which is supposed to be a lot safer since there is no arsenic. If you Google you can find lots of info and, not surprisingly, some conflicting. Now, there is a difference in walking on, playing on and holding the wood compared to other activities such as cutting, planing and drilling. In these operations, very fine dust particles can be produced and some will end up in your lungs. For this reason, I cut it all outside and try to wear some form of dust protection. I dread having to rip any in my shop and avoid it if I can. I have had people say they experienced a chemical taste in their mouth after handling the wood a lot with their bare hands. I had that happen when using the liquid that is put on fresh end-grain cuts. So I wouldn't be using it where I had to work it in any manner. I also don't consider myself a eco-nut or nervous Nellie, but I would sooner avoid this stuff for any application that doesn't benefit from the rot-resisting treatment." - Bill H.
Another talked about "the new stuff" -- and the concerns about it causing corrosion of fasteners. - Editor
"Unless you have had it for about ten years or more, and if its green, it's probably treated with ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary). This is the 'new' stuff and is supposed to be less harmful to humans, but is very corrosive to metal. This is what brought out the whole generation of special deck fasteners. Google ACQ and you will get more info than you want. There is another chemical based on borates that is less corrosive, but it was not stable in the wood in the presence of water, so was not suitable for exterior use. Someone has figured out how to make it suitable for decks. It darkens the wood slightly. I would not want to use any more of it than necessary in my shop because I am concerned about corroding tops, etc., and the health issues."- Barry I.
"Treated wood and/or sawdust from treated wood will stain your cast -iron surfaces. Using it for jigs is not a good idea." - Howard A.
Also weighing in on this thread was a landscape architect who has been working with and learning about exterior treated lumber for over 30 years -- and who still isn't happy about the options out there. - Editor
"As a landscape architect, I have specified and researched outdoor woods and materials for over 30 years. That's long enough to observe the life cycle of most of my projects. The solutions for material to use always have 'pro' and 'con' attributes. Avoid using treated wood for anything but exterior construction. The dust and contact with the wood is dangerous -- think smoking tobacco, on steroids. Don't burn it -- the fumes are extremely toxic. The chemicals will 'rot' through most fasteners in a few years. Toxicity is never something to be casual about. I love the smell of Western red cedar, but need breathing protection when working with it and must shower immediately after a session. Things that are extremely frustrating about treated wood are the lack of waste disposal and 'government' notions that natural preservative woods, e.g., cedar, cypress, redwood, need to be used instead. Trouble is those woods deteriorate faster than they can be replaced with new stock. They are not 'sustainable.' Heat-treated lumber is showing great promise as a nontoxic alternative." - Bruce M.