Curved drawer fronts: how to cut them to length and rout drawer bottom grooves
I’m in the final stages of making a bow-front jewelry cabinet for my wife. All that’s left is to make the 17 little bow-front drawers for the interior of the cabinet! I’ve made enough drawers with curved fronts to know that they present two challenges. First, there is the problem of cutting them to length and getting the correct angle on the ends. Second, there’s the little issue of the groove for the drawer bottom. I’ve seen plenty of solutions for both problems, but none of them were easy and most involved cumbersome ways of measuring the angles and holding the drawers.
After thinking about the problems for some time, I finally hit upon a solution. First, I realized that I could make a curved fence for my router table and use a slot-cutting bit to make the drawer bottom groove. I experimented with solid fences made from MDF and it worked well, but I always hated the fact that the fences used up a lot of MDF and always required some real PITA work to make a pocket in the fence for the bit. So, then I had an idea. Make a curved base from a single layer of MDF and cut a notch for the bit at the bandsaw. Then glue some “fence posts” along the curved front and attach a hardboard fence face to the posts. Brilliant! (I wish I knew where the brilliance came from!) This type of fence works great. The grooves are cut to a consistent depth all the way around the concave face of the drawer fronts.
Of course, I was still struggling with how to cut the fronts to length. But then I realized that I could take a fence just like the one for the router table, attach it to my tablesaw’s miter gauge, put a drawer front on the fence and then feed it directly into the blade. The correct angle would be cut by default. Fantastic! A single fence solves both of my problems! I am, of course, very excited about this (and wish I could have more good ideas!).
Learn about the special fence for safely routing the drawer fronts in Part 2.
Solution, Part 2: I made a fence like the one I used at the router table for my miter gauge. It lets me orient the drawer front on edge and feed it directly into the blade. The blade intersects the front with an identical angle as the drawer sides.
Use a centerline to orient the drawer front. Then divide the width of the drawer in half and measure out from the centerline on the base and make a mark. Transfer the mark to the curved fence and you've found where to cut the drawer front.
Solution, Part 1: To rout the grooves in the back faces of the drawer fronts, I made a simple fence from a curved base, some "fence posts" and a hardboard face. The sophisticated dust collection worked really well, too.
Three armed bandit. A slot cutting bit is the perfect tool to make grooves in a concave workpiece.
Curved drawers are a two part problem. How to cut them to length and how to rout a groove for the bottoms?