Add a Drawer to a Table
A well-engineered pocket guarantees that a drawer will run true in all seasons
Synopsis: Drawers that work properly do so because an invisible infrastructure allows them to slide in and out without binding, stop in the right place, and avoid tipping. That infrastructure is made up of drawer runners, guides, a kicker, and stops. There are many ways to approach construction, but Steve Latta’s simple methods are time-tested, producing drawers that fit well and operate smoothly all year round.
As is often the case with furniture, the parts we don’t see can be just as important as the ones we do. This nightstand has a single drawer and for that drawer to work properly, it needs an invisible infrastructure that allows it to slide in and out easily without binding, stop in the proper location, and avoid tipping too far down. That means installing drawer runners, guides, a kicker, and stops. There are lots of ways of approaching all of this, but the simple methods shown here work in the vast majority of applications.
If you mill parts for the drawer infrastructure at the same time as the rest of the piece, you’ll save time and increase accuracy. On just about every table I have made, the bottoms of the lower stretchers line up with the bottom edge of the back and side aprons. Consequently, the runners will end up the same thickness as the lower stretcher, and the kicker the same as the top stretcher. Rather than trying to match them up later, simply take all those parts to thickness at the same time. And since the runner and kicker require no specific width, it makes sense to match their width to the stretchers.
I lay out the mortises for the kicker in the rear apron and top stretcher using a marking gauge and knife, then cut them by hand using a chisel. After the mortises are cut, I dry-assemble the table, measure the distance from the rear apron to the top stretcher, and add 1⁄2 in. for each of the 1⁄4-in. tenons. Then I cut the tenons on the tablesaw using a miter gauge with an auxiliary fence. I plane and give a final sanding to all the pieces and glue up the table, including the kicker. I add the runners, guides, and stops later.
The runners provide the track that the drawer runs on while it moves in and out of the table. I notch mine around the back leg. Using a small double square, transfer the two offsets of the rear leg to the back of the runner. Although they should be the same, differences occur.
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