How To Build Perfect Drawers
Time-tested tips for making drawers that slide smoothly
Synopsis: Follow these steps by seasoned furniture maker Gerald Curry to build drawers that are solid and stable, made to fit each pocket precisely. From the basics of construction to ensure well-fitting joinery to the proper choice of wood for the front, sides, and bottom, this article lays out a plan to build drawers that fit from the get-go, with almost no planing to fit after they are installed in the cabinet.
Nothing says craftsmanship like a well-made solid-wood drawer, one that’s elegantly designed yet strong, rigid, and durable. It must also open and close with little effort, regardless of changing humidity. For me the test is being able to close the drawer smoothly by pushing on one corner when it’s open three-quarters of the way.
The margin of error is slim. Too loose and the drawers will look bad and jam sideways in their openings; too tight and they will stick fast in the summer. Success is the culmination of dozens of careful steps and informed decisions when making both case and drawer.
In FWW #241, I explained how I make the chest, with drawer pockets that will stay straight, flat, and uniform. Now it’s time to build drawers that are just as solid and stable, made to fit each pocket precisely.
Some very good woodworkers build drawers to fit snugly from side to side, and then plane the sides for the gaps they want. I go about the process a different way. For 25 years, I built period furniture almost exclusively, often with lipped drawers, where planing the sides was difficult to impossible. That led me to my current method, where the drawers are made to fit perfectly from the get-go, with fine gaps built in and no fitting after assembly. It’s a quick, clean approach.