I am in the process of making some drawers for one of my cabinets. I have a rough idea of how I will do it, but if someone who has made this kind of drawer could tell me what all I will need it would be very helpful for me.

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  • 1
    Have you considered buying the drawers from a local millwork shop? I say this after hearing the same thing from my woodworking instructor, who has a day job as a high-end cabinetmaker: they buy drawers rather than making them.
    – kdgregory
    Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 12:10
  • I checked with them and each drawer costs around $70. I need 4 drawers. it comes to $280. I can buy a new vanity for around $350. The thing is i have lots of wood and i want to use it.
    – Asdfg
    Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 14:47
  • what tools do you have? Do you have a router table?
    – user2059
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 14:10
  • I have circular saw. Drawers are for cabinet. I have made one drawer already :). Yet to assemble it to the cabinet. Nothing fancy but just wanted to make something functional to use wasted space.
    – Asdfg
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


Adam Jaskiewicz covered the basics, but I'll add a few comments. I've built exactly one "furniture grade" drawer, but several "shop grade" drawers. And I've never done a dovetail joint. So take what I say with at least one grain of salt.

The basic drawer box is four sides with a groove cut into the inside for the bottom. Depending on use, you can use 3/4 plywood or 1" dimensional lumber. You could probably get away with 1/2" plywood for small drawers (for example, in a dresser), but I think the 3/4 is a better choice if you have anything heavy inside. The can be 1/4 plywood, and it's not glued to the rest of the drawer.

You can use either wooden slides (basically, a groove cut into the back of the drawer and matching strips of wood that run front to back on the piece), or a side-mounted metal slide. I recommend the metal slide, particularly for a kitchen cabinet, which will be fully extended. I really can't recommend using wooden slides: they may be more "pure," but they're a lot less functional (and yes, for my one furniture-grade drawer, I used wooden slides; it doesn't get a lot of use).

Here's a page that describes the basic cuts for a drawer: http://www.knottyplans.com/index.php?page=200422&ref=kp32ap98f (it was one of the top hits on Google that looked reasonable).

The biggest issue that you'll face when building a drawer is how to join the front and sides. This joint will take all of the stress of opening the drawer.

The traditional approach is to use a dovetail joint. If you have a router and a dovetail jig, this is a great approach. It's particularly good if you're making a lot of drawers, and can set the jig once for all of them. You can also make dovetails with a backsaw (or better, a nokogiri saw), but you'll need lots of patience and practice.

Although a dovetail joint is traditional, a finger joint is almost as strong, and you may can make it using a table saw (assuming that you have a dado blade and a vertical jig). There are several other types of joints of varying strength; Fine Woodworking did an article on them several years ago.

If you go the dovetail route, the front panel of the drawer should be the width of the opening minus whatever you need for the slides. In furniture applications that have slides, there's typically a "face" front that's attached to the structural front, and covers the gaps. The alternative is a half-blind dovetail.

However, if you're looking to create drawers that live inside a cabinet (and are therefore hidden behind a door), you can get away with an alternate joint, in which the front panel is held between the side panels, and is screwed in place:

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In this approach, all of the strength in the joint comes from the mechanical fasteners. So don't skimp: go thick (#8 or better), long (1-1/2 or better), and repeated (one screw per inch). You could also use finishing nails, although they do not provide the flex resistance of screws. Do not rely on glue; there is no surface area for the glue to bond (as far as I'm concerned, end-grain is useless). Oh, and pre-drill the holes.

  • Good answer. I would recommend a 1/4" depth of cut along the sides for the bottom panel, increased to 3/8" with 3/8" ply if it's used to store heavier stuff (like in the pic). Also you'll have to increase the thickness of the bottom ply if the draw is considerably longer along one dimension than the other (e.g., dresser draws that are wide, but not too deep). Thin plys cannot resist the bending moment and will sag in the middle. Eventually this sag will "set in" and make it difficult to open/close it. Sometimes, if the depth of cut is insufficient, it might even pop out from the side grooves.
    – user2059
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 17:15

Well, it's like any other drawer, but the front is sized to fit completely into the cabinet rather than against the front of the frame.

It looks like that particular drawer has slides that mount to the underside of the drawer, like these (not an endorsement, just an example with a good picture).

  • You're correct (so +1), although drawers are not "simple boxes." The joint between the front panel and the side has to be stronger than other boxes, because it has to take the stress of opening. That's the reason that front joints are typically dovetails (although there are alternatives) while back joints are usually simple rabbets.
    – kdgregory
    Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 12:07
  • Point taken, I mean to say it's the same as any other drawer (other than the obvious considerations to keep from interfering with the door). Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 12:32

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