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Simple Drawer Construction

A drawer is a boxlike storage compartment without a lid, made to slide horizontally in and out of a desk, chest or other type of cabinet. Many different joinery methods may be used to construct the drawer from simple butt joints to more complicated locking joints incorporating dovetails or rabbets.

The front of the box must be able to withstand the stress of pulling on it so it is essential to take this into consideration when deciding on the type of joint to use.

 

   


Butt Joint

Simple butt joint

A simple butt joint is suitable for light use, notice that the sides extend to the front of the box adding some extra strength to the unit. Use glue and screws to attach the joints.

rabbeted front joint
Rabbeting the side boards is a more common practice when making a butt joint, this may be done at both ends or only on the front.
drawer front
With these methods a separate front has to be attached to cover the ends of the sides.

Locking Rabbet Joint

locking rabbet joint
A stronger joint that can be made with basic tools is the locking rabbet joint, this can be done with a tablesaw with a dado blade or a router with a straight bit. It is basically a rabbet cut on the end board and a dado the rabbet fits into on the side board. Set your machinery to cut the rabbet and the dado one-half the width of the boards.

front locking rabbet joint


As with the simple butt joint a separate front has to be added to cover the ends of the side boards, however using a thicker front board an alternate joint can be made as shown above. For example if you are using 1/2" thick side boards use a 3/4" thick front board.


Fastening the Bottom

A common method is to cut a dado into all sides of the box at least 1/4" from the bottom edge, depending on the size of the drawer, just be aware that the bottom has to be inserted before the joints are fastened.


Other Methods of Construction

locking joint router bit
More info from Rockler
locking joint router bit

More info from Rockler

If you are making several drawers, such as for a complete kitchen it may be worth your while to invest in a special bit to make the joints using your router in a table.

dovetail joint
If you really want to impress people and make a very sturdy joint then you go to the old standby dovetail joint, these can be cut by hand or you can make machine joints. See our page on hand cutting dovetails.

Before starting on your drawer decide what kind of hardware you will be using, this will determine what size to make your box, this page on the Rockler site discusses the different types available and the clearance required.


Bandsaw patent
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