Machinist Toolcart #12: Spoken Too Soon: A Lesson in Drawer Planning/Measuring/Fitting

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 09-13-2011 04:22 AM 2546 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: Almost there. The end of all marking and cutting Part 12 of Machinist Toolcart series Part 13: Finishing Touch »

As I was fitting the drawer fronts yesterday I noticed that the fronts are being located with their bottoms pretty much aligned with the bottom of the drawers which made me think – shouldn’t there be some overlay there? but I digressed and went on about it….

Looking back – I guess there should have been an overlay after all!

See, when I originally planned the drawers I setup a (from the bottom) 6” drawer followed by 2 5” drawers … and each drawer was planned to utilize the entire height so the 6” drawer was for 6” tall items (minus 1/2” for the drawer bottom and the distance of the bottom groove from the bottom of the drawer sides. see I already knew to calculate the -1/2” for the drawer bottom, but what I didn’t realize until now is that I also should factor in another distance that is “lost” between drawers.

See, today I came and was all ready to open the drawers, make sure everything is nice and smooth, and prep the fronts for finishing – WRONG. some drawers just wouldn’t open (I did say I wasn’t fully focused yesterday didn’t I).

As I mentioned, my plan was utilizing the entire drawer-space height for the drawer which means that the next drawer up would basically be 1/8” above from the drawer front beneath it ( or in some cases from the actual drawer). This lead to a big issue as if there was any minor imperfection in the slide operation (up-down movement) or even if there wasn’t, the drawers would open and rub against the drawer front below it (just a couple – but still):

I also noticed that 2 drawers weren’t exactly aligned left right and for the same slide above you can see that the left side was installed slightly higher:

And (ooopsy) they also opened downwards which meant that the slides weren’t square to the front of the cabinet.

so much problems with just 1 thing – the slides….

My first reaction – total disappointment in my performance especially since I thought I was better than that. Looking back I know exactly how this happened, and I should have known better! (for sake of excuse – these were the drawers that I had to relocate since I ended up making those drawers boxes smaller than original plan which required the slides to be relocated lower in the cabinet see past blog in this series – but enough with excuses – they will not help us fix this – ever)

Lesson 1: Allow distance between top of drawer front and drawer above it
So in addition to the 1/2” loss of drawer height due to the drawer bottom there is another 1/4” loss of height due to allowing free movement to the drawer above, so a 6” drawer really means a drawer for items 5 1/4” tall. This is ok as long as It is known in advance and can be planned accordingly. This also means that yes – the drawer fronts drop some 1/8” below the drawer box which covers that “buffer zone” which allows for free movements of the drawers.

Lesson 2: Dont be a slacker – Jig it up!
Going back to my ‘excuse’, when I changed the slides and lowered them I pretty much freehand installed them using nothing but a square to measure location of slides, I guess this was my culprit and I should have known better and used a spacer-block to make sure the slides are installed evenly left to right and square to the front of the cabinet (I did use a square, but without a spacer-block I was juggling too many things and apparently screwed the squaring up – fact).

This time around, no excuses, no slacking, I got a block of wood (lesson 2 put to use) measured to give me the necessary gap between drawers (lesson 1 put to use) and installed drawer 2 (from bottom) slides:

Gap between drawers ? CHECK.
Drawer straight and opens square to cabinet? CHECK:

Rinse and Repeat:

Now with lower 3 drawers properly installed (these are the 3 drawers that were relocated) the 4th face frame won’t fit – since I’ve introduced new proper gaps between the drawers which is good. I’ll just have to trim the 3rd drawer face to make space for the remaining faces to fit properly. and I still have to trim 1 drawer (5th one from bottom) as the drawer itself is too high for my taste and is too close to the drawer above it:

But that will have to wait for another day…

Not what I expected of this day woodworking wise, but lessons learnt and all is not (yet) lost, just a little set back. not too excited about this, but could have been worse.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

5 comments so far

View Brett's profile


960 posts in 3880 days

#1 posted 09-13-2011 05:34 AM

OOps! Like you said “lessons learnt and all is not lost”. I think that I learn more from making mistakes than I do making it right the first time. It sure is going to be a nice set of drawers when you get them all completed.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

View Karson's profile


35276 posts in 5521 days

#2 posted 09-13-2011 06:48 AM

Drawer placement, is something that can catch you on every piece that you make.

I’ve found that a story stick drawn full size help in the visualization of everything should be.

Good luck on the de- and re-construction.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


21214 posts in 4796 days

#3 posted 09-13-2011 10:02 AM

Geez, I thought this was a beginner’s error. I don’t feel so bad about my wooden efforts. Seems like every time I make something I forget some basic facet that causes some grief. Last time it was not making box joints deep enough. Fortunately it was a prototype for experimentation, so I just let it go.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4316 days

#4 posted 09-13-2011 01:26 PM

I spent over an hour I think installing the 2 full extension drawers on my lathe table (first set of draw slides for me). I had to redo it a few times, what a pain.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Cory's profile


760 posts in 4540 days

#5 posted 09-13-2011 02:16 PM

I always look forward to your posts, Sharon. I appreciate you explaining your mistakes, though I doubt it will prevent me from making the same ones! The toolcart is looking great. Keep up the good work.

-- The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

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