Building For The Wife #2: Ipe drawer glides for custom kitchen bureau.

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Blog entry by fatman51 posted 09-14-2015 08:47 AM 1444 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Custom kitchen Bureau with drawers. Part 2 of Building For The Wife series Part 3: Constructing drawers and breadboard no1 »

I had to edit this blog and change the title, because I did identify the wood I have as Ipe. Ipe or Brazilian walnut is a popular high end exterior decking lumber. Mine came from from Brazil and according to ( ), Ipe was moved from the Tabebuia genus, listed as a spiecies of ironwood ( ) to the Handroanthus genus, which is not on that list, in 2007. This is news to me, but I do not want to give bad information.

Last weekend, I constructed the shell of the first cabinet on the list of furniture that I am building for my wife.

Ready for drawers!

This weekend I worked on drawers. Working around the bad, I cut the pieces for the drawers out of reclaimed lumber. I did not get the drawers together but I did finish building drawer glides and that is the subject of this post.

I am not sure of the specific tree, because there are a bunch, but I have some ironwood 2×8 decking planks. I think they are Ipe but they could have come from Malaysia. These boards are clean, clear, straight, flat, dense and very hard, the perfect material for drawer glides. I should note that I wore a mask and ran my air filter while I was working with the ironwood. The dust is very fine and it can make one sick when not used to dealing with it.

While it made a great cut, it bothered me. A saw with no attached dust collection, equipped with expensive negative rake blades, and a tendency to dig in to dense materials and jump forward, may not be the best choice for cutting ironwood.

The slider was a much better choice. I set the drops aside to cut out knobs and totes for 3 needy bench planes and went to the table saw to cut out the rest of my pieces. I sawed out 12, 2 1/8×5/8×17 1/4 inch pieces and 12, 2 1/8×19 1/4 inch pieces. I needed each one of these sticks to be perfectly flat, square and exactly the same size as the others. My table saw and planer handle it fine but when I face ironwood with my jointer, I take shallow passes because it wants to bounce and drift towards the cut, which can take it away from the fence, exposing the cutter head.

Next it was time to cut some rabbits and dados. I cut a couple of test pieces to help with this process. Check out the difference in density between ironwood and pine!

I usually use a steel stacked dado set in my table saw, but for the ironwood, I used the carbide set that I run on my radial arm saw. I do not usually try to cut a large number of small dados in ironwood with my router. Iron wood is high in silica, very dense, and it can be hard on my small straight bits.

I used a small shoulder plane, chisels, a mill file, and a scraper to fit the 2 parts of each slide. I was very careful because the drawers should rest on both bearing surfaces of the double glides.

I think they are way cooler than metal glides and the drawers will work way better than if I had just rested them on top of pine bearing strips. (My wife expects drawers to work flawlessly.) Ironwood is very stable so I can get away with tighter tolerances than if building glides out of softer material. Once finished, the pieces should not swell together and trap the wife’s cooking utensils…hopefully. It is also very strong and the glides should hold the drawers up no matter what we put in them. When the oil soaks in, the dadoed half will be recessed into the drawer sides and fastened with screws, the rabbeted half will be fastened to the wall of the cabinet. Before I put them together, I will sand and wax the bearing surfaces. There will not be any rails between the drawers.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

3 comments so far

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 3327 days

#1 posted 09-14-2015 06:21 PM

I meant to discuss economy. The drawer slides I order from Rockler cost about 20.00 a pair. Figuring the cost of the ironwood or Ipe decking, which can range from 2.85 to 8.00 a foot, this stuff was about 4.00, and the time, about 4 or five hours, I figured the cost to be about the same, maybe a little cheaper. It was my time, however, and I had the board, so in that respect I saved $120.00.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2971 posts in 2553 days

#2 posted 09-23-2015 06:39 AM

Fatman, you have the practical skills I lack. Ironwood is a good choice for that – along with Cocobolo, or any member of the Rosewood family – though making glides this way would never have occurred to me, lacking the aforementioned skills. I see on your scale that the Ironwood is more than twice as heavy as the pine. That doesn’t surprise me, but, do you know the Specific Density? That figure says more about density than does weight. I do know, or am pretty sure anyhow, that dense woods cut better with fewer teeth. You might try a 24 tooth blade.
Check your inbox soon. I feel a PM coming on.

-- Mark

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 3327 days

#3 posted 09-23-2015 08:33 AM

It does cut better with 24 tooth blades on both the radial arm saw and the table saw. That is probably why I had better luck cutting the ironwood with the slider because I had a coarse blade in that machine. I don’t know the density off hand, only that ironwood and hornbeam are among the most dense of woods, but ironwood can be very high in silica and the stuff I have is leftover decking that has been outside on an uncovered pallet for better than ten years. Right or wrong, I tend to put in inexpensive combination blades when I run it through my saws. Of course the sharpening shop charges by the tooth, so my choice does not make any sense when I think about it that way.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

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