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Installing drawer slides perfectly straight and parallel?

68492 Views 16 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  EarlS
Howdy, all-I'm about to get started installing a set of drawers (and drawer slides) in an under-crib I'm halfway-done building, and was wondering what kinds of tips you might have for installing the drawer slides so that they're straight from front to back and so that they're perfectly parallel.

For a bit of info about the project: the cabinet is a simple plywood box with a face frame, so the drawer slides are being installed with face frame brackets on the front and back. I'm using Accuride full-extension drawer slides with 24" drawers; the cabinet is 25 1/2" deep. Given the face frame brackets, it doesn't look like it'd be trivial to just make sure the rear outside surface of the drawer slide is the same offset as the front-the brackets add another surface to the outside of the slide that makes this measurement hard to get right and equal at the front and back.

Any particularly good tips for getting the slides in there parallel and straight?
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The parallel part should be easy if your cabinet sides are parallel to each other. If that is not the case, then you need to go back and get them that way. That is a basic part of cabinet-making. As for getting them in at the same level on both sides of the cabinet, I usually do that with a spacer. I cut a piece of 1/4" hardboard or plywood to support the slide while I put in the screws. I start at the top of the cabinet and go down so I can just cut off the spacer as I go.

Hope this helps. If not, I will be building a couple of cabinets before long. I will be glad to blog the process so you see how it is done (at least in pictures).
Some folk insist on hanging drawer guides after the cabinet is assembled so what ever floats your boat. If you find that easier then go for it.

At 6' 4" I dont fit well into a cabinet so I pre hang the drawer guides before I assemble the cabinet even if it means having to remove the guides for finishing. At least they are hung and screw holes are there.

I used to make a jig and have since bought an adjustable steel jig (which means I only hjave to lay out the drawers once ) but suffice to say that a framing square will work to keep guides straight and parallel. Most drawer guides, the first pilot hole goes 37 mm back from the front and continue on increments of 32mm.

Gary's advice is good, but dimensional placement would depend on what guide you use.
GaryK, that post assumes slides that are installed on the actual cabinet sides rather than on brackets attached to the face frame and rear of the cabinet; it's this that has me concerned that it'll end up being hard to get the slides perfectly straight and parallel.

RobH, same thing-the sides are parallel to each other, so that's not an issue; rather, the issue is the addition of the face frame to the mix, which means that the slides are attached to brackets on the face frame and the rear of the cabinet. My worry is that it'll be hard to attach the rear bracket to the rear of the cabinet carcase aligned correctly so that it holds the slide front-to-back straight. I figured that there would be good measurements that came with the Accuride brackets that give exact offsets from the outside edges of the brackets to the outside edge of the mounted drawer slides, but that's not the case…

Best as I figure, I'll probably just have to do one of two things:

1. Test-mount the brackets on waste wood and take exact measurements;
2. Build a quick, rough mocked-up simulation of the drawer, and then use it to position the slide brackets appropriately.
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Whenever I start working with a hinge or slide that I have not used before I always create a mock up to test the fit and mounting points before I start building the actual drawers and mounting hardware. It's a real pain to plug screw holes. I also pre-drill all screw holes using a self-centering drill bit.

In addition, and where possible, I always pre-install my slides before assembling the cabinet. I'm just not as flexible as I used to be.
Most glides comes with two sets of holes, the slots and close to it, the screw holes. Put a screw into the slots first tighten just snug enough. Then insert the drawer part, this spreads and forces the glides straight and parallel. If it is an undermount glide, the back braket sits on a slot that allows the movement. Carefully remove the drawer and lock it into place with a screw into the round holes.
I learn it is fastest to drill pilot holes before I assemble the parts together. This makes measuring the holes easy because I just mark one panel and then bookmatch those lines and holes to the opposite side. The slots allows me to fine tune the glides for any minor warpage in plywood or rack after the assembly.
Kreg and Rockler both sell jigs for mounting drawer slides.
I just wanted to follow this up with my actual experience this weekend, which went well!

As I said a few times, my cabinet has a face frame, so I installed the Accuride drawer slides with their accompanying face frame brackets. The cabinet has two drawer positions, side by side, and has a vertical support running the entire depth of the cabinet that sits between the two drawer positions. For each drawer position, I used a piece of scrap wood to make spacers that were the exact width of the space behind the face frame on the left and right sides-I slid the wood behind the face frame and against either the side of the cabinet or the middle support, marked the vertical line where the face frame edge sat, and then cut the spacer on my miter saw (making sure to mark each clearly!) I then made two more spacers on which I could rest the drawer slides to bring them to their intended heights inside the cabinet.

With the spacers all made, installing each slide was as easy as:

1. Putting the two taller spacers into the right position so that I could rest a drawer slide on them during installation;
2. putting the drawer slide into the cabinet and bringing the front bracket into position against the face frame;
3. putting the appropriate spacer between the cabinet side and the drawer slide about 2/3 of the way back into the cabinet, holding the slide in the right front-to-back alignment;
4. sliding the rear face frame bracket against the back of the cabinet;
5. screwing everything in (using the horizontal-slot screw sites on the rear brackets, allowing me to move it slightly left to right if I needed to);
6. test-fitting the drawer and being happy!

I only had to adjust one of the slides left-right in the end, and everything works marvelously now.
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I made a kitchen cabinet with drawers for pots and pans . Fairly deep drawers . All the corners were dovetailed almost to professional standard. Surprising that it was my first attempt at dovetails .Angled dovetails .None of your straight machined rubbish .My original plan was to copy the style of our Czech cabinet from a European importer . (Made in Pardubice which is where they manufacture Semtex ). That used Victorian style wooden sliders .Where`s the candle grease ? But half way through , my lovely wife decided she wanted nice smooth sliders. So ebay sold me steel sliders with several tiny ball bearings. While holding one up to figure out how to fit them I enjoyed a shower of ball bearings. Funny how greasy ball bearings landing in sawdust will disappear when coated with sawdust . The struggle to fit these was abandoned and changed to simple plastic sliders with plastic rollers .They were bad enough to get straight . Start with Victorian wooden sliders so the drawers can be maintained with sandpaper, chisels ,candle grease and some shoving and pushing when needed . Give your house some individual character . Just stand firm and defy the onslaught of technical wizardry .
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+1 on spacers.

A drilling guide is the game changer for me. You can buy them but I just make them as I'm often using different brands. Basically a piece of ply the same width as the slide with a stop block on the end so I can use on both sides. Saves the aggravation of drilling holes with slide in cabinet.

Both the cabinet and drawer need to be square for a perfect working slide.
I'm considering a significant kitchen cabinetry job in my own house and found informative videos on building basic cabinets, as well as face frames, drawer slides and drawer making posted to Youtube by a guy whose company is called Bourbon Moth.
He's a little campy, but his information is GREAT, in my opinion. Have a look…he's a big fan of undermount slides…and he tells why in his video.

Good luck.
spacers, out of scrap. if doing multiple. do the top ones first so you can cut it down for the lower ones.
You want your sides to be perfectly straight and parallel then you need to make sure your cabs are "perfectly straight and parallel" or nothing else will fit. 1/16" is a LOT where slides are concerned.
When the subject is side mounted slides. Spacers work for me. Only thing I need to measure is the spacer. Of course you need a rudimentary idea of what drawer sizes will fill the hole. I think most people try to make the drawers fit exactly. Using a false mount drawer front allows you to build shorter drawers, and fill openings with a larger false front.

For starting on drawers I suggest this method. Once you have a set or 3 of drawers under your belt, and with that the understanding it's easily doable, you can start working on tolerance fits.
A digital (Wixey-style) level with a magnetic base is a good way to verify the slides are level; much easier to read in cramped dark spaces than a bubble.

Also, just in case your cabinet isn't perfectly square, make sure that the slides are perfectly square horizontally with the face frame.
I used spacer templates with the holes for the slides drilled into one of them. Use the right side of the template for the left side of the case and the left side of the spacer for the right side of the case. Make another template for the drawer box sides using the case template to get the holes to line up exactly. Worked great on the drawer cabinet I'm building for my roubo bench.
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