Wooden Drawer Guides Question

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Forum topic by Joshua Oehler posted 06-27-2015 05:12 AM 1296 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Joshua Oehler

169 posts in 2205 days

06-27-2015 05:12 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Looking for a few decent ideas here. I have recently been reorganizing my workshop. detail of the cabinet I am making these drawers for can be seen in my blog entry Here. I have plans for there to be about 15 drawers in this span of base cabinets. Unfortunately I am not going to be able to afford to buy that many sets of good quality drawer guides so I am left with going the cheap route. My issue is this is something that I want to last. I am planning on making the drawers out of 1/2” ply. I have plans for 2 large drawers for big tools that I will be making out of 3/4” ply and will be spending the money on some heavy duty guides for those 2 drawers. The others howerever are mostly going to be holding small tools, sanding stuff, screws etc so nothing with any obscene amount of weight. I was just curious on other woodworkers thoughts on the best way to handle making drawers for shop cabinets on w wood guides. Mainly as in different ways to construct & attach them.

-- - "But old news can change, as memories float downstream. So don't judge me by my failures, only by my dreams"

7 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


2499 posts in 2312 days

#1 posted 06-27-2015 06:07 AM

I like the basic L shape runner one left one right.A center mount slide is something to consider when the drawer is wider than it is deep. Sounds like fun good luck.

-- Aj

View Robert's profile


3544 posts in 1995 days

#2 posted 06-27-2015 09:50 AM

Just kickers and runners attached front and back with screws.

You could also put a dado on sides of drawers and a runner.

I like to inset the back a few inches to simulate a full extension slide.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View pauljuilleret's profile


107 posts in 2167 days

#3 posted 06-27-2015 11:14 AM

like Aj2 said I like to use the L shaped runners then I use what Lee Valley calls slippery tape on the runners it comes in a 1” wide X 18’ roll cost is $12.90/ roll I just bought 4 rolls for a wall unit I’m building Lee Valley’s item number is 25U0401 I just got this the other day so the info is up to date I gave you.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1906 days

#4 posted 06-27-2015 11:35 AM

So others have already commented on the type of drawer guides to use.

Let me just suggest that because you are talking about using some sort of home-made guides, the construction and design of the drawers them selves and the cabinet they will fit into becomes more critical.

In order to avoid the frustration of occasional weather related binding you will need to consider “wood movement” (aka expansion and contraction) and how it could, if not considered carefully, cause the drawers to bind up on humid days. Consider both the species of the wood to use and also the grain direction for both the part on the cabinet side and the part on the drawer side…and of course, subtle changes in the “size” of the whole drawer with humidity.

Also pay careful attention to wood and finish symmetry in your design and build. We are all familiar with the fact that a panel that is veneered on only one side will cup. To a lesser extent, any differences between your two sides, or the front and back of the drawers in terms of how they grow with moisture will cause shape changes that will warp and twist the drawers and cause binding. Wood runners will be less forgiving in this regard then ball-bearing runners.

The other thing is that because any wood-based runner will be less forgiving of things like slight racking and twisting, the joinery for each drawer box needs to be better than what would be required for drawers with slides. For something like this, probably box joints for the drawer corners would be a good choice…rather than something more simple like lap joints. Make sure the bottoms float in an ample dado slot so that wood movement of the drawer bottom doesn’t cause the drawer to grow and shrink and twist.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View Joshua Oehler's profile

Joshua Oehler

169 posts in 2205 days

#5 posted 06-27-2015 05:18 PM

Thanks everyone. I live in Southwest Florida AKA the humidity capital of the US. I am used to dealing with a good deal of wood movement. That is one of the main reasons why I am not making the drawers themselves out of solid wood. My initial thought that I was going to use solid wood and get in some dovetail practice but I have decided against that at least for these base cabinets. I am planning on building some wall tool cabinets out of some nice hardwoods that I can practice on those drawers. The L Shaped runners is what I was thinking as well. I just wanted to get some other opinions on the matter. My only other thought to help with possible racking issues was some kind of center rail that was guided. Maybe something like a long sliding dovetail. Due to the amount of humidity and possible wood movement though I quickly talked myself out of that method.

-- - "But old news can change, as memories float downstream. So don't judge me by my failures, only by my dreams"

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1906 days

#6 posted 06-27-2015 11:26 PM

Another simple solution that you don’t see very often, but seems to me like the best solution for anything where you might have a lot of weight in a drawer…no slides at all.

Here’s what I’m thinking…flat bottomed drawer riding on a “shelf”. The sides of the drawer should be almost as wide as the cabinet, so that the sides of the cabinet make it move in and out in a straight line, but not tight enough to ever bind. The whole bottom of the drawer slides on the shelf below it. You would want to work out your rabbits/dado’s such that the bottom of the drawer is flush with the bottom of the sides.

Sure, this kind of a drawer will ride a little rough compared to ball bearing slides, but it should hold any amount of tool weight, and last for a century or more.

No doubt this type of a drawer has a name…I’m just not quite old enough to know what it is.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View BurlyBob's profile


6517 posts in 2780 days

#7 posted 06-28-2015 04:43 AM

Joshua, I inherited large cabinet bench My Dad had built for his crew in a radar maintenance unit back in the 60’s. It’s basic all plywood except for a minimal lumber frame. The drawers use to stick like crazy. I used a furniture paste wax on the bottom edges of the drawers and the runners. Now they are almost as smooth as mechanical slides. I did that 2 years ago and this past spring I gave them all a rub with some paraffin. You might to keep that in mind and give it a try.

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