Drawer construction?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by bluchz posted 10-20-2009 12:58 AM 7190 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View bluchz's profile


187 posts in 4292 days

10-20-2009 12:58 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining

I know, i know, i get it dovetail drawers are the creme de la creme of drawer construction, i get it and i still have questions.
Can you make dovetails in plywood? or maybe would you?

Do quality high end kitchen cabinets use wood or ply for drawer(side)construction?

Are dovetails that much stronger than rabbit dado drawer construction?

-- flash=250,100][/flash]

13 replies so far

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1522 posts in 5044 days

#1 posted 10-20-2009 02:29 AM

I’ve tried to make router cut dovetails in ApplePly, and had no luck. The stuff just splintered way too much. Hand-cut dovetails should be totally doable.

I’m using ApplePly for my kitchen drawers because of dimensional stability, I’ve seen both good quality plywoods and solid wood construction in high end kitchens. I think that it’s largely a “what do you prefer” thing, the solid wood kitchens I’ve seen have also just used waxed wood for runners, where I’m a ‘give me the ball bearing soft-close undermount’ kind of guy.

And I went with Domino construction for my drawers, a rabbeted edge probably isn’t going to be quite as strong as a dovetail, but the other nice thing about plywood drawer construction is that you can glue the base in, which means even just butt joints would be pretty indestructible.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1921 posts in 4591 days

#2 posted 10-20-2009 02:41 AM

Norm does it all the time!!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

View a1Jim's profile


118145 posts in 4496 days

#3 posted 10-20-2009 03:02 AM

customers ask about dovetails and ether ply or hard wood works for drawer sides


View cabinetmaster's profile


10873 posts in 4477 days

#4 posted 10-20-2009 03:04 AM

I would use Baltic Birch ply for drawers. Will not splinter out like regular ply when dovetailing. Makes beautiful drawers too.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 4283 days

#5 posted 10-20-2009 03:26 AM

If you want to go plywood, I agree with Cabinetmaster and baltic birch gives a good result. I usually use ash for my furniture drawer boxes (strong, cheaper than oak, finishes nicely). Check out drawer lock router bits if you don’t want to bother with a dovetails.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1522 posts in 5044 days

#6 posted 10-20-2009 03:31 AM

Cabinetmaster, what’s your trick (if any) on the dovetails in ply? With ApplePly and the Leigh Super jig and bits I’ve tried everything I can imagine and I’m still getting splintering.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View GFYS's profile


711 posts in 4390 days

#7 posted 10-20-2009 04:49 AM

lead cutting in on first pass “on the run side” (right to left) then finish up left to right

View mski's profile


442 posts in 4899 days

#8 posted 10-20-2009 05:21 AM

My router table, China 1/2” ply, cut on Incra jig with a backer board, I squirt the ends of the board with Super Glue before cutting, helps keep splintering to a minimum. Third drawer down has a black mystery additive from China not a void.

china ply


View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 4267 days

#9 posted 10-20-2009 07:15 PM


To your specific question most ‘high end’ cabinet showrooms look down their noses at plywood drawer construction. However, this is a marketing racket to drive up costs. Discussing the choice between plywood (Baltic/ApplePly) and solid wood drawer construction in kitchen cabinets I present the issue as a ‘roi’ issue and a ‘put your money where everyone is going to see it all the time’. Many see the wisdom in this but some do not.

There is an article somewhere (I just can’t seem to locate right now) that did strength tests on various drawer construction joints and it’s results (as I recall) was that among the various ‘quality’ joints (ignoring butt joints, etc.) the difference in strength was marginal and well exceeded anything that could be considered ‘normal use’. Even finger joints did very, what it didn’t have in mechanical strength it made up for in glue surface.

So, my advice would be sure you can make high quality cabinets with plywood and don’t let perceived strength differences determine what joint to use.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View Dave's profile


38 posts in 3934 days

#10 posted 04-09-2011 07:32 AM

If you are getting chipout or splintering try using a sacrificial board next to and behind any boards that you can. I also like to apply blue painters tape on the surface or pre-finish the components first. I also travel from right to left which instead of pulling out the chip it pushes into the cut and doesn’t chip.

View Dave's profile


38 posts in 3934 days

#11 posted 04-09-2011 07:33 AM

View ScottN's profile


262 posts in 3598 days

#12 posted 04-09-2011 02:36 PM

I know this has nothing to do with dovetailing but dovetails are sooooo over rated. 90% of the drawers I make are dovetails…still hate doing them. The other 10% I like doing sliding dovetails…soooo much faster. I just built some shop cabinets and kreg jigged them together. I really enjoyed making them…super fast. :D

-- New Auburn,WI

View CharlieM1958's profile


16289 posts in 5137 days

#13 posted 04-09-2011 03:30 PM

Dovetailed drawers are for looks. Period. If you like the was they look, by all means use them. But modern glues and joinery techniques make them unnecessary from a structural standpoint.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics