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Alternatives to drawer slides for smooth action?

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Forum topic by Dustin posted 09-10-2018 05:15 PM 1828 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dustin

689 posts in 1125 days


09-10-2018 05:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Well, after word got out about a standing desk I built for a professor last year, one of his colleagues is now requesting something similar. I’m trying to sell them on the idea of a drawer, rather than a shelf under the top, and wanted to throw a question out to the community.

In my last project building a small kitchen appliance table for some friends (http://lumberjocks.com/projects/387298), I built two drawers with no slide hardware. They just glide on some runners that I made sure to take extra time to align and wax. And while that works fine for smaller drawers, the one on this desk would be around 30” wide x 20” deep x 5.5” high. I’d rather not use mechanical drawer slides, but I’m concerned that building it as I did those smaller ones will make it a bit cumbersome to slide in and out.

Does anyone have some references to different methods of drawer construction, particularly any that you’ve personally used, that my fit the bill of providing a decent sliding action without the use of the aforementioned hardware?

Thanks in advance!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."


25 replies so far

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

2669 posts in 1607 days


#1 posted 09-10-2018 06:21 PM

The key to decent sliding action is a proper fit (and consideration for wood movement). The best thing I have found for ultra smooth action are the HDPE (or other plastics) inserts that take the load/abuse on the drawer runners.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5205 posts in 4345 days


#2 posted 09-10-2018 09:08 PM

I guess that I must ask why are you opposed to mechanical guides?

-- [email protected]

View BroncoBrian's profile

BroncoBrian

875 posts in 2343 days


#3 posted 09-10-2018 09:16 PM

I am with Bill. Why not metal side mounted glides. They are quiet, smooth, and cost a little bit, but save you a lot of time. I would also say they are expected, so no harm in using them.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

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CWWoodworking

478 posts in 564 days


#4 posted 09-10-2018 09:31 PM


The key to decent sliding action is….

Metal drawer slides

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

688 posts in 1487 days


#5 posted 09-11-2018 03:31 AM

I built a chest of drawers some years ago without metal slides. The drawers are over 30” wide and work smoothly and easily. The key, in my case, was a center guide for each drawer. and the use of hdpe plastic strips for the wood runners to slide on. There are those who informed me that they build wide drawers that work smoothly without the center guide. I’m not that good. For me, the precisely made center guide keeps the drawer from racking and binding.

View EarlS's profile

EarlS

2784 posts in 2733 days


#6 posted 09-11-2018 11:37 AM

“The key to decent sliding action is a proper fit (and consideration for wood movement). The best thing I have found for ultra smooth action are the HDPE (or other plastics) inserts that take the load/abuse on the drawer runners.”

+1 – Splintergroup

If you mount the UHMW or HDPE slide inside the box and cut the slot for the slid in the side of the drawer you won’t ever see the white HDPE. Cut a shallow slot for the HDPE inside the box and then use some flat countersunk screws to secure it.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 875 days


#7 posted 09-11-2018 12:28 PM


I guess that I must ask why are you opposed to mechanical guides?

- Bill White

That’s what I was wondering. I grew up near Mennonite country in Ontario, and they’re known for their traditional techniques. Yet, they still use metal slides as they work much better.

View TheRamenShaman's profile

TheRamenShaman

2 posts in 277 days


#8 posted 09-11-2018 01:23 PM

In my hometown we have a furniture company that ditches the runners all together. What they did- to my knowledge- is make the drawers completely flush with the dresser and then line the bottom with a generous coat of paraffin wax. Works like a charm. Hope this helps!

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TheRamenShaman

2 posts in 277 days


#9 posted 09-11-2018 01:29 PM

This technique will work on a drawer of your description as well.

View Dustin's profile

Dustin

689 posts in 1125 days


#10 posted 09-11-2018 01:39 PM

Sorry for the delay in response, folks, been a little busy at work.

As to why I’m avoiding slides…well, it’s really just a conceptual preference. I know it’s a little silly, but once I add slides to something, it feels sort of “cabinet-y”. If absolutely necessary, under-mount slides would be a potential option, but I definitely wouldn’t want to go with side-mounts, purely our of aesthetics. Believe me, I’m well aware that my idiosyncrasies cause me more problems than they solve :p

Namely, I’m interested in this as we have a few pieces of decently made furniture at our house, and the largest chest of drawers have no metal slides, yet still function quite nicely despite their weight. I’m interested in learning to do it this way-sans hardware-as a matter of expanding my woodworking knowledge. That said, I plan on rebuilding all our kitchen drawers this year (currently plastic garbage), and will be using the Blum under-mount slides when I do so.

I hadn’t thought of using HDPE, but have been meaning to buy some stock just to keep around the shop for various uses, so this sounds like a good time to investigate this further.

Thanks everyone for your replies!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

688 posts in 1487 days


#11 posted 09-11-2018 02:33 PM


I hadn t thought of using HDPE, but have been meaning to buy some stock just to keep around the shop for various uses, so this sounds like a good time to investigate this further.

- Dustin

Don’t overlook the thin self stick HDPE tape. Very handy.

View Walker's profile

Walker

159 posts in 857 days


#12 posted 09-11-2018 02:44 PM

also known as low friction tape or “Slick” tape.

https://www.woodcraft.com/products/slick-strips-3-4-width-1-32-thick

-- ~Walker

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

9480 posts in 1523 days


#13 posted 09-11-2018 02:59 PM



“The key to decent sliding action is a proper fit (and consideration for wood movement). The best thing I have found for ultra smooth action are the HDPE (or other plastics) inserts that take the load/abuse on the drawer runners.”

+1 – Splintergroup

If you mount the UHMW or HDPE slide inside the box and cut the slot for the slid in the side of the drawer you won t ever see the white HDPE. Cut a shallow slot for the HDPE inside the box and then use some flat countersunk screws to secure it.

- EarlS

I used the method Earl suggests in this dresser except I used Oak runners rather than HDPE. So far, the loaded drawers function perfectly. I put small tabs on the backs of the drawer boxes that can be flipped up so the drawers won’t completely come out.
Click for details

I used the same method in this small cabinet with HDPE runners. However, I forgot to drill holes for screws before I glued the cabinet up so I ended up putting the runners on the drawers instead. Works fine for shop fixtures. Wouldn’t do it for anything nice though!
Click for details

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Dustin's profile

Dustin

689 posts in 1125 days


#14 posted 09-11-2018 03:59 PM


“The key to decent sliding action is a proper fit (and consideration for wood movement). The best thing I have found for ultra smooth action are the HDPE (or other plastics) inserts that take the load/abuse on the drawer runners.”

+1 – Splintergroup

If you mount the UHMW or HDPE slide inside the box and cut the slot for the slid in the side of the drawer you won t ever see the white HDPE. Cut a shallow slot for the HDPE inside the box and then use some flat countersunk screws to secure it.

- EarlS

I used the method Earl suggests in this dresser except I used Oak runners rather than HDPE. So far, the loaded drawers function perfectly. I put small tabs on the backs of the drawer boxes that can be flipped up so the drawers won t completely come out.
Click for details

I used the same method in this small cabinet with HDPE runners. However, I forgot to drill holes for screws before I glued the cabinet up so I ended up putting the runners on the drawers instead. Works fine for shop fixtures. Wouldn t do it for anything nice though!
Click for details

- HokieKen

Kenny for the win! And what a beautiful dresser that’s sure to become an heirloom. I admire the amount of work you put into those pulls, but I tend to favor round. I actually like square pulls better, but the possibility of them rotating slightly and becoming askew gives me a minor anxiety attack :p

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View EarlS's profile

EarlS

2784 posts in 2733 days


#15 posted 09-11-2018 05:21 PM

I have used the slick tape on the bottom of the drawer so that it slides along the cleats or whatever wood males up the bottom of the box opening, as long as it has something to slide on. The biggest problem is that it is a sloppy slide, both side to side and top to bottom. Plus you can’t open it too far or the whole drawer falls out.

Another option is the bottom mounted dovetail slide. It’s not visible and it is reasonably tight but still has problems when the drawer is half open or more.

If your drawer is big, or heavy, or you want to open it all the way you probably need metal glides. I used 100 lb glides on the drawers in our built in closets since they were deep, wide, and needed to be able to pull out all the way.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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