Basic drawers lor ordinary pieces require no fitting—just make them smaller (allowing for expansion) than the height and width of the opening and slide them in.
But for that special piece, you'll want something better. 1 remember marveling the fiiNt time I opened a drawer in a cabinet made at Edward Bamslev's shop in England. It seemed to glide as if on a cushion of air. with almost no movement up and down or side to side, until it was practically out of the case. There was so little tolerance in the fit that when one drawer was pushed in, it compressed the air behind it. forcing the others in the case to slide out slightly.
When I attempt such a fit. I start by making the drawer as close to the size of the opening as I can. I plane the drawer front so it just slips in place and I cut the back to the same length. 1 plane the width of the drawer sides so they'll just squeeze between the carcase rails above and below. Then, after joining and assembling the drawer, the back and forth begins: I try the drawer in its opening, then shave a bit off its sides or top edges, then back to the opening and so on. When all the drawers fit like I want, I plane the fronts to make the gaps that are visible around the fronts uniform.
Since the drawer sides will expand and contract very little in thickness, the fit can be closer across the width of the opening than across its height. Ideally, the outer faces of the drawer sides slide against the carcase sides (or against the guide strips in a frame-and-panel carcase) like a piston in a cylinder. In prac tice. you'll get the same effect if you fit each drawer so it's most snug near the front of the opening. One of Bamslev's cabinetmakers told me that they would stick a slip of paper under the blade of the square when laying out the carcase joints to make the case just slightly wider at the back than the front.
It is expansion in height that causes headaches. Shortly after I returned from England, keen to show off what I had learned, I made and fitted all the drawers in a friends kitchen to the closest tolerances I could muster. I installed the cabinets in midwinter and basked in her"oohs" and "aahs" as she marveled at the fit. Come the spring, however, she couldn't move a single drawer. Nebraska, with its swings between bone-dry winter and humid summer, certainly wasn't mild, mellow England. The drawer sides expanded despite the use of well-seasoned quartersawn white oak, I had to plane off as much as '/* in. on some AVi-'in. wide drawer sides to get them to slide freely again.
The lesson: Pay attention to seasonal conditions in the house or room where the piece will live. II possible. fit drawers at the wettest time of the year— drawers that shrink can still be opened.
Drawers side-hung on wooden fillets can also be fitted to close tolerances. Either the drawer sides can slide against the carcase sides or the contact can be restricted to that between the fillet and the groove. Some commereiallv made drawer slides allow little play, while others are quite sloppy. Ask your dealer if you can see installed samples.—/?.//.
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