Assembling Drawers

Assembling a drawer so it fits an opening perfectly can be a challenge. These shop-tested techniques will get you off to a great start.

Assembling a drawer seems fairly simple. Cut the parts to size, do a little joinery, then just glue it up.

Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. The process can be challenging, hectic, and an effort in frustration. Plus, it's all too easy to end up with a drawer that's a bit out of square or twisted so much that fitting it into an opening is all but impossible.

So what can you do to make the process of assembling a drawer easier and ensure success? Simple. Just follow the assembly tips and tricks that follow. They've been tested on the hundreds of drawers built in our shop over the years.


One of the best ways to ensure success is to assemble the drawer parts before you pull out a bottle of glue (Tip #1) — a "dry" assembly.

As you do this, it's a good idea to mark all the parts of each drawer clearly (Hp #2). This keeps matched drawer parts together and prevents problems from popping up later on.

I start dry assembling parts right after I cut the joinery for the comers but before I cut the grooves for the drawer bottom. By doing this, you can see whether the top and bottom edges are flush at the corners (Tip #3).

A small offset isn't a problem. You can easily sand or plane it flush. The problem is cutting the grooves before you do this. This results in offset grooves — and the bottom may not slide into place during assembly.


The location of the drawer bottom isn't the only area of concern. For instance, the drawer bottoms I use






/. Dry assemble all parts before gluing to check for problems

Be sure top and bottom edges are flush before cutting grooves for drawer bottom

6. Size drawer bottom %" less in width and length i :Vr_

Use combination blade to size groove to match thickness of drawer bottom



5, Locate groove so It's hidden by Joinery


7. Chamfer edges of drawer bottom for ease of assembly

2. Mark all drawer parts to avoid confusion

Joinery Particle Board Bed

15. Prefinlsh Inside faces to prevent glue squeeze out from sticking

13. Slow-set glue gives 12. Tighten clamps just you more assembly time enough to close joint

10. Assembly ]lg makes squaring drawer a snap

' % Melamine-covered base kz. Jps drawer flat and prevents a glue squeezeout from sticking

14. Use drop of glue at center of each drawer groove to secure drawer bottom at assembly time

8. Always measure diagonals to check for square

9. Skew clamp slightly to square up drawer

front and back to the sides, you have to deal with all the long grooves that hold the drawer bottom in place.

There are a couple things I like to do here that minimize the hassle and mess. First, I like to use a slow-set glue (Tip #13). It gives me enough time to apply glue where it needs to be without having to worry about a joint "seizing" up before everything comes together.

And instead of applying glue the entire length of the groove, I simply drop in a dab of glue right in the center of each groove, like you see in Tip #14. It's more than enough to lock the bottom in place and still help strengthen the drawer.

Cleaning up excess glue on the inside of the drawer is a pain. Wiping or scraping it out without marring the inside faces or simply making a mess is almost impossible.

To avoid this problem, you can pre-finish the inside face of all the drawer parts (Tip #15). I like to use a couple coats of shellac for this. Any glue squeezeout will peel right off.

As you can see, assembling a drawer doesn't have to be a challenge. Even if you only use a few of the tips and tricks shown here, the process will be a whole lot easier. S5

are made from V4" plywood or hard-board. The problem is these materials are often slightly less than 'A" thick. So using a V4" dado blade to cut the grooves results in a loose fit.

To custom fit the groove to the thickness of the bottom, I use my combination blade and cut the groove in a couple passes, as in Hp #4.

There's one last thing to consider about cutting a groove for a drawer bottom. If you're using dovetails (or box joints) to assemble the drawers, be sure to locate the groove where it won't be seen, as shown in Hp #5.

Once you have the groove cut, there are a couple more tips that can make assembly easier. For starters, to allow the drawer bottom to slip into place easily, I like to cut the drawer bottom a Vi6" less in width and length (Tip #6). This way, the corner joints will pull together tightly. Finally, a slight chamfer around the edges of the bottom makes it easy to slip into the groove, as in Hp #7.


For a drawer to fit and work well, it's important that it's flat and square. So as soon as I've clamped the drawer together, I make sure to check for square by measuring


Despite its small size, gluing up a drawer can be a challenge. Besides gluing the joints used to connect the across the diagonals, like Tip #8 shows. Equal measurements are what you're looking for here.

So what do you do if the measurements differ? The easiest thing to do here is to adjust the position of the clamps and angle them slightly in the same direction as the long diagonal, as illustrated in Tip #9. This will "pull" the drawer square.

If I have a number of drawers to make, I use a handy assembly jig, like you see in Hp #10 above. The jig is nothing more than a pair of cleats screwed to a base at a 90° angle. Making the base out of a piece of melamine-covered particleboard (Hp #11) serves a couple purposes. First, it provides a very flat surface that virtually eliminates any twist. And second, any glue that squeezes out easily pops right off.

Regardless of whether you use a jig or not to square up the drawer, be sure you don't overtighten the clamps (Hp #12). It's all too easy to pull the drawer back out of square and even bow the sides in.

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  • victor
    How to assemble platform bed with drawers?
    8 years ago

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