WW cl@ss - fliptop cabinet part 4: Building the drawer

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Recovering tool addict
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Fliptop cabinet part 1
Fliptop cabinet part 2
Fliptop cabinet part 3

Making the drawer parts
If this is your first drawer, you may be somewhat intimidated by the use of slides. I certainly was. Before you start making the drawer, make sure you have the slides in hand. I purchased a set from Lowe’s, the 16” heavy duty 100lb ones. The brand is is Knapp-Voght. Any brand will do, but I suggest you get the full extension kind for easy access. Note that the slides are 16” long, the drawer is 17” deep, and the cabinet 18”! I sort of lucked out with the dimensions; I had not considered standard drawer slide lengths. Note that since the material is ¾” plywood, there is barely any “loss” having only 16” of travel for the 17” drawer.

Check the instructions that come with your slides. They will tell you how much space the slides will take up, usually this is between 1” and 1 1/16”. With a drawer opening of 21”, the drawer should be between 19 15/16 and 20” wide. When in doubt, lean towards the narrower end. You can always use a little blue tape underneath the slides to shim them, but making a drawer narrower is much harder.

The drawer parts will be joined via a lock rabbet. See diagram 10.


Diagram 10

There is no way I can explain how to cut this, so please take a look at the video from Wood Magazine. Since the drawer is made of ¾” plywood, you’ll need to use a 3/8” blade and a 3/8” shim. If you cut the front- and back piece to 19¼”, the width should be perfect: The drawer sides will add half of twice the material thickness, which will be just under ¾”, making the drawer a hair under 20”.

If the lock rabbet looks too complicated, cut the front- and back piece to 18½” and use butt joints instead. Add some biscuits, brads or screws for strength. Your drawer will now only last 40 years instead of 50.

Cut the panel for the bottom of the drawer to 19" x 16". To make the ¼” groove in the drawer for the bottom, you can use either the table saw or the router. If you go with the router, you’ll need a plywood bit that’s just under ¼”. The front- and back piece receive through dados, but the side pieces need stopped dados. Well, stopped at the back anyway, since the front will be covered by the drawer face. Nobody is ever going to see the back though, so don’t feel you’re compromising if you just make a through dado.

The other option is to cut the groove on the table saw. If you choose this method, then your dados have to be through dados. With the fence set at ¼”, cut a groove in all four pieces. Depending on the blade kerf, this groove will be 1/8” or 3/32” wide. Cut a groove into a few pieces of scrap as well. Now nudge the fence over a smidgen, and using a scrap piece cut a second groove, widening the first one. Test to see if the plywood fits. If it’s too tight, move the fence over a little more, and repeat the second cut. If it’s too loose….that’s why you cut more than one piece of scrap, right?

Whichever method you use, make sure you cut the groove a smidgen deeper than 1/4". This will ensure the panel will fit without issues.

I added a vertical groove in the middle of the long sides, so that I could add a drawer divider. This groove should also be 1/4" wide and 1/4" deep. If you want to include this, cut the divider 16"x6" from the same material used for the bottom.

Assembling the drawer
With all the parts and joints cut, it’s time to assemble the drawer. Do a dryfit first, and make sure everything is square. You may need to use some sandpaper on the rabbets to get everything to fit. Also, make sure the bottom panel isn't too large.

This is a simple glue-up, yellow glue will work fine. Brush glue on all parts of the joints, and a few dabs inside each groove for the bottom. Join the front to a side, add the plywood panel, and add the back. Finally, add the remaining side.

I used 10 clamps, see diagram 11. Four of them go along the long edge (AB, CD, EF, GH). Four clamps go along the short edge, AE, CG, BF, DH. I used bar clamps for this, they go between the parallel clamp faces. These clamps aren’t nearly as important, they just ensure good contact. Finally, I used two clamps X1Y1 and X2Y2 to ensure the front and back make contact with the bottom panel.

Light pressure is all that’s needed. Check the drawer for square, and adjust the clamping pressure if needed.

Diagram 11

A note on clamping: Some people think that you should clamp as tightly as possible, and squeeze all that is unholy out of the joint. That’s not a bad strategy, but I’ve found that overclamping is the most effective way to get a drawer or cabinet out of square. Tighten the clamps until it takes effort and you see some squeezeout, but stop before the veins begin to stand out on your forehead.

Now it’s time to make the drawer front. I used a piece of beech, 7/8” thick, 6¾” tall and 20¾” wide. When centered on the drawer, there is a 3/8” edge all around. Since the drawer opening is 21” wide, there will be a 1/8” reveal left & right (21” – drawer width of 20” – 3/8” left edge – 3/8 “ right edge = ¼” = 1/8” reveal on either side). The reveal on top and bottom will have a similar reveal on the top and bottom when installed.

The drawer front will be attached with four #8 1¼” screws. There is a great tip in the one of the Wood Magazine videos on how to line up the drawer front so you have an even reveal, then using the holes for the hardware to temporarily attach the front to the drawer. Here’s a summary: Locate and drill the holes for the drawer pull in the drawer front. This only works if the pull uses two bolts. Partially drive two 1¼” wood screws into these holes, until they’re almost through the front. Position the drawer front against the drawer, and place 1/8” shims between the cabinet and the top, left and right sides. This will center it. Now drive the screws into the drawer (don’t over tighten). Pull the drawer out and drill four pilot holes from inside the drawer into the drawer front, and drive in the screws. Once secure, you can remove the two temporary screws.

Remove the drawer front from the drawer. Countersink the two hardware holes on the back side of the drawer front. Push the bolts that came with the pull into the drawer front, and make sure they’re flush. Now attach the pull. Reattach the drawer front to the drawer.

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