Fast-and-Easy Drawer Boxes

Fast-and-Easy Drawer Boxes

A unique router table, with
two machines, does the trick.

By Jeff Corns

Making drawers can chew
up a lot of time-unless you’ve got an
efficient system. I’ve worked in several
cabinetmaking shops where drawers
are made fast. I’ve adopted their
methods for my home shop, where I
often make cabinets that require lots of
drawers. But even if you don’t need to
work fast, this system works quite well.

As drawers go, this design is pretty
simple. It’s a classic four-piece drawer
box, made from 1/2″ Baltic birch.
It’s intended for utilitarian furniture,
not showpieces. The box is dadoed,
glued, and nailed together: joinery
that’s strong enough for a drawer that
runs on slides. After the box is built,
it receives an applied front, which is
usually hardwood or edge-banded
plywood.

Let’s begin with a drawer-making
station I built that saves a lot of set-up
time (Photo 1).

1. I built a dedicated router table for quickly making lots of drawers. It has
two routers: the left machine has a 1/4″ straight bit, and the right machine
has a 1/2″ straight bit. Both bits stick up 1/4″.
Click any image to view a larger version.

2. To begin making a drawer, put a box on the right-hand fence.
The box has 1/2″ thick sides, and the bit is located 1/2″ from the
fence, so the front side of the box is even with the bit.

3. Rout rabbets across one end of both drawer sides. The rabbets
will receive the drawer front. After routing, remove the
box and set it aside.

4. Rout dados across the opposite ends of the drawer sides.
The dados will receive the drawer back.

5. Place the two drawer sides together and mark the sides
that will be grooved to receive the drawer bottom.

6. Rout grooves along the inside faces of both drawer sides
using the second router in the table. This bit is positioned
3/8″ away from the fence.

7. When you’re done, you’ll have a matched pair of drawer
sides. That’s it for routing; now move on to calculating the
length of the front and back pieces.

8. Hold the two drawer sides back-to-back. Place a ruler across the two rabbets to directly calculate the front and back pieces’
length. For example, the ruler reads 16-3/16″ at right, the size of the finished drawer; at left, the ruler reads 15-11/16″, the length
to cut the front and back pieces. Rip the fronts the same width as the sides; rip the back piece 5/8″ narrower than the sides.

9. Temporarily assemble the drawer. Make the bottom from
1/4″ plywood. Rip it 1/32″ narrower than the length of the
front and back pieces. Crosscut it 1″ extra-long. Slide in the
bottom and mark its length to be flush with the back.

10. Using a different router table, round over the top edges of
the drawer parts using a 1/4″ roundover bit. Flip each piece
over and rout both sides.

11. Assemble the drawer using glue and 1″ long 18-gauge
brads. Place the drawer parts upside down, to align their top
edges. Start with the back corners.

12. Glue and nail the front. Then slide the bottom in almost all
of the way, and turn the drawer over.

13. Run a bead of glue across the end of the drawer bottom,
then push the bottom into the front groove. Turn the
drawer over.

14. To make sure the drawer is square, nest it inside two strips
screwed to a large piece of plywood. Fasten the bottom
using 1/4″ crown staples, 3/4″ long.

15. Add glue blocks around the bottom.
They’re 3/8″ square and 2″ long. Just rub
them in place; they don’t need to be nailed.
These blocks hold the drawer square and
keep the bottom from rattling if it fits loose
in the grooves.

Add slides and
mount the drawer
in the cabinet. Attach
the solid-wood front
piece with double-faced
tape, then open the drawer
and fasten the front with screws
from the inside.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February/March 2009, issue #140.

Purchase this back issue.