Four Good Ways to Build Drawers

Hand-cut Dovetails
This is the traditional, and many would argue, the strongest way to make a drawer. Traditional drawers have through-dovetails at the back of the box and half-blind dovetails at the front.

Our favorite technique is to make the drawer sides, front and bottom using 1⁄2″-thick stock and then glue on a 1⁄4″ -thick piece of veneer for the front. This technique allows you to cut through-dovetails at all four joints (which is easier) and to stretch your supply of good drawer-front material.

This method is the most time-consuming of the four in this article. But that’s the cost of strength and endurance.

Drawer-lock Bits
This specialty router bit allows you to cut all the corner joints with one router table setup. With minor adjustments the bit will even mill the groove for the bottom.

Drawer-lock joints are easy to assemble and attractive. The interlocking design is strong and  offers significant gluing surface.

The downside to this method is that you need to make several test cuts to get the settings perfect, and you need to purchase a fairly pricey router bit  – about $30 to $55 depending on the brand.

Rabbets and Brads
When we need to make drawers fast, this is the way we go. You can cut all the joinery for your drawer (including the bottom groove) with just a stack dado and one setup on your table saw.

It’s a fairly forgiving technique that beginners master quickly. It’s only real downside is that it’s the weakest of the four joints. While the drawer is plenty strong for most applications, it’s not in the same league as a traditional dovetailed drawer.

— Christopher Schwarz