Four Good Ways to Build Drawers


Some woodworkers swear by the router. And why not? It’s a great tool for many applications − including making drawers. By using a drawer lock bit in a router table it’s a simple process to quickly create dozens of hardwood drawers (plywood isn’t advised) and end up with strong, attractive joints. It doesn’t matter how deep, wide or tall your drawer is. With the bit set, all you do is run the inside edge of each side – no adjustment necessary.

There’s always a trade-off, and with drawer lock bits it’s price and set-up. Though you’ll need only one bit, it can cost as much as $55. Once you have the bit, it’s critical to get it set correctly in your router table for a tight, accurate fit.

While the following steps walk you through the setups for a simple inset drawer, the bit can also be used for overlay drawers and also allow clearance for mechanical drawer slides. By first rabbeting the necessary clearance on the backside of the drawer fronts, the same bit will once again do all the joints for any of these drawers. — David Thiel

First set the bit to 1/2″ high. This probably isn’t the final setting, but it will put you in the ballpark. Make sure the router is unplugged for any step that puts your hands (or tools) near the bit.

The second setup step is to align the rear cutting flute flush to the fence face.  A small rule or straightedge makes this quick. To make things easier, it’s also a good idea to set the fence parallel to the miter gauge slot at this time. Note that your fence faces should be set as close to the bit as possible.

Now it’s time to adjust the final bit height. Run two pieces of scrap material (the thickness of the scrap doesn’t need to match your workpieces) flat against the table supporting the cut with your miter gauge. A perfect mating fit is shown. If the tongues fit all the way into the socket, great; but if the fit is loose, raise the bit.

Make the first cuts on both ends of the sides, with the inside surface against the fence. Use a backing block to stabilize the drawer side and avoid tear-out. This same setup will create the bottom grooves in the front and sides.

To run the drawer front and back, the fence must be reset. Unplug the router, then use one of the sides to adjust the fence to set the protruding flute of the bit flush to the outside edge of the side piece.

Then simply run both ends of the fronts and backs with the workpiece flat on the router table. Use a miter gauge to guide the cut. If you were making an overlay drawer, the front would need to be rabbeted for the necessary offset and the fence reset to run the drawer fronts.