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How to Make and Install Drawers that Actually Work

One of the reasons it took me so long to finish up our coffee station was the drawers. I had never done them before and everyone was telling me how hard they were. I almost left them out of the design, but I really wanted the drawers. I needed them to keep me organized.  So I designed my console with 2 nice sized drawers on top. I just knew I could figure out how to make and install drawers that actually worked!

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

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I built my console table in June, finished it in July, and then stressed about the drawers through all of August. I knew I needed to bite the bullet, but I am really good at distracting myself with shiny new projects. I knew it was going to get cold on me so I toughened up and started building the drawers. Guess what? It wasn’t hard to build nice square drawers!

These instructions use measurements for the exact size drawer needed for my coffee station console table. However, you can use the tips and steps below to make any drawer! Just adjust your measurements to fit your opening.

Supply List: (the wood needed for the console table drawers are included in the console table supply list)

  • 1×4 boards for the drawer sides
  • 1/4″ plywood for the bottom of the drawer
  • 1×6 boards for the drawer fronts
  • 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws
  • 1 1/4″ finishing nails
  • wood glue
  • 12-Inch Full Extension Drawer Slides
  • knobs

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

The most important thing you need to know when building drawers is ‘square’. If your drawers are square and your openings for the drawers are square, the drawer glides will install easily and your drawers will work! So how do you make sure everything is square. Take the extra few seconds on each and every cut, an 1/8 of an inch can make a big difference.

When I cut my drawers, I cut two boards at once so the boards on the sides were the exact same size. This helps with them being square. The next thing I did was check my miter saw blade to make sure it was cutting at a perfect 90 degree angle. Since my miter saw blade can cut at an angle, I need to make sure to check my blade when I want to cut straight lines to make sure the blade is back at 90 degrees.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Now that I had my 4 beautiful 1×4 boards for the sides of my drawers, I need to secure them together and keep everything square. The classic way to make drawers is with a dovetail joint. It gives you a strong joint that will hold up, but they require special tools. I used my trusty Kreg Jig. Seriously, this is one of my favorite tools and I use it all the time. It makes projects so easy and gives you strong joints too.

I added 2 pocket holes to each side of the 18 1/2″ boards.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

To ensure a perfectly square corner, I used a Right Angle Clamp designed to be used with the Kreg pocket holes. Clamps are not cheap, but they are a lifesaver when building. Without them, it is a lot harder to build things that are square and straight. I put the pocket holes on the outside of the drawer (they will be hidden by the drawer front or on the very back of the drawer inside the furniture piece. Then I double checked my square with a 7-inch Speed Square. Nice and square!

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Now I had two beautifully built drawers. Time to add a bottom. I cut the 1/4″ plywood 11 3/4″ x 20″ so it was 1/4″ smaller all around. Then I secured it to the bottom of the drawer with wood glue and some finishing nails. I will not be using these drawers to hold heavy items so I am happy with the bottoms. Then I added a couple coats of polyurethane all over the drawer to seal the wood. You never know when you will end up with water in a drawer in the kitchen!

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Now I had these drawers that were carefully built and square. It was was time to deal with drawer glides. YIKES!

There are a lot of different types of drawer glides you can choose from. Believe me, I got lost in the pages of search results. But I finally settled on these 12-Inch Full Extension Drawer Slides. Why? Because I have been dealing with a 30 year old builder grade kitchen and I knew I didn’t want cheap drawer glides that left the back half of my drawers inaccessible. But when I received the drawer glides, there were absolutely no instructions with them. Not a paper with pictures, website, nothing!

Luckily, the answered questions on Amazon let me know I needed 1/2″ clearance on each side for the drawer glides (I found that out before building the drawers). So if you are building your own drawers, make sure you build the drawer exactly 1″ smaller than your drawer opening. Next thing I needed to know was how to take them apart. There is a little black lever that you can see when you open the drawer glides up. Squeeze it to pull the glide apart.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Next you will need to install the drawer glide on the drawer and on the console. For the console I learned that I needed something to attach the glides to on the inside. I did not initially build it into my console, but I noted it on the plans I shared. I added a 2×2 on between the center legs on the console roughly centered in the drawer opening.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Then on the outside of the console I made the panel flush to the outside and that left me with a gap and nothing to secure the drawer glides too. I had to put a 1×2 board inside it, but you can avoid this by making the side panel flush with the inside of the side legs. Luckily these little braces are totally hidden, I am the only one who knew I messed up (well now you all do too).

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Measure and mark carefully a straight line centered on the drawer openings and on the drawers. Then with the drawer glides taken apart, attach the inside piece to the drawers with the screw holes lined up on the line and the front of the glide flush with the front of the drawer.

You will see clusters of screws on the front, center and back of the glides. The first one is elongated horizontal, the second is vertical and the third is just big enough for the screw. The reason for these is you can simply adjust a little bit up/down or side/side until your drawers slide perfectly. I secured the front of the drawer glide with the horizontal hole and the back with the vertical one so I would be able to adjust it easily.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

For the glides attached to the console, secure it at the front and back with screws on your line. The front of the drawer glide needs to be 3/4″ inside the console so when the drawer front is attached it will sit flush with the console.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Now you can carefully slide the drawer into the console, lining up the glides so they slide back together. The first couple times you slide them they may be stiff. But they should slide. If not, double check that things are level, and adjust your drawer glide. Then try sliding it again. When you are happy with it, secure the drawer glide to the drawer with a couple more screws in the smaller holes.

Now it’s time to add the drawer front. I used lots of wood glue but made sure to keep it only in the center of the drawer front.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Then I placed the drawer front on the drawer. The size of the drawer front allows 1/8″ clearance around the whole thing. I used my quilting rulers to keep it lined up. Then I quickly secured it with 2 finishing nails.

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

After letting it dry, I filled the nail holes and added some touch up paint. Then I added these knobs I found at World Market and it was finally all done!

Don't be afraid of building furniture with drawers like I was? I show you how to make and install drawers that actually work. And it's easy! | Housefulofhandmade.com

Sadly this was my longest build, but I am not going to let drawers scare me anymore. I have already drawn up plans for a new bedroom dresser for our master bedroom (we are using a too small, too outdated, hand-me-down) and I will need to build a vanity for the master bedroom if I ever get the drywall done. I have also toyed with the idea of building my own kitchen cabinets. Maybe… maybe not. We will have to see.

What do you think, are you ready to take on drawers?

-Kati with picture of blog author Kati

 

 

 

 

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