Dovetail Drawer Material

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Forum topic by Shay posted 01-04-2010 05:50 AM 2877 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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59 posts in 3827 days

01-04-2010 05:50 AM

I’m curious what others use for dovetail drawers. I’m going to be making some soon for the kitchen and I can’t decide what I want to use. The fronts will be Maple but I’m not sure about the boxes. I’m thinking either Red Oak, Soft Maple or Poplar. I thought about Birch Ply but I don’t want to deal with the tearout.

I’ve done Oak drawers before so I’m leaning towards that but I’ve never done Maple or Poplar so wasn’t sure if they’d look better? Or better to work with?


-- Centerville, MN - Hobbyist and DIYer

8 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117119 posts in 3603 days

#1 posted 01-04-2010 05:57 AM

Well Shay
Drawers are made from many types of wood depending on what kind of the piece it goes in. You can use any of the woods you listed. Even in nicer pieces of furniture the drawers are made of a secondary{less expensive) wood.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3674 days

#2 posted 01-04-2010 06:02 AM

soft maple, or poplar would be easier to work with than oak. usually the general rule is to go by what’s locally available and low cost – some places it’s soft maple, other’s its poplar – it doesn’t have to be super pretty as it’s internal, but because there is a lot of material involved – the lower cost per BF makes a difference financially.

I wouldn’t go with ply if you plan on doing dovetails. use hardwood.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3091 days

#3 posted 01-04-2010 02:34 PM

if you use baltic birch plywood, rather than the cheaper birch ply, you should not have a problem with tearout. I love using this stuff for drawers. solid, stable, machines well, takes finish nicely and looks great. You can buy it inexpensively in various sized sheets at Menards.

-- PaulMayer,

View REME's profile


26 posts in 3339 days

#4 posted 01-04-2010 02:48 PM

On kitchen cabinets I prefer 1/2 birch ply. As far as tear out with making dovetails. I prefinish the drawer parts before dovetailing. It reduces the tear out.

-- - Mike

View bladeburner's profile


88 posts in 3113 days

#5 posted 01-04-2010 03:38 PM

Soft maple & cherry are the same hardness. Whereas Hard or sugar maple is much harder and will dull the bit really fast. Lumberyard soft maple, around here currently cost the same as BORG poplar.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10535 posts in 3454 days

#6 posted 01-04-2010 04:21 PM

Since there is zip for local hardwoods around here (except mesquite…$$$$), I prefer poplar or BB ply.
I get very little (almost none) tear out with BB.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View TheDane's profile


5441 posts in 3689 days

#7 posted 01-04-2010 05:06 PM

I like to use poplar as a secondary wood, including drawer boxes, dust frames, etc.

For drawer boxes I plane it to 1/2”, then cut the dovetails to 1:6.

For drawer bottoms, I prefer BB, either 1/4” or 3/8” depending on the drawer depth (the assumption is that deeper drawers will have to support heavier loads).

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Shay's profile


59 posts in 3827 days

#8 posted 01-04-2010 05:55 PM

Thanks guys, I think I’ll do a price comparison of Poplar and Soft Maple and use one of those. I like the idea of using BB for the floor too, have to remember that.

-- Centerville, MN - Hobbyist and DIYer

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