plywood or solid wood drawers?

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Forum topic by swampjack80 posted 02-16-2010 07:30 AM 14915 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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53 posts in 3077 days

02-16-2010 07:30 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question

I’m working on plans for a bedroom dresser and chest-of-drawers. Would it be better to use plywood for the drawer sides or solid wood? I figure plywood would be less prone to warping but figured I’d get some input from you guys first. I would like to have dovetailed drawer sides if that makes a difference in choosing. Thanks.

-- "I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey." - Mark Twain

10 replies so far

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5913 posts in 3223 days

#1 posted 02-16-2010 07:48 AM

Greetings swampjack80: As the norm, drawer sides and backs are usually made from solid wood like Poplar, especially if you want to make dovetails for them. I make nearly all my drawer parts from solid wood where I use more box joints than anything. But…. you certainly could use plywood if necessary. I make my drawer parts out of 1/2” Poplar for home furniture, and 1/2” ply for shop furniture. Dovetails can be done in either wood you choose, along with a plywood bottom…. mainly up to you as to which wood you choose.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3476 days

#2 posted 02-16-2010 02:48 PM

I agree with rick, I also use 1/2 poplar on most drawers, however im not as seasoned as Rick. I like using poplar because it machines well and it is not very expensive…. good luck

-- RKWoods

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#3 posted 02-16-2010 03:30 PM

I built my sisters kitchen 20 years ago and used melamine… works the same today as it did 20 years ago, even with 2 kids from hell abusing it.

Its a matter of “budget”.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 3071 days

#4 posted 02-16-2010 03:34 PM

1/2’ Baltic Birch ply is the norm in many residential cabinet shops. But if you want to take the time to dovetail, poplar works and is cheap, you can also match or complement the face wood. Comes down to what you like.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View JdCustomfurniture's profile


13 posts in 3050 days

#5 posted 02-16-2010 05:17 PM

Its all about what you want and what kind of furniture your trying to achieve. I personally try to build heirloom quality furniture. I would say 1/2’’ baltic birch ply would be the most stable but with that being said, would I put it in a piece of furniture, NO WAY. I typ. use quartered white oak it is very stable and will out last any plywood. Poplar is ok but its soft and if your not using slide hardware the sides on the drawer box will wear down quicker then say a harder wood such as oak or maple.

-- Whatever you do,work at it with all your heart,as working for the lord,not for men. ( Colossians 3:23 )

View swampjack80's profile


53 posts in 3077 days

#6 posted 02-16-2010 07:35 PM

Thanks for the input everybody. This is really my first big project so I’m trying to get everything right. The bedroom suite is for my 2 yr old son so I want it to be as nice as I can afford to make it. Hopefully he will have it for years to come. I see everyone seems to use 1\2” for the drawer sides but would there be any drawbacks to using 3\4 pine or poplar? I don’t have a planer and will probably be getting wood from lowes or HD so that pretty much narrows me down to 3\4” boards. What do ya’ll think?

-- "I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey." - Mark Twain

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#7 posted 02-16-2010 07:41 PM

use what ever works for you, what ever you have to keep the budget down.

thicker wood just makes for a slightly heavier drawer, no big deal and nothing to worry about

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3575 days

#8 posted 02-16-2010 08:04 PM

Just yesterday I dovetailed 20 drawers out of 5/8” soft maple (we milled the lumber down to this) and they all turned out very strong and nice. Soft maple is very economical and I think is a better choice then poplar. Nothing against poplar but I think the soft maple is nicer looking and cost not much more then poplar. I think I pay 2.38 bf for soft maple and poplar is maybe just a little less expensive then that.

I mostly use 1/2” baltic birch for our kitchens and we dovetail everything. I only use solid wood when the customer request this as an upgrade option. Even our 1/2” baltic birch dovetailed boxes look nice and are very strong but nothing is as nice as solid wood drawers. I bet the drawers we built yesterday will be around for 200 years barring any blunt force trauma.

-- .

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 3195 days

#9 posted 02-16-2010 08:34 PM

I have used 1/2 inch plywood and 9/16 poplar for drawer slides thickness is not critical as long as they all are the same.
Butt joints and craig joints and finally dovetail joints.
Butt joints are fast.. Craig joints are fast and strong and the only joints that can be seen is the one in the back of the drawer, if the drawer is pulled out of the dresser.
Most every one loves the dovetail joint, both beautiful and strong, but it also takes the most time to make.

Bottom line is use what you can afford. All of my drawers are still in use and all are strong joints.
I always use steel manufactured drawer slides, some are full extension, some are not.
They all go in and out nicely.
Enjoy the time you put into a piece and remember it. Go back and see what you did a year ago.
What you thought was stretching your abilities at that time is so simple for you do now.

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View PaulfromVictor's profile


228 posts in 3374 days

#10 posted 02-17-2010 04:18 AM

I would stick with a solid wood. Plywood can blow out into a nasty mess if you rout it without tearout support. The 3/4” poplar would work great. It is a bit thick, so it may look a bit clunky, but most people probably won’t notice.

I recommend finding someplace other than HD or Lowes for wood. They are very convenient, but their wood is often bowed and has price stickers on it. It is overpriced too. Check your phone book, craigslist, etc. for a new place for wood. Once you find a good place, you will be much happier. A lot of hardwood retailiers will carry 1/2” surfaced poplar because it is such a popular wood for drawer sides. If you just want to get going on this project, go to the big box, but definitely put finding a new lumber place on your to-do list.

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