Fixing drawer bind-up on wood slides. What causes it?

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Forum topic by ppg677 posted 04-19-2016 04:14 AM 2148 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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209 posts in 1094 days

04-19-2016 04:14 AM

I’ve built 3 of 6 drawers on a chest I’m building (my first one…I’m dumb for not using metal slides). The bottom 2 drawers are nice and smooth. The top one binds up :-(

The gaps appear roughly the same…this is no piston fit but not super loose either. Maple sides and runners. If I take the 2nd drawer and put it in the top slot, it is smooth. So I have a problematic drawer. There’s just a lot of friction and it binds right away (one side is catching).

I’ve taken a hand plane and sander to the problematic drawer. I’ve tried chalk. It still sticks. The dimensions between the two drawers are roughly the same…perhaps 1/32” different here and there.

So what generally causes bind up? Too loose? Too tight?

I wonder if the nylon tape from Rockler is my silver bullet? Should I try to shims to tighten up the fit?

10 replies so far

View realcowtown_eric's profile


617 posts in 2175 days

#1 posted 04-19-2016 04:39 AM

could be anything..

drawer slides not square or out of parallel,
Drawer box not square or twisted
Carcase out of square, or simply sitting on an unflat platform. or slides s not parallel.

Start back at square one to isolate problem….and only then can you cure it.
3rd photo shows to me (but it just might be the photos) slight candtof carcase to the left.

When you aim for precision construction, all measurements, construction details and execution have to ALL be precision. Any error in measurement or squareness simply compounds.

One slightly unsquare square can produce a multitude of problems such as yer encountering. But how many wood-butchers ever “prove” their squares or levels.

Good luck buddy

It is the mark of a pro to find and correct stuff like this. if you can find a bit of carbon paper that might help isolate the bindational points.


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View rwe2156's profile


3230 posts in 1719 days

#2 posted 04-19-2016 12:15 PM

What Eric^ said.

This can be frustrating a very frustrating part of a project, but is usually due to something out of parallel or square.

Also a drawer that is twisted which may be your problem because I notice the gap along the side is uneven.

Take note of when it starts binding. If it gets worse as you push the drawer in, then it is toward the back, possible the runners are closer together toward the back. This can be avoided by using spacers when installing the runners instead of measuring.

Try a little crayon instead of chalk to see where its rubbing. Keep at it don’t remove any wood till you’re sure where!

BTW you are not dumb for not using metal slides they would have ruined a very nice dresser by making it look like a giant filing cabinet!

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View johnstoneb's profile


3072 posts in 2411 days

#3 posted 04-19-2016 01:53 PM

You think you have a problem. It’s good you didn’t use metal glides then you would have real problems. When using wood slides you need to fit each drawer as you build it and once glued up.
1. Look over drawer and slide for shiny areas. This will indicate an interference area where you need to remove material. If you don’t see any shiny areas or aren’t sure. Use a transfer medium. I use pencil, chalk would work.
Apply it to sparingly to the grove in the drawer or to the slide, not both and possibly to the rear side of the drawer Then try to install the drawer push it in until you mete resistance then remove it and look for transfer marks this will show you where you need to remove material usually from the drawer but sometimes from the slide in the carcase. Don’t remove a lot at one time. continue this operation until the drawer fits and slides freely, then mark the drawer for that position. Ideally the drawers once fit will fit in all positions but this is not an ideal world. If you look at my projects you will find several with drawers all of those have wood slides and they were all handfit usually built just slightly oversize or to exact size of the opening then planed, scraped and sanded to the final fit. This does take a little time but the results are well worth it.
Once you have them fit and you final finish on wax the glides and grooves with a carnauba wax and they will slide freely.
When building a cabinet with drawers I get it as square and aligned as I possible can. I always figure that the drawers will need to be handfit. once they are glued up. Building them just slightly oversize gives you what you need to get gaps between drawers equal and sides square.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View ppg677's profile


209 posts in 1094 days

#4 posted 04-19-2016 07:00 PM

Thanks for the advice. In this case I did not build it slightly oversize, so hopefully I can make it work without rebuilding it.

View realcowtown_eric's profile


617 posts in 2175 days

#5 posted 04-22-2016 02:37 AM

start by ensuring the carcase is set on a flat and level surface..really, an 1/8” variance in level coud twist the carcase enough. check the floor, not the top of the unit…..then go up from there, checking measurements (Maybe using story sticks) and squareness (with a proved square….)

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1158 days

#6 posted 04-22-2016 05:12 AM


A little more troubleshooting could be helpful. It sounds like you have started down this road, having discovered that one of the three drawers fit in the problem drawer bay. Taking your approach a little further could lead to the “Standard Drawer”, since it appears all the drawer bays are the same size. This “Standard Drawer” would be the one drawer already built that fits best in all the drawer bays.

Once the “Standard Drawer” is found, measuring the drawer every which way and comparing all these measurements to the problem drawer(s) could reveal the problem(s) and suggest steps required to make the problem drawer conform to the “Standard Drawer”. Measurements could include outside and center measurements (three each) of: length along the front and back; height along each side, front and back; checking the diagonal measurements across the top and bottom of the drawer box to ensure square; and checking the sides to ensure flatness, especially since these drawers are rather deep.

I hate the thought of making these measurements with a tape measure and then keeping track of them. Therefore, following realcowtown_eric’s recommendation of using story sticks is attractive. Cutting scrap to length corresponding to the smallest dimension for height, width and maybe even one corresponding for the diagonal from the “Standard Drawer” would make checking the remaining drawers easier and probably enhance accuracy.

I have used “Slick Tape” (UHMW) plastic adhesive tape that I bought from Peachtree. It may be more durable than nylon tape (not sure). “Slick Tape” seems to help make things slide with less resistance. But in this case where you have apparently two drawers that fit well and the tight tolerances with which you are building the drawers, the “Slick Tape” could mean a little more work on the well-fitting drawers since the thickness of the “Slick Tape” would reduce the clearances of the working drawers. But then if the drawers want to run cock-eyed when being pushed in, “Slick Tape” or Rockler’s nylon tape could be just enough to shim the carcase sides to keep the drawers running true. Otherwise side mounted shims may be needed to keep the drawers running true.

From the bottom photo, it appears the bottom of the drawer side contacts the carcase while the top shows clearance. If this is the case, my guess is that either the dovetails at the bottom were not cut as deep as the ones at the top and/or during assembly, the bottom dovetails did not fully seat. It is hard to tell from the photo. Since the dovetails are flushed-up, measuring the diagonals across the drawer front could reveal whether the lower dovetails are a source of the binding problem.

View MrRon's profile (online now)


5269 posts in 3482 days

#7 posted 04-22-2016 03:36 PM

The first thing I see is; you are missing the center guide. That’s what keeps the drawer centered in the opening, eliminating sticking on the sides. The drawer sides are a bit too high. They should be around 1/4” below the front face and the top should be rounded. The bottom of the sides should extend below the front about a 1/16” and be smooth sliding. I hope you have enough space under the bottom to install the centering guide. (See Sketch) Dimensions for the guide are typical, but can be anything you want.
The last picture shows me the drawer front is resting on the dresser rail. That is not good. Extending the drawer sides 1/16 below the front will give you the clearance you want. A 1/16” reveal all around is what you should be looking for.

P.S. The 3/8” dimension on the lower part of the guide should be about 1/32” less and the 1” dimension should allow for a smooth sliding fit. Overall, the drawers are too tight. With changes in humidity, the drawers will stick, so the more clearance on the sides, the better it will slide.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5816 posts in 3051 days

#8 posted 04-22-2016 03:54 PM

I didn’t hear you say that the runners were waxed. Start by waxing the runners, and see if it is a minor problem. Wood-on-wood friction is pretty high, but with a little wax once in a while it improves greatly.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3367 posts in 3347 days

#9 posted 04-23-2016 12:25 AM

I didn t hear you say that the runners were waxed. Start by waxing the runners, and see if it is a minor problem. Wood-on-wood friction is pretty high, but with a little wax once in a while it improves greatly.

- pintodeluxe

You beat me to it. I’m almost done building a new chest for my carving tools, and I built it to really tight tolerances, knowing from previous builds that wax does wonders for the movement. I don’t like when the drawers rattle around when being opened or closed. Wood on wood and finish on finish don’t always slide smoothly. I could barely even get the drawers into the carcass until everything was waxed. Then they slid right in, whoosh.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View ppg677's profile


209 posts in 1094 days

#10 posted 04-29-2016 05:46 PM

I may just skip the wax and go right to Nylon tape instead

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