The strongest way to make plywood drawers?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Joinery forum

Forum topic by RichNew posted 08-11-2016 12:59 PM 3198 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View RichNew's profile


3 posts in 824 days

08-11-2016 12:59 PM

Hi All!

The names Rich, im an electrical engineer by trade and pretty handy with metalwork and maching, but woodworkig is something a bit foerign to me and thats something i really want to change!

Im in the middle of quite a big project. Im building an expedition camper based on a Nissan Navara pick up truck. The rear is a large aluminium box, inside its going to have one large pull out drawer and one large pull out kitchen. The drawer is my main concern as im not going to have huge weight in the kitchen system.

The drawer is going to be 1.2M long, 750mm wide and 200mm deep. The drawer slides im using are rated to 250kg per pair, i’d like the drawer to be able to take somewhere near that, even if in reality i will never get that much in there. With it being quite a tough application, with drawers full of tools and recovery equipment that will be bouncing about as i drive, im planning on using phenolic plywood, i was thinking 19mm for the sides and 12mm for the base? Do you think that would have enough strength?

My main quesion is what would be the the strongest method for making these drawers? I like the idea of pocket screws as they seem quick and easy and i should be able to make them look neat enough. Should i dado/groove the sides to accept the base or will simply sitting it flush and putting in lots of pocket screws be strong enough?

My thoughts are that whilst its a lot of weight, its also a lot of edges, so there will be plenty of support for the base.


26 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


8189 posts in 2320 days

#1 posted 08-11-2016 02:11 PM

Pocket screws would not be the correct application here. I would do rabbets going into dados. Additionally, 1.2m is a long span. Even with a 200mm deep drawer, I would still expect some sagging over time with that much weight. If you can, break that up into 2 drawers.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View RichNew's profile


3 posts in 824 days

#2 posted 08-11-2016 02:19 PM

So you’re suggesting the below method? I assume i would then glue and screw the joints? I see some people saying the base should be left floating in the dado’s though, which doesn’t sound as strong to me?

———- The photo isn’t resizing for some reason, but my right clicking and opening in a new tab you can see it all———-

I would, but with the drawer slides costing £120 per slide, i’d rather not add a 3rd drawer.

Not sure i have got my dimensional terms right either, so going by the photo below, the dimensions are;

Depth – 1200mm
Width – 750mm
Height – 200mm

Thanks for the help

View Redoak49's profile


3591 posts in 2158 days

#3 posted 08-11-2016 03:04 PM

That is one huge drawer!! I would use 18 mm Baltic Birch plywood with rabbet corner joints. I also would reinforce the corners with blocks on the inside and 18 mm plywood for the bottom I would glue and screw it in place.

Good luck with it.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5588 posts in 2578 days

#4 posted 08-11-2016 03:07 PM

The drawer you wish to make is HUGE, the weight you expect it to handle is on the high side. Pocket screws alone are not going to bear the weight load you wish to achieve. Most mechanics toolbox drawers made by the likes of Snap-ON and MAC can handle 45-65kg of weight. These are made of metal. But your measurements are much bigger than the average toolbox drawer. My suggestion would be to make a wood / aluminum hybrid drawer. Use hardwood for the drawer frame and a piece of aluminum minimum 3mm thick for the bottom. Put a brace in the middle to help with stability and weight distribution. Attach from the bottom with 50mm screws spaced 100mm apart. Or have a custom aluminum or steel drawer built to your specifications and go from that point forward.

A second approach might be to break down this into a series of 2 or 3 smaller drawers bringing the weight per drawer down to allow for drawers that can easily handle 45-65kg. The advantage would be more organized drawers with less chance of a blow out of the bottoms. The disadvantage is more drawers equals more space used for drawer slides and support which also means less available storage space.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View jbay's profile


2733 posts in 1069 days

#5 posted 08-11-2016 03:47 PM

I wouldn’t over think it.
I would use 3/4 plywood for the sides and the bottom.
Butt joints, use glue and screws.
Slap a bottom on with glue and screws.
Maybe even adding a divider or 2 to would help with strength.

-- “Hanging onto resentment, is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” (Ann Landers)......

View RichNew's profile


3 posts in 824 days

#6 posted 08-12-2016 07:42 AM

Interesting, so varying opinions then!

Yep, putting in dividers i a good idea as surely that has to add a lot of strength?

Will just screwing a base to the bottom be strong enough?!

Thanks again

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5588 posts in 2578 days

#7 posted 08-12-2016 01:32 PM

Two lines of thought on attachment of the base.

1.Yes you can screw it to the bottom and any additional support you put in the middle. Advantage is that if something happens you can take it back apart and repair with relative ease.

2.Screw and Glue it for the maximum amount of strength possible. Downside, you will not be taking this apart with any kind of ease and most likely will damage it badly.

Hope this was helpful.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 2841 days

#8 posted 08-12-2016 01:47 PM

Few thoughts from me:

- that drawer alone is going to weigh at least 20kg, maybe more.

- adding dividers will strengthen it significantly, especially if you screw up from the bottom into them, will eliminate sag over time. Also, it will stop some tool from rolling all the way to the back of the drawer when you are trying to find it, so much better organization.

- 12mm is plenty for the bottom, especially if there are dividers, the rest can be 18mm

-if the slides are bottom mount, this will increase the strength as well

- lastly, since you have some metal work ability, why not glue and screw the drawer using butt joints, then take some aluminum angle iron and reinforce the corners? This would add a ton of strength and some durability as well.

Sounds like a fun project, do post some pics along the way!

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View jdh122's profile


1042 posts in 2987 days

#9 posted 08-12-2016 01:57 PM

Plywood bottoms screwed and glued are plenty strong. Check out Mathias Wandel’s testing video on the subject:

Like Dabcan just mentioned, if you get slides that are bottom mount then there is very little stress on the side to bottom joint anyway.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View TheFridge's profile (online now)


10489 posts in 1656 days

#10 posted 08-12-2016 02:05 PM

Box joints

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 945 days

#11 posted 08-12-2016 02:11 PM

Dip it in molten steel

View MrRon's profile


5130 posts in 3413 days

#12 posted 08-12-2016 05:09 PM

I’m guessing you are located in Africa. Obviously you will be obtaining your materials locally. Like others, I would recommend Baltic Birch plywood, but I don’t know if it would be available where you are. Here is an idea that costs less than drawer slides.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5588 posts in 2578 days

#13 posted 08-13-2016 03:51 AM

Dip it in molten steel

- gargey


-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View TheFridge's profile (online now)


10489 posts in 1656 days

#14 posted 08-13-2016 03:55 AM

Dip it in molten steel

- gargey


- woodbutcherbynight

Most of the time I don’t like him, but that was pretty good.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View JIMMIEM's profile


43 posts in 1011 days

#15 posted 08-13-2016 12:22 PM

Corner joints glued and screwed will be good. With good ball bearing slides there won’t be that much strain on them. I’d do a fully captured drawer bottom i.e. insert into grooves and dados on front, back, and both sides. I would increase the thickness of the drawer bottom.

showing 1 through 15 of 26 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics