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Fitting drawers: How to best prevent racking problems?

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Forum topic by Dan Lyke posted 08-26-2010 12:16 AM 3376 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Lyke

1488 posts in 2869 days


08-26-2010 12:16 AM

My kitchen cabinets have all used Blum slides. I built my partner a white oak desk extension thing that had a couple of drawers in it, and rather than using slides I ran a groove down the sides of the drawers, and mounted waxed wooden rails on the insides of the cabinet.

When I did this, I thought I’d read somewhere to make the tolerances as close as possible to prevent racking, so I did. Once I got the piece assembled the drawers kept sticking, so I sanded the living daylights out of the sides and they now wobble around inside the carcase, but at least they don’t stick.

With the ball bearing slides I used in the kitchen I built a couple of cheap plywood cabinets to make sure I got the fit right, but with good wood-on-wood slides it’s not something I can do as quickly or cheaply to try out a bunch of theories.

So: How should I make drawers fit? As tight as possible? Lots of slop? Was there something else causing the racking?

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke


7 replies so far

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huff

2810 posts in 2029 days


#1 posted 08-27-2010 02:30 PM

Dan, I’m probably not the best qualified to be answering your question, but I see you’ve had over a hundred views and no help yet. Even though I’ve done thousands of drawers over the years, I will confess I use mechanical slides most of the time, but when I do wood on wood, here’s a few things I’ve found to be very critical to make the drawers work smoothly. #1…Make sure the box (cabinet is square) #2…Make sure the drawer box is square and also that it is not racked. (lay them on a perfectly flat surface and make sure they don’t rock from corner to corner. #3..Make sure the slots you cut in the sides of the drawers are perfectly parallel to each other. #4..Make sure your tabs that you are mounting in your cabinet run very smoothly in each slot before you mount them in the cabinet. If you have the slightest warp or bow in the tabs, this should show up immediately. #5…softly round every edge so there is nothing to catch or dig into. I personally like to put a finish on all my wood to help control moisture changes. #6…Last but not least, and this is very critical, make sure the tabs are running perfectly parallel to each other in the cabinet. Not only do they have to be the same distance apart in the back as they are in the front, but they cannot be racked at all. If one back corner is higher or lower then the other, when you push your drawer in, no matter what side the drawer is trying to follow the tab in the slot, the other side is fighting it. I hope this will give you some ideas where to look for the problem. Let me know how you make out and good luck.

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

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Gregn

1642 posts in 1727 days


#2 posted 08-27-2010 04:57 PM

One of the things I like to do is put an 1/8” dado where I’m going to put my wooden drawer rails to be sure that things are square and parallel to one another. Rounding over the edges and as you did wax them, I also wax the grooves and slightly chamfer the edges of the grooves.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

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Dan Lyke

1488 posts in 2869 days


#3 posted 08-28-2010 12:48 AM

Thanks, guys. Probably some subtle alignment issue on one of my rails, then. I think I need to take a deep breath and cut some hardwood and try another one.

The core of this question is that I’ve been thinking about trying some wood full extension drawer slides by using a sliding dovetail, but I’ve been concerned that I’m just going to get my racking squared by having two sliding surfaces on each drawer side.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke

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huff

2810 posts in 2029 days


#4 posted 08-28-2010 02:32 AM

Dan, I’ve never done a full extension sliding dovetail slide before. Sounds like a cool idea, but you’re probably right about the double chance of binding. I’ve done a number of sliding dovetails for slides before and had really good results. Very smooth, but again, the alignment is so critical. Glad to hear you are willing to venture forward and learn and improve on each try. Good luck.

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

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rhett

699 posts in 2411 days


#5 posted 08-28-2010 12:58 PM

When I do a wood on wood drawer set-up (rarely), I don’t bother with wood rails and grooves. A simple
l-shaped track in the case on both sides of the drawer work well and give lots of options for getting the drawer correct via shims etc.

I prefer undermount slides simple because the smooth movement automatically gives a piece that nice fit and finish feel, even if it isn’t FWW. Doesn’t matter how nice your finished project is, if you make something with a sticky drawer your piece will have the feel of subpar furniture.

That being said, I have seen a salesman stand in the bottom drawer of a stickly wardrobe and then slide it back in as if it were on mechanical slides, which it wasn’t. So it can be done and done well. Good Luck.

-- It's only wood.

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Gregn

1642 posts in 1727 days


#6 posted 08-28-2010 03:58 PM

check out gary’s sliding dovetail extensions.
http://lumberjocks.com/gfixler/blog/13478

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

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Dan Lyke

1488 posts in 2869 days


#7 posted 08-28-2010 05:25 PM

rhett, yeah, I was looking at a house a few years ago that someone with a real love for wood had done up. The kitchen drawers were all wood-on-wood, and he was bragging about how authentic this was, and I was thinkin’ “The look is nice, but I’d rather have the slides”.

I go for the wood-on-wood for things like small tool chests, where I’ve got lots of thin drawers that I’m trying to pack into a small space.

Greg, thanks! I’ve gotta upgrade my router table fence!

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke

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