Clearance for drawer sides

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Forum topic by siouxdawgs0409 posted 06-27-2012 06:03 PM 2946 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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107 posts in 3121 days

06-27-2012 06:03 PM

I am designing some drawers (ply bottom with solid sides and fronts) and I am curious what is the general clearance you would leave between the drawer and case sides and also the top of the back and the top kicker. I do not want a sloppy fit but I want it to slide in and out with ease. The openings are 13 in wide and 5.5 tall. Thank you everyone.

11 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


5448 posts in 3690 days

#1 posted 06-27-2012 06:15 PM

Are you making your own slides, or buying manufactured slides? The slides I use (from McFeely’s) require 1/2” on each side of the drawer box.

For the reveal on the sides, top and bottom, some use 1/8” but a friend of mine who makes his living building cabinets says anything over 3/32” is too much.


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

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2389 days

#2 posted 06-27-2012 06:16 PM

A “piston” fit is only for the truly obsessive, and is likely to stick as soon as you turn your back or the weather changes, anyway. I use Formica sample chips as gauges to set sides and top clearance. That’s generally enough to accommodate any seasonal movement

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3096 days

#3 posted 06-27-2012 06:18 PM

Side clearance for most glides is 1/2” on each side. With full extension glides, you can almost fill the opening height (I usually go ~1/4” less). With bottom mount, 3/4 extension glides, I make the drawer box ~3/4” less than the vertical opening.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4211 posts in 2336 days

#4 posted 06-27-2012 06:19 PM

Do a Goggle search, “piston fit drawers”. You’ll find lot of information and videos on the subject.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3725 days

#5 posted 06-27-2012 06:23 PM

Those regular white slider I use 1/2 on each side so you make your drawers 1” smaller fits perfect.

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


107 posts in 3121 days

#6 posted 06-27-2012 06:28 PM

I have built the web frame inside the case. I am not using manufactured glides. I basically am wondering how wide to build the drawer based on the size of the frame I built. My guess is about 1/16th of an inch on either side. Meaning my drawer witdth would be 13-1/8 or 12 7/8 wide.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4152 days

#7 posted 06-27-2012 06:36 PM

The last thing I built with wood slides was my maple and ziricote shop toolbox. I cut the drawers to have probably a full sixteenth on either side, but put grooves in the sides of my drawers and screwed strips of maple as slides to the sides of my case. I then sanded them with 220 grit ‘til the drawers just fit (and learned how much ¾” maple can bow), and waxed the living daylights out of the whole thing.

Those are the nicest sliding drawers ever. Good enough that I’m considering building more drawers without mechanical slides. That’s true a year later, so with that grain orientation humidity and temperature expansion haven’t been a problem.

So, yes, if you want to avoid the jamming that comes from racking, you want your drawers to fit your sides exactly, which for me means build ‘em about 1/64th outsized and sand them to fit. The grooves and strips for slides works nicely because you’re only sanding that small section, and if you sand too far you can replace the slide.

Having said that, I just picked up a whole bunch of Accuride slides off Craigslist yesterday for my new router table, so clearly I’m not always up to the care necessary to make good fitting wood drawers.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View pintodeluxe's profile


5706 posts in 2841 days

#8 posted 06-27-2012 06:45 PM

When using ball bearing slides, I use 1/16” gaps all around. After final sanding it is close to 3/32”.
That is for inset drawers and doors. Overlay doors have a lot more room for error.

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

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


107 posts in 3121 days

#9 posted 06-27-2012 06:47 PM

These are overlay drawers. So I am not so concerned with the reveal of the drawer front.

View DS's profile


2926 posts in 2448 days

#10 posted 06-27-2012 08:38 PM

Each guide manufacturer will publish the clearence specs for each model glide they make.
That is going to be your definitive source of information.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3675 days

#11 posted 06-28-2012 03:37 AM

You should be reading up about how to fit drawers by hand. The
trick is in making the front near perfect when it is closed and the
drawer tapers a bit towards to back so it can slide without jamming.

Cheap old furniture has sloppy drawers fit into web frames. Nice
old furniture has smooth and tight drawers in web frames. ‘nuf said.

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