Practical limit on width of a drawer?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by Brett posted 11-28-2012 10:42 PM 1431 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2646 days

11-28-2012 10:42 PM

I’m nearly finished with a Roubo-style workbench and am considering building a tool cabinet for the space below the bench top. The space is 63” wide, and the tool cabinet could be up to about 22” deep and about 12” high.

I’ve wondered about building a wide drawer for storing a few hand planes, including my 22” jointer (which I would lay on its side in the drawer). Ignoring for now the question about whether it makes to store a plane on its side, is if feasible to make a drawer that is 23” wide and possibly 20” deep? Would the drawer bottom flex too much under 20 to 30 pounds of tools? I’ve never made a drawer, so I don’t know what’s practical.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

8 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1719 posts in 2772 days

#1 posted 11-28-2012 11:30 PM

Very feesable, yes ! Only paramaters youll have is the hardware capacity you want to use, etc. 20-30 lbs should not be a problem at all with a decent full ext. What is your drawer slide plan ? Think I would use 1/2 inch for the bottom.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1519 posts in 4088 days

#2 posted 11-28-2012 11:47 PM

Make the drawer bottom and sides thicker: ¾” ply should be just fine supported on all 4 sides over a 23” span.

The only concern I’d have would be the door canting sideways and jamming. When I built a shallow pantry cabinet for my kitchen I decided to go with drawers that weren’t 2.5 times as wide as they were deep because I experimented and decided they’d give the slides I was using problems, but I think 23”x20” should work just fine with most slides.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2073 days

#3 posted 11-29-2012 12:07 AM

Good slides allow a very wide drawer to work well.

How’s THIS for wide drawers?

Another example would be high quality tool cabinets (Snap-On, Mac, etc…) used by pro auto mechanics. They’re wide, carry LOTS of weight, and work wonderfully for years.

You could cheaply and easily shop-build a wide and heavy drawer, without expensive slides, by using a center guide, and rollerblade wheels on the drawer sides running on rails. The wheels carry the weight, the guide keeps it straight.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2914 days

#4 posted 11-29-2012 12:15 AM

Brett, on the bench that I built, I made one big drawer and two smaller drawers to one side. That big drawer holds my 26” panel saws. I originally planned to put some planes in there, including my number #8, which fit nicely in there. But had a change of mind and now use it for the saws. So needless to say, I vote go for it, you can make it work!

-- Mike

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2653 days

#5 posted 11-29-2012 03:29 AM

I built a 48” wide drawer under my assembly table and used shop made wooden slides. No sag at all with 1/4” ply bottom and paste wax made it slide easily. It is 6” deep and 24” front to back. Sides are 1/2” pine with box joints. Bottom sits in a 1/4” deep dado.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2347 days

#6 posted 11-29-2012 01:34 PM

My Father in Law just finished building custom cabinets for his house, with all drawers on the bottom instead of doors…most of the drawers are big, 36” x 24” Deep x 10 inches tall. I asked him about this very thing, he said he simply substituted 1/2 Ply for the bottoms instead of 1/4” for smaller Silver-ware type drawers. Those drawers are very stout, full of heavy dishes and doing fine.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View Earlextech's profile


1160 posts in 2653 days

#7 posted 11-29-2012 06:41 PM

23” does not even qualify it as being “wide”, for me width isn’t a consideration until it’s 36”. Don’t worry too much about it, use a thicker bottom if you’re putting heavy tools in it, otherwise I don’t see a problem.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Planeman40's profile


1150 posts in 2724 days

#8 posted 11-30-2012 12:32 AM

I have a number of commercial grade oak chemistry laboratory cabinets in my shop (came from a local high school chemistry lab, school was being “decommissioned”) and some of the cabinets have some large wide drawers. These are just regular drawers without any mechanical rolling slides. Though the drawers are usable, I find they are pretty hard to shut when they are loaded with heavy tools. Be sure to install some rolling slides when you hang the drawers. Then you won’t have to use your knee and foot to force them closed like I have to do.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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