Drawer side lumbers and dovetail saws

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Forum topic by groland posted 08-24-2013 04:47 PM 1550 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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183 posts in 3434 days

08-24-2013 04:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: drawer side lumber dovetail saws


I notice a lot of solid hardwood drawer sides are made of lighter-colored woods than drawer fronts. I see cherry and walnut-colored fronts with blonder woods on the drawer sides that look like poplar, oak or maybe ash? I’m new to all this—have just made drawers out of 1/2-inch birch plywood before.

What are the most common woods used for drawer sides in such applications? What considerations go into choosing such woods—costs, workability, etc.?

Most drawer sides seem to be made from 1/2-inch stock. Since 1/2-inch thick lumber is not widely available, I am wondering how you obtain such wood economically? Would buying wide, rough-cut lumber and resawing it to halve its thickness be good? If so, what thickness would you recommend?

Finally, I recently read an article about dovetail saws. I guess I am primarily interested in Western “backsaws”, but I believe the author was recommending buying the deepest such saw rather than a very short-height blade and rip teeth.

Any help appreciated,


6 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

#1 posted 08-24-2013 05:01 PM

You can probably successfully resaw 5/4 rough stock and
get 1/2” squared and straight drawer sides from it.

View skipj's profile


97 posts in 2295 days

#2 posted 08-25-2013 01:02 PM

On all the kitchen cabinets I build I use maple,dovetailed,maple ply bottoms. Sides are 5/8 because I use
blum undermount sldes. Drawers are then sprayed clear lac. It makes for a very nice drawer box and it’s
what my clients want. I think the client sees this and feels it will hold up very good, a selling point for me.
Also maple machines very well for me and finishes good because of its tight grain.

Poplar- To soft
Oak-&-Ash Open grain

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5908 posts in 3217 days

#3 posted 08-25-2013 01:40 PM

It’s really up to you as to what material you want to use for drawer sides and bottoms….Most on LJs (and cabinet makers) use 1/2” Poplar, and 1/4” plywood bottoms (mainly Birch)...This is my go-to’s, also for most applications…..It really depends on what they are used for, and how much weight they can handle…..For nearly all my shop furniture with drawers, I used 1/2” and 1/4”, with a 3/4” overlays….But…...If I have some heavy stuff that requires a thicker bottom, then I might use 1/2”......It all depends on what you want, and what it will be used for…...I’ve used the same diminisions for building more high-end furniture for our home and for customers…....

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View bondogaposis's profile


4755 posts in 2373 days

#4 posted 08-25-2013 03:18 PM

1/2” poplar is most common because it is cheap, but many use birch or soft maple as well. Generally whatever you can get at a reasonable price. I re-saw my own mostly, but sometimes my BORG has 1/2” poplar that I will use if time is a factor.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2945 days

#5 posted 08-25-2013 05:06 PM

The woods used in the drawers are typically less expensive and those woods tend to be lighter. The expensive woods are often darker. So it’s not actually an appearance decision, it’s a cost based decision. Having said that, a lighter wood is probably best so that the contents are more readily seen.

As above, you would have to start with 5/4 to resaw to 1/2”. If you are limited to purchasing wood S4S (surfaced all four sides), then to get 1/2” from 1” stock you would waste a lot of wood – resawing would not be practical.

Often, you can get 3/4 rough sawn, which will finish up to 1/2”.

Dovetail saws come in a very wide variety, and can get very expensive. If you are settled on western style, you might want to try the Veritas 14 tpi standard dovetail saw:,42884&p=64007

It’s reasonably priced, and is well regarded.

Stumpynubs just did a nice piece on handsaws:
(episode 3)
He shows you the names of the saws as the height of the plate changes. Dovetailing takes a deft touch, and a lighter, smaller saw is easier to control. I’m sure most of the real experts can cut a fine dovetail with a panel saw, but starting out, you might want to use the classic dovetail saw.

Do consider the japanese pull saw for dovetails. I think it’s easier to get a good cut as a rank amateur.

View Wolfdaddy's profile


300 posts in 1856 days

#6 posted 08-25-2013 07:49 PM

The shop I work in primarily uses soft maple for drawer sides. They usually take them to 5/8” from 4/4 rough sawn stock.

-- "MOM! I think there's something under our house! I'm gonna need a jackhammer, a fish bowl, some air tanks, and maybe a few pipes."

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