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Thread: Making drawer slides

  1. #1

    Making drawer slides

    Can someone please explain how to make the traditional wood on wood drawer slides? I will be starting a dresser in several weeks and I have decided that traditional slides fit this application better than the newer ball bearing slides.

    Thanks,
    Stephen

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Hi Stephen.

    There are numerous "traditional" styles of runners, but I applaud you for steering away from modern slides. Ball bearing slides have there place, but for some pieces, they just aren't the solution.

    Here is what I would do. For smaller drawers, I would simply have the solid wood drawer box ride on the bottom of their sides on "L" shaped cleats mounted in the case The bottom of the "L" is where the drawer rides and the side of the "L" is what keeps the drawer in place side-to-side. I would also install kickers so that the drawer does not tip down when pulled out.

    For a larger drawer, I would run a groove in the side of the drawer box that would accept a hardwood square to ride on. Inside the case, I would glue and screw this hardwood square in a groove on a side support. I would use two different hardwoods, like red oak for the drawer box sides and hard maple for the square. I would fit them fairly close, but ensure there was ZERO binding anywhere along the travel, even when loaded with wax.

    Drawer stops have been put everywhere. I'm not real fond of the stops that are placed so that the drawer front is the target of resistance. I prefer the back of the cleats in either corner. If you use this method, leave the back off until you get them all adjusted.

    I'm sure others will have loads of good ideas too.

    A few years ago in Fine Woodworking, I believe they had plans for full extension solid wood runners, using a sliding dovetail system. "Nyeah..." It took too much space away from the drawer.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2003
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    Alternate Drawer Construction

    I remember reading an article in Fine Woodworking several years ago about an alternate method for building drawers and a chest of drawers. the net effect was that the drawer sides were the slides and lsted much longer than a traditional method. It was a Swedish guy's technique. If this is something you're really interested in, I can try to wade through my stack of FWW's ... unless someone else remembers the article.

    Rob

  4. #4

    My 2 cents!

    I can only add the following to the two previous posts:

    1. Make your slides removeable (no glue) as they will change with the seasons, and it probably will be necessary to "adjust" them once the humidity levels change.

    2. Apply a good coat of paste wax to the slides after the entire project is finished so they will slide better and last longer.

    3. Either make the drawer long enough so it will be difficult to remove or put a stop on it so it doesn't pull all the way out. Folks get pretty used to the ballbearing type slides stopping the drawer before it falls on the floor. Traditional slide drawers wil come all the way out pretty easily dumping the contents and the drawer on the floor.

    4. If the drawer will see a high level of use, reconsider using the metal type slides to prolong the life of the drawer.
    Lee Schierer - McKean, PA

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Contribute

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Schierer
    I can only add the following to the two previous posts:

    1. Make your slides removeable (no glue) as they will change with the seasons, and it probably will be necessary to "adjust" them once the humidity levels change.

    2. Apply a good coat of paste wax to the slides after the entire project is finished so they will slide better and last longer.

    3. Either make the drawer long enough so it will be difficult to remove or put a stop on it so it doesn't pull all the way out. Folks get pretty used to the ballbearing type slides stopping the drawer before it falls on the floor. Traditional slide drawers wil come all the way out pretty easily dumping the contents and the drawer on the floor.

    4. If the drawer will see a high level of use, reconsider using the metal type slides to prolong the life of the drawer.

    Lee,,,,,, how will metal slides make well built drawers last longer if built right and taken care of drawers will last years with metal or wood slides,,,I have two hutches and a dresser that prove that,,,,,
    Mike

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Evertsen
    Lee,,,,,, how will metal slides make well built drawers last longer if built right and taken care of drawers will last years with metal or wood slides,,,I have two hutches and a dresser that prove that,,,,,
    I'm in the traditional drawer slide crowd. However, I've seen Lee's point in cases as well. I have done a number of repairs for wooden drawers around the 20-30 year mark where heavy daily (not necessarily carefull either) use in a kitchen has just beaten drawers to pieces or worn the rails or sides so heavily that they need replacement/repair.

    Earlier in this thread Todd mentioned not using the drawer front as the stop closure. This is another common point of failure. Using the back of the cleats (sides) as the stop eliminates this problem.

    I would guess gentle and carefull use of the drawers would increase their life well beyond 30 years. But, normal "abuse" in a busy house's kitchen really takes a toll.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Rob --

    That Swedish technique is named NK (an abbreviation for something in Swedish), and it is pretty slick.

    A problem with other wooden-slide drawer designs is that you build the complete drawer, and then maybe need to adjust the fit of the runners or sides. The spots that may need a little planing are inside the carcase. With the drawer closed enough so that it hits those places, you can't see those places. The NK approach gets around that.

    In the NK approach, you start by building a sliding tray. It consists of what will become the drawer bottom, plus the slide surfaces at the edges. You next put the the mating sliding surfaces inside the carcass. At this point, you get to tune the slides -- both on the tray and on the carcass. Because the tray is only as tall as the drawer slides, you can see quite clearly where there are interferences.

    After you get the sliding stuff exactly right, you construct the remainder of the drawer. You dovetail the sides together, or however you want to do it. Then you fasten the sides, back, and front to the sliding tray. The sides, back, and front don't touch any part of the carcase, and are not at all involved in the sliding fit.


    Jamie

  8. #8

    Repairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Evertsen
    Lee,,,,,, how will metal slides make well built drawers last longer if built right and taken care of drawers will last years with metal or wood slides,,,I have two hutches and a dresser that prove that,,,,,
    I've repaired several older pieces of furniture, dressers mostly, where wood on wood slides were used. The wood has worn from sliding and the drawer no longer fits properly and is difficult to open and close. I've seen drawers where the sides of the drawer have worn down the runners on the bottom resulting in notches in the face frame. If a metal slide ever wears out. It can easily be replaced. I would expect most metal slides with ball bearings in them to last 1,000,000 cycles. I don't think wood would hold up for 10% of that if there is any weight in the drawer at all! You also don't have to contend with seasonal dimension changes as much with metal slides as they don't expand and contract.

    If you want a truly traditionally built piece then by all means go with wood slides. If you are going to have a drawer with lots of use and /or lots of weight, then I would recommend metal slides over wood ones. It doesn't degrade the value of a piece because you used metal slides. Traditional craftman didn't use them because they weren't available, nothing more, nothing less. My wife loves the metal ones on her dresser which have been in daily use for 20+ years and still run like new. The "antique" dresser we bought with wood slides on the drawers sticks in the summer and works fine in the winter. The drawer bottoms were 1/4-5/16" shorter at the front of the drawer than at the back than they started and the dresser is probably less than 75 years old. Drawers were made of maple as were the runners.
    Lee Schierer - McKean, PA

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Contribute

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Algonquin, IL
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    If you are concerned about wood-on-wood wear, (I am), get some of the UHMW tape to apply to the runners.

    For example...
    http://www.rockler.com/ecom7/showdet...catid=10&DID=6

    Applied to the base and sides this should create a slick surface for the drawer to ride on and reduce wear.
    “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity”

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Todd, please explain 'kicker'. I just built a nine drawer dresser and all of the drawers have the "tilts'.

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Hi John. Kickers are those pieces, that work with runners, to keep drawers running smoothly and keep them from tilting down when pulled out, as you have seen! Side rails, for lack of a better term, are those pieces that keep a drawer from racking side to side.

    If you visualize, say, the right side of a drawer opening, inside your case, you have a runner on the bottom, a side rail connected to that, and a kicker on the top. These 3 pieces form a squared "U", up on edge, that the side of the drawer fits into. On the left side, you have a mirror image "U". Together, they work to form an opening the drawer can easily slide into and out of.

    That's the basic concept. Once you get that, you can then follow it through to realize that the side rails don't have to be a solid piece from the runner to the kicker, all you need is enough side rail sticking up from the runner to keep the drawer on it's path. I'll typically make runners of out 1" wide x 3/4" thick stock, and the side rails out of the same, and glue and nail them together to form an "L". The kicker can be it's own piece, or actually even be the bottom of the runner for the drawer above. The kicker should line up with the top of the drawer side to be effective.

    Todd

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