6 How to build quality drawers with fancy box joints from Becky the Builder

Today I'm honored to have the very talented Becky from Ramblings from the Burbs. This girl's got skills, from installing their own kitchen sink to sanding their own floors- she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. Oh and did I mention she's also mid-western blogger, as in my sister state of MN?! Mid-west represent! 

Last week she posted a little sneak peek on these beautiful drool-worthy dovetail drawers, and she's here today to share how it's done. Enough of my rambling, let's let Becky take the reigns:

Hi B&W Obsession readers! I'm Becky, a spray paint aficionado, pneumatic tool enthusiast, designer/photographer wannabe, and blogger at Ramblings from the Burbs. I live near St. Paul, Minnesota with my husband, two kiddos and a cat and dog to round out the suburban family cliche. Our home is a 1960's rambler which is a constant construction zone from our DIY remodeling projects. We're in the midst of a never ending kitchen remodel and thanks to Trisha for allowing me to be her guest blogger and sharing some of that with you today.

Let's talk about drawers shall we (not your undergarmets, but the ones in your kitchen). I'm a big proponent of drawers and their superiority over standard base cabinets with shelves. They require less bending and stretching than shelves and it allows to get to contents in the back without moving all of the contents in the front so when we started planning our kitchen remodel I knew I wanted to utilize a lot of drawers in the design of the base cabinets for maximum functionality.

We have ten drawers in our kitchen and we are building and installing all of them ourselves so we are getting a lot of practice at it. Today I'm here to share a tutorial on how you can build your own quality drawers (or pullout shelves)  to upgrade the functionality of your cabinets.


First lets discuss our materials. We are building our drawer boxes out of 3/4" plywood for the sides and 1/2" plywood for the bottom. It's fairly common to see the sides of drawer boxes built out of hardwood in high end cabinets, but we don't mind seeing the plies so we opted for plywood over hardwood and saved some money there to spend on a more crucial element - full extension, soft-close drawer slides. 


If you're upgrading your cabinetry, I strongly recommend going with soft-close drawer slide feature (you'll be glad you did when your channeling your inner Shakira and bumping the drawer closed with the swing of your hip). And because I don't mind the aesthetics of seeing the slides when the drawer is pulled out, we used side-mount slides instead of under-mount because they were about half the price.

So now on to the good stuff... how to build a lasting high quality drawer. The gold-standard for drawer construction is to use dovetail joints but they would be a bit of overkill for our plywood material. Instead we used boxed joints which look similar to dovetails but are significantly easier to make and withstand push/pull forces better than butt joints, dados and mechanical fasteners thanks to the interlocking grooves and amount of surface area available for glue to adhere.

To start out, determine the outer dimensions of the drawer box. Remember to subtract the width required for the slide clearance if using side-mount slides and subtract from the depth the thickness of the drawer front if the drawer front will be inset. Once the dimensions of the drawer box is determined, cut to size the following four components (and mark the top and bottom of each piece):
two matching front and back pieces (width x height of the drawer box), and
two matching side pieces: (depth x height of the drawer box).


To cut the box joints on the edges all four pieces we used a table saw with a Freud Box Joint Cutter Blade and a homemade box joint jig made out of scrap materials. You can purchase box joint jigs from woodworking supply stores but it's far cheaper to build your own - I'll have an upcoming tutorial on my blog for you soon on how to build one.


Start the box joint cuts on the first piece (pick any one) by positioning the top edge against the left side of the jig's index key and flat against the jig sled and slide the sled forward though the blade to make your first cut.


Reposition the piece with the previous cut over the index key (making sure the piece is all the way down) and repeat to make successive cuts.


To make the first cut on the adjoining piece, use the first piece as a spacer and align to top edges. Repeat until you have two sides cut with matching box patterns and the front/back cut with matching box patterns.


And finally a 3/8" deep dado was cut along the bottom of each side, front, and back piece using the router table to hold the bottom piece of the drawer.



After all that fun with power tools, it's time for glue assembly and clamps. Here's how our sample drawer box we put together for this tutorial turned out from the bottom.

Congrats if you made it this far, I know that was some heavy stuff there! In addition to putting together a post on how to make a box joint jig, I'll soon be detailing out how to install the drawers on my blog and show off some other cabinet building how-to's as we progress with our epic DIY kitchen renovation. I hope you'll follow along!

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See, making your own drawers isn't so hard now is it? 

Making the upgrade to homemade box joint drawers is something you can now achieve with a couple tools, time, dimensions, and will power. You'll be a master craftsman making custom drawers for your kitchen, bath, or even a desk in no time! Don't forget to stop by her blog and check out progress on that kitchen!!


Want to see more Guest Posts? They’re cooling off the presses and available here.

6 comments:

  1. I love this. This is some professional status stuff!

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    1. The beau makes this stuff all the time, but if I had my crack at it- well lets just say it'd probably end up wonky until I make that index key she talked about!!

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  2. This is also why I am a software engineer and not qualified as a wood worker. Your friends and boyfriend have some mad skills. In wood working in high school I took big cabinets and reduced things down to toothpicks. There were a lot of toothpicks though so I came out ahead... it was a case of quantity over quality.

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    1. Seriously that is the best!! Now I know who to go to when I want to make a huge batch of bacon wrapped water chestnuts!! Thanks for the visuals and the belly laughs!!

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