The Secret to a Beautiful Drawer

Drawer-pic-thumbMaybe it’s me, but whenever I walk into an expensive home, I have certain expectations in my head as to the quality of the woodwork that should be in that house. One of my pet peeves is always the quality of the drawers in the kitchen. Now call me crazy, call me a perfectionist or whatever, but when I open a drawer, I expect that drawer to be a nice well-made drawer made from Maple or Beech and I expect it to roll effortlessly (like a Snap On toolbox for those of you who are tool freaks like me).
Whenever I open a drawer that drags or binds, it drives me crazy. And tops on my list, even more than sticky drawers is drawers that are made from plywood with rough edges. Drives me nuts!
Ply-drawer3-262x300-thumbThis article isn’t about the drawer hardware (I will talk about the slides in a future article). It’s more about the wood that the drawer is made from. The drawer slides can make a beautiful drawer more functional, but even more important is the wood used to make the drawer. The two best choices for drawer side material that will have a natural clear finish are Maple or Beech. This is typically used in high-end furniture. For drawers that will be painted, Poplar is the smoothest and most economical. And for the bottom, a ¼” Maple or Birch plywood is usually best. These woods are both very strong and very smooth. Delta Millwork makes drawer side material in 1/2”, 5/8”, and 3/4” thick that includes a 1/4” groove for the drawer bottom and a smooth, slightly rounded top edge. Typically, builders will use the 1/2” drawer sides for normal kitchen drawers and thicker material such as 5/8” and 3/4” for large drawers that will have heavy items in them like pots and pans and clothes.
But why go to the trouble… can’t I just use plywood?
Drawer-divided-pic-thumbYou can, but on a higher-end project there are certain expectations and one of them is a very smooth, well-finished drawer. The first thing women home buyers do is open drawers in kitchens to see how everything works. They look for little things like dividers in the drawers and whether or not they can pull them out smoothly.
Wait, but don’t they need to be dovetailed and complicated to build?
Absolutely not. While dovetails are a beautiful statement, they are certainly not necessary for strength in a typical drawer. Simple square corners glued and nailed together create a very strong drawer. It’s what I always build for my own personal projects and home.


But doesn’t it cost a lot more? Uh… not really.
Drawer sides made from solid hardwoods are not cost prohibitive by any means, in fact quite the contrary. Drawer side material can usually be made for slightly more that the costs of buying the plywood and cutting it up. Ready-made drawer sides require no sanding and can be ordered in any width and be easily cut down on the job site for special sizes. So on your next project consider solid wood drawer sides from Delta Millwork, you will be pleasantly surprised at the finished product.


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