Building Drawers – Simplified Methods

The drawers shown above are part of a simple desk that I built for my wife Barbara’s home office. The desk was constructed of maple plywood. The structure of the desk and the desktop were made of 3/4 inch thick plywood and the drawers were made of 1/2 inch maple plywood with 1/4 inch plywood bottoms.

There are many ways to build drawers for cabinets and furniture. Some woodworkers believe only certain methods for building drawers are acceptable and simpler methods are abominations. That’s not how I feel and after some 40 years of woodworking I believe there are many ways to build quality projects and I prefer the simpler methods.

Drawers are an important part of many cabinets and furniture projects so I decided to share how I build drawers. These are methods I used for hundreds of projects over all these years and never received a call back regarding issues with drawers. The drawing below shows how the drawers for this desk and hundreds of other projects were built. Under the drawing are additional details.

Notice the simplicity of this design. It basically involves butt joints without any joinery except for nails and glue. It is a basic box with the top edge sanded or rounded over if you prefer. Once the box is assembled to the correct size with 1/2 inch plywood a bottom is cut the size of the box from 1/4 inch plywood and nailed and glued to the bottom of the drawer. This completes the drawer except for the drawer glides that will allow the drawer to function properly within the cabinet or furniture piece.

Nailing the drawer together properly is essential to make the joints strong. This is done by using the method show in the photo at left. I always used a pneumatic nailer to assemble drawers but it can be done with regular finish nails. Either way, the nails should be driven at a slight angle toward the center and glue should be applied to the joint. These two steps ensure a tight joint that will stay together indefinitely even under harsh treatment.

I use a pneumatic stapler with narrow crown staplers to nail the bottom to the drawer structure. I apply a narrow strip of wood glue to the bottom edge of the drawer structure and then apply the bottom and staple it with 1 inch staples.

Lacking a pneumatic stapler you can also fasten the bottom using #3 box nails or even small screws. If any glue squeezes out don’t wipe it with a rag or paper towel while it’s wet. Allow it to dry for a few minutes and then when it hardens slightly use a putty knife to clean the excess. This will do a much neater job and avoid the glue smearing all over your drawer.

On this page I’m only covering how to build the drawer. In an upcoming page I’ll cover how to measure to determine the correct size for a drawer to fit the cabinet space and accommodate the drawer glide to ensure smooth functionality.