The harder the surface, the easier and smoother the drawers will slide in
and out. My advice would be to go with the same hard wood for both the
runner and the guide. Oak or maple make good runners. Add a touch of wax
on top of that and you will have some drawers that will close with a slight
You can still use plywood sides if you place your runner and guide under the
drawer. I would not advise using plywood for the drawer sides if you use
the sides to receive the runners.
If one does not wish to waste hardwood on the drawer sides, can one use
plywood for the drawer side, cut a dado in the plywood side and then dado a
strip of hardwood to insert into the plywood side dado to form a hardwood
surface for the drawer slide? Basically line the plywood side dado with
hardwood. Or even line just the upper surface of the plywood side dado with
a hardwood strip since there is the only real surface contact to the runner
anyway. Just a thought . . .
Depends on the size and contents of the drawer. I usually let the
drawer sides take the weight on the supporting drawer panels. For a
large or wide drawer, I install a muntin down the middle of the drawer
bottom with a harwood strip on the supporting drawer frame. That
helps stop racking and binding which can be a problem with the larger
Depends on the wood you are using--some move a lot more than others.
Depends on the environment (humidity changes) too. Plywood is very
stable. If your drawer from have a lip you can leave a 1/8" gap all
around (1/16" in winter months). Fitting a drawer into a carcass can
be tricky business. Before you put on the case back you may want to
fit the drawers first. Carbon paper is a useful tool.
Warning: The following may upset some people's aesthetic senses. (In some
applications, it would offend mine.)
One approach I have thought about is using UHMW or HDPE polyethylene for
the slides/runners. I am considering this for a project in a bath with 6
2.5" high drawers stacked between two cabinet doors. Kind of like a skinny
built-in hutch. No drawer would hold more than a few pounds but in the
bath there would be lots of changes in humdity. I happen to have some
scraps around from a project and there is a nearby place that sells cutoffs
somewhat cheap if I were to need more. (Whether it would be cost-effective
to buy strips from lee valley for this, for example, don't know.) This
way, you would be dealing with only one component changing size -- the dado
in the drawer -- and not even that if you put the slides under the drawers.
Plus UHMW and HDPE are inherently slippery.
Also, a 3/4 x 3/4 piece of UHMW or HDPE might not be as rigid as a piece of
oak, so you might need a few extra fasteners to hold it straight -- or a
shallow dado should also work. On a 16" deep drawer, for example, I might
use 3 screws (countersunk if it will run in a drawer dado) and a couple of
brads. Of course, glue won't help.
Note: While UHMW cuts with standard saw blades -- I find about 24-40 teeth
in a TS blade about right -- when cut it creates cotton candy-like balls
versus chips and dust. Just kind of weird, w/ its static electricity, to
clean up. HDPE is not like this -- more like wood.
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