In trying to come up with a design that will insure my drawer
dimensions (I haven't quite mastered my Keller yet; my dovetails fit
fine, but drawer dimensions are only approximate when I use it) for my
drawer slides, I decided to go with a sliding dovetail.
Seems easy enough when you get the pin (tail? the part that will
slide into the slot) sussed out. But I did notice some caveats from a
number of the google hits. To wit:
1. These joints may not be the choice for drawers that carry heavy
loads. I assume that the use of ball bearing slides alleviates this
concern, as the drawer will open easy no matter what.
2. These joints should not be made with ply as the structure of
plywood is too weak. Really? Even given my use of the ball bearing
3. Most sliding dovetails are tapered on the pages I found. If I make
the fit slightly loose (very slightly) and use a gorilla glue type
product, will that be sufficient?
Heavy loads cause excess strain on the joint because of the
orientation/direction of the force on the joint, as you have probably
Ball bearing slides will help relieve the strain when opening the drawer BUT
if the case that the drawer fits into is the limiter of travel when closing
the drawer rather than the limits of the slides being the limit of travel
the excess ease of the heavy drawer slamming shut could knock the drawer
These joints are tapered so that you can actually slide them together. With
out a taper It would be difficult to glue and slide them together. Tapering
leaves every thing relative loose until they are completely closed.
You can make straight slightly loose but too loose would be likely. Use of
Gorilla Glue, you did not mention which Gorilla Glue you would be using
would not be helpful. Although some Gorilla Glues foam and fill voids this
filling in has very very little strength, it is mostly dried bubbles not a
I would say forget this style joint unless you make it correctly. DT's are
not simple and do require practice. I would suggest you figure out what it
would take to make your jig make accurate sized boxes and go with the
traditional through or HB DT joint.
It has been my experience that store bought manufactured furniture that has
the sliding DT joint in the drawers tends to be cheaply made, IMHO it is a
cost cutter joint. I would be more likely to use a rabbet joint over a
sliding DT joint for drawers.
Sides or slides? I'm assuming "sides"...
I would think so. Even without slides I'd think it would be fine.
I have a tool storage table with lots of drawers. Drawer sides are
rabbeted - not dovetailed - into the fronts, glued and pinned with 2-3 1/8"
dowels. Wood slides. Some of the drawers are quite heavy - wrenches,
sockets, etc. - and none have failed since I made them 17 years ago. Solid
wood but I'd not hesitate to do the same with ply.
See above but solid wood is much nicer.
I almost always make sliding dovetails nowadays. Not tapered, never had the
need. As long as you can get them on (and off) by hand - perhaps with a
light smack - they will be fine with woodworker's glue (Gorilla Glue sucks).
FWIW, I use overlay fronts a lot. That means the side is narrower than the
front which means the dovetail pin in the side is shorter than the socket in
the front. I make extra pins and fill the void with same.
Interesting. There is as much diversity of opinion here as on the
Anyhoo, despite Leon's negativity on this idea, I'm gonna do it. Will
post my efforts on lumberjocks.
Thanks to all for their input.
On Wed, 13 Jan 2010 10:28:26 -0800 (PST), the infamous Brian Grella
Simple. It appears that he'll use the gap-filling quality of Gorilla
glue to, um, glue his drawers in? ;) I think he should use Gorilla
Epoxy for this, myself.
What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of
having a patient, but restless mind, of sacrificing one's
ease or vanity, of uniting a love of detail to foresight, and
of passing through hard times bravely and cheerfully.
-- Charles Victor Cherbuliez
On Wed, 13 Jan 2010 05:44:43 -0800 (PST), "D'ohBoy"
Sliding dovetails are not ideal for drawers. There can be a lot of
force against the front and back, even with roller glides. The force
exerted depends on how the drawer might be used (or abused).
Not sure. Really depends on the ply quality and today that can vary.
I can see some force exerted directly on the glue plane inside the
Your sliding dovetail should be snug, not loose, but not too tight
either. Yellow carpenters glue (Elmers, Titebond, etc) is best. For
a sliding dovetail you can put the glue just in the first inch or so
and it will spread as the joint is pressed together.
You might want to rethink your choice of joinery. Consider
traditional dovetails or a lock joint. You can make a lock joint with
a router bit or table saw.
I might use a quality ply for a shop drawer, but certainly not for
"fine furniture." Poplar, pine, or other secondary 1/2" thick wood is
often used for drawer sides. Do you have a surface planer?
I have grown to prefer handcut dovetails because I enjoy making them.
The skill is fairly easy to learn with some practice (took me about 10
You can do it, but except in certain circumstances it's a poor
If the drawer face overlays the carcase, you'll see the dovetail slot
- so that's out.
If it's an inset drawer with sides at the full width of the front, the
dovetail groove will be very close to the end of the door front.
That's pretty weak, and will split out easily. Don't even think about
a tapered dovetail. Tapered dovetails are good only when the groove
is well away from a board's end.
If it's an inset drawer with a front that overhangs the sides by quite
a bit - as when you are using mechanical slides on the drawer sides -
it will be structurally sound. You'll still see the joint at the top
edge of the drawer, though.
Whatever the style, you have to put it together - and you will not be
able to house the drawer bottom in all four pieces if you use sliding
dovetails at all four corners.
Master your dovetail jig, or learn to cut them by hand.
WOW! You guys are full of something! Anyhoo, to put a few things to
1. These are for a shop cart, and will be edge-banded so I *won't* see
the joint at the top of the drawer.
2. These are inset drawers with slides (sides will be 1/2" from ends),
and I don't plan to dovetail the back end.
3. John, your final admonishment is well taken. But I need to get
this cart done. The materials are scrap, the cart is in the shop, and
if it all fails next week, then I just make some fresh drawers using
As for "cutting them by hand", gimme a freakin' break. It's mostly
retired duuds who live in their shop/lucky guys have time for that.
Again, thanks to all for their very special individual take on this
If seeing the joint bothers one it is no big deal to "stop" the socket cut;
result, no joint visible. If the front is an overlay, you will have a bit
of empty socket at the bottom rear of the front; an easy solution is to make
some extra pins, cut off a portion and use it to fill the void.
Time was that it was pretty normal for the drawer back to be on top of the
Agreed. Time was. Drawer bottoms were solid wood - fairly thick but
with fielded edges to fit into the grooves in the drawer front and
sides. They were not attached at the back and since the grain of the
bottom went crossways that allowed the bottom to expand and contract.
Sometimes a screw or two in the middle with the bottom floating in the
groove in the door front.
Today, with plywood used for most drawer bottoms, there is no
expansion problem. And with thin plywood, a groove in the drawer back
provides support - which is why some prefer it.
Without a full-height grooved back there is no way to have air
pressure pop one drawer as you close another, which is something I
happen to like....
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