Building A Cabinet Drawer

cabinet with a row of open drawers and cupboards below
What You'll Need
Table saw (recommended)
Router with rabbeting bit and a round over bit (optional, but handy)
1/2 -inch plywood for drawer sides
1/4 -inch cabinet grade plywood for drawer bottom
Orbital sander
Screwdriver and screws
Hardwood or pre-purchased drawer front, if desired

Building your own cabinet drawer will give you the ability to fit the exact size you need and give you the satisfaction of completing a somewhat challenging job yourself.

Step 1 - Careful Measurement

Measure the width, height, and depth of the drawer opening. From the width measurement, subtract ½ an inch from each side (1 inch total) to allow room for drawer slides. Read the instructions that come with the drawer slides to see if they require a non-standard clearance.

Subtract ½-inch from the depth of the drawer to allow for clearance when it slides in and out.

The length of the drawer can be as long as the cabinet (the standard is 24 inches for most kitchen and bathroom cabinets), though you can make it shorter for easier use. 20-inch drawers are common.

Step 2 - Cut the Plywood

man cutting large sheet of plywood

If you have a large sheet of plywood, cut it down to a manageable size before you begin. Using a table saw fence, rip the sides to the proper height. If you are making multiple drawers, do all the rips at once, as this will prevent the need to constantly change the table saw fences. For the drawer backs, cut the height one inch lower than the front and sides.

Then cut your front, back and sides to length. Cut the sides and lay them aside. Cut the back and front piece ½-inch smaller than your measurement to allow for the rabbet joints.

Step 3 - Cut the Rabbet Joints

Rabbet joints provide more surface for gluing, thus creating a stronger joint. If you choose, you can also use a butt joint.

For rabbet joints, cut a ¼-inch deep cut at each end of your drawer sides.

Step 4 - Cut the Groove for the Drawer Bottom

Use a dado blade or table saw blade with multiple passes to make a ¼-inch cut one inch up from the bottom on all the sides and fronts of the drawers. Do not make the cut for a groove in the back of the drawer.

Step 5 - Cut the Drawer Bottom

Cut the ¼-inch plywood for the drawer bottom. Subtract ½ inch from your width measurement and ¼ inch from the length measurement to give you the right size.

Step 6 - Assemble the Box

person sanding edge of a drawer

Apply wood glue to the rabbet joints and spread it with a craft brush. Line the joints up and clamp them together as you build. Clamp the door front in place between the sides. Insert the bottom, and then clamp the back into place. Do not glue drawer bottom. Use 4d finish nails or 18 gauge brads with an automatic nail gun. Allow the drawer to sit for 30 minutes.

If you are using the drawer inside a cabinet and you are simply going to close the cabinet door over the new drawers, then you are done with your drawer. If your drawer is exposed, you need a front.

Step 7 - Decorative Front

Either purchase a decorative front or cut one from hardwood. Make the front ½-inch larger on all sides than the measurement you made for the drawer front so that it will cover the opening on the drawer. Attach front to drawer, and you have a great cabinet drawer!