In this tutorial we are sharing the easiest way to build a drawer and how to install a drawer.
If you follow along with us on Instagram, I am sure you have been seeing our progress on the cabinets we are building for our new home office. This project has been a a large one and is taking a little longer than we would like, dang life and work, getting in the way of our DIY projects.
We are closing in on the end of the project and are really proud of how the cabinets are coming together. We can’t wait to share the finished cabinets and completed office for that matter but first we thought we would talk about the drawers.
Our cabinets are made up of four doors and five drawers. That means the past weekend Brent has been busy building lots of drawers! He got his drawer building technique down to be as efficient and quick as possible so we thought we would create a tutorial on the easiest way he found to build drawers and install them.
We are building long and large drawers for our cabinets but this tutorial can also apply if you want to build a drawer for nightstands or dressers. The measurements and amount of supplies will vary depending on the type and size of the project.
How to Build a Drawer
- 1/2″ Plywood
- 3/8″ Masonite
- 1/2″ Truss Head Screws
- 16″ Drawer Sliders
- 1-1/4″ Brad Nails
- Foam Tape
- Wood Glue
- Table Saw
- Miter Saw
- Brad Nailer
- T-Square + Pencil
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Before building the drawer, we needed to determine the measurements. We used 16 inch drawer sliders so our drawer needed to be 16 inches deep. Based on the opening in our cabinets, the drawer needed to be 4 1/2 inches tall. To figure out how wide to make the drawer, we took the width of the opening in the cabinet minus how wide the drawer sliders are.
The drawer sliders will come with instructions that will explain how much space to compensate for the sliders. For our sliders it was exactly 1 inch. The opening for the drawer is 37 inches wide so we needed to make our drawer 36 inches wide.
The dimensions for our drawer are: 16″ deep x 4 1/2″ tall x 36″ wide. *Your measurements and amount of supplies will vary depending on the type and size of your project.
1. We began by cutting our large piece of plywood down. First, we focused on cutting the boards to the correct height (4 1/2″) using the table saw. To do this we made sure the factory edge of the board lined up with the fence of the table saw.
Since the drawer was going to be 4 1/2 inches tall, we made the fence 4 1/2 inches away from the blade and it was ready to cut to size.
2. We cut the plywood down into three pieces.
3. Once all the boards were cut to the correct height, we now needed to create the walls of the drawers and cut them to the correct lengths using the miter saw. We used a miter saw for this because it gives the perfect 90 degrees square angle that creates a nice square box.
We cut two boards at a time so that the front and back pieces of the drawers matched up exactly and the two side pieces would be the exact same.
Here are the four pieces that made up the walls of our drawers. The long pieces are the front and back pieces (36 inches) and the shorter pieces are the sides (16 inches).
4. Next, we moved back over to table saw to cut slits in the bottom of all four of the boards. We needed to cut a slit for the piece of masonite to slide into that would form the bottom of the drawer. We made the slot in the bottom of the drawer a 1/2 inch from the bottom so we moved the fence on the table saw so it was a 1/2 inch from the blade. Then we lowered the blade on the table saw so it would only cut about half way through the board.
5. Because the piece of masonite we used is a little wider than the blade, we ended up having to make two passes for each piece with the table saw. To do this we slid the fence over a little and cut the slot just wider than the board is thick.
6. Our last piece to cut was the masonite that would be the bottom of our drawer. To determine the measurements of this piece we took the outside measurements of our drawer, which is 16 inches deep and 36 inches wide and since the boards are a 1/2 inch wide and we cut a little over half way through them with the slot, we needed to cut the bottom piece to be a 1/2 inch smaller.
So the measurements of our bottom piece are 15 1/2 inches deep by 35 1/2 inches wide.
7. Once we started piecing the drawer together we noticed that the boards looked bowed. This is because we used a thinner plywood and 1/2 inch plywood does that sometimes when it is cut down.
This isn’t a huge problem because we straightened it out once we assembled it. The important thing to remember is to face the side that bows towards the inside of the drawer.
8. To begin assembling the drawer we took the two smaller pieces of the wall and put clamps on the bottom to hold them upright.
9. Then we put a dab of wood glue on the sides facing upwards of both of our side pieces.
10. Next, we took one of longer pieces and attached it to both of the side piece with 1 1/4 inch finishing nails using a nail gun.
11. We removed the clamps and flipped the drawer over and slid in our bottom piece into the slots we cut.
12. Then we put a dab of wood glue on both of the side pieces facing upwards.
13. Finally, we nailed the remaining board to the side pieces. Remember to place the board so the bowed side faces inward. The bottom board will keep the piece that is bowed straight once it is attached with the finishing nails.
14. When we cut our boards on the table saw, it caused the edges to splinter a bit. To clean up the edges and prevent further splintering, we used a router to round over the edges, sandpaper or an electric sander would work as well.
How to Install a Drawer
15. To install that drawer we first needed to attach the sliders to the inside of the cabinet, easier said than done! Making sure the sliders are in the correct position and straight can be a bit tricky but we found a solution that worked really well.
First we clamped a piece of scrap board inside the cabinet, made sure it was level and measured to make sure it was the correct distance from the top.
16. Then all we had to do was rest the sider on the clamped board.
17. We then used a drill and 1/2″ panhead screws to attach the slider to our cabinet.
18. We used a t-square and pencil to draw a line the same height as the crossbar on the cabinets and then clamped another scrap board where that line was.
19. The clamp brace sits flush with the drawer opening so we used a ¼ inch scrap piece of wood as a spacer to prop the drawer up on to allow for a little room for it to slide over the base of the drawer opening.
20. Next, we slid in the the drawer and had it sit on the scrap board while we attached it to the sliders.
21. While the drawer slider was in the cabinet, we attached two screws in the front half of the slider to the drawer.
22. Once the front half of the drawer slider was attached, we needed to attach the back half of the drawer slider so we needed to remove the drawer to access this part of the drawer slider.
23. To remove the drawer with part of the drawer slider, we slid the drawer all the way out and pressed the plastic trigger on each side.
24. Then we were able to attach the back half of the drawer slider to the drawer.
25. Finally, we slid the drawer back into place. Once the drawer is installed it sat flush with the front of the cabinet so that allowed us to make a drawer face that overhangs the cabinet that finished off the look and made it nice and clean.
Once we paint the drawer faces we will attach them to the drawer using double sided foam tape. We will put a couple of pieces on the back of the drawer face, line up the drawer face, stick it into place and then come back through the back with screws and secure the drawer face to the drawer.
Now that all the drawers are built and installed, next on the agenda is to get the drawer faces (and doors) painted and then attach them to the cabinets! Then, we can add out drawer pulls to finish them off.
We hope this how to build a drawer tutorial comes in handy if you ever find yourself in need of building some custom sized drawers. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below or shoot us an email and we will try out best to help!
See how our finished office cabinets turned out!