Help me with the joining of the drawers-Miller Dowel System?

bothDecember 3, 2010

We are about to make the 10 drawers for our kitchen cabinets. I have looked into dovetailing but do jigs are expensive and I think it may be a lot of time to master it. I did get a quote on having it done for us and it was 300 just for the dovetailing. I do not want to kreg because I want to use 5/8 birch or maple and am worried that is too thin and will crack. Someone recomended Miller Dowel System. I think it would also look pretty good if I used the Walnut and Cherry dowels with the light wood. I would glue up the box and them use the dowels with glue. What do any of you think? Any other ideas are very welcome. Amy

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Jon1270

Since serviceable drawers can be fastened with nails, I assume you're considering things like the Miller dowel system largely for their looks. Keep in mind that you won't see these joints much since they'll be hidden behind the applied drawer fronts.

Depending on the tools available, it may be difficult to get a row of dowels lined up neatly. Do you have a drill press?

Alternatively, you could use a table saw to cut short tenons (1/4" long) on the ends of the fronts and backs, to fit into kerfs cut in the sides. Glue, clamp... done. This is how I built my drawers (I can cut dovetails by hand, but I didn't have that kind of time), and they've held up fine for several years.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 1:37PM
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both

Jon that is a good idea. I was planning on having the drawer sides run all the way to the front and then the front and back would fit in between the sides and then glue and use the dowels. Yes I am doing it for cosmetic purposes. As vain as it is I feel like someone will inspect my kitchen drawers and see no dovetail and think less of the job that we did. So I thought this would be something interesting to look at. I do worry that it will look like we just screwed it together and put in plugs. We will see. I do not have a drill press.
Thanks so much for your help Amy

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 2:46PM
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HandyMac

Short history lesson. Dovetails were invented/used on early furniture because the available glue was very short lived and gave up holding. The design of the dovetail joint took all the stress off ther glue and only used the glue to initially hold the joint together.

Modern glues are stronger than the wood. The glue joint is now stronger than the wood used. The reason chipboard drawers fail with nails/glue is because the chip board fails---the glue joint seldom fails.

So, if you simply use butt joints with wood glue and clamp the joints until the glue dries---the joint will probably out live the furhiture.

Folks who critisize non dovetail joints are often just listening to advertisement or handcut dovetail fanatics.

Finish nails will help more than dowels.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 6:14PM
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someone2010

If your drawers are not inset and you have or make a router table; you can use a sliding dovetail. This joint is stronger than half blind or through dovetails in my opinion because the dovetail is fully captured. You can make it through the face of the drawer or stopped.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 8:21PM
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someone2010

I meant the slot could go all the way from the top to the bottom or stopped short of the top.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 12:50AM
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Jon1270

I disagree with Handymac on one point, where he wrote

if you simply use butt joints with wood glue and clamp the joints until the glue dries---the joint will probably out live the furhiture.

This is taking it a bit far. End-grain glue joints are relatively weak to begin with. The oft-quoted "glue is stronger than wood" refers only to face/edge-grain joints. You can laminate two 2x4s of the same length and get a perfectly serviceable 4x4 or 2x8, but you can't glue their ends together and get a useful 2x4 that's twice the length.

Even if the glue holds, it only holds at the surface, so the force it would take to break a drawer built with glue-only butt joints is pretty small. Ball-bearing drawer slides do reduce the stresses exerted on those joints when opening and closing, but you'd still be pushing your luck without somehow giving the drawer front mechanical purchase into the sides, be it dovetails, dowels, box joints, stub tenons or nails.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 5:51AM
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brickeyee

Drawers have always been a problem sine the joints get loaded in every direction, and if the drawer is slammed closed they even get some impact loading.

The problem with all dowel joints is the lack of face grain glue area.
A round object does not have a lot of face grain area, so any loads that tend to pull on the dowel lengthwise can cause problems (like the load in the drawer pushing the sides outwards).

Dovetails are relying on the glue in this direction also, but the shallow angle and multiple faces being joined have a good glue area.

If you use drawer guides make sure the drawer face is solidly attached to the sides (especially if the drawers are NOT inset completely).
The drawer WILL get slammed closed, and the edges of the front stop the movement.

When plywood was popular for cabinet drawers I did plenty of business gluing the drawer fronts back together when the plywood split from slamming the drawer.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 10:48AM
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aidan_m

The drawer front should not slam against the face of the cabinet, unless the glides used are the super-cheap kind.

I usually use full extension ball bearing glides, like Fulterer 5600 or Accuride 3832, pretty standard stuff.

When installed properly, the rubber bushing inside the glide takes the slamming impact of a closing drawer. The front should just barely contact the face of the cabinet as the inner metal parts of the glide bump snugly against the rubber stop.

When people do sloppy installations, they set the part of the glide too far back inside the cabinet carcase so the glide doesn't close completely before the front of the drawer hits the face frame of the cabinet. After a few hard slams, the front part of the plywood drawer box splits apart.

The new soft-close and self-closing glides take the impact away.

People are making drawers to a much higher standard today than 10 to 20 years ago. Most standard production cabinets built today have drawers that will outlast the carcases, provided the glides are decent quality and installed properly.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 6:22PM
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brickeyee

"When installed properly, the rubber bushing inside the glide takes the slamming impact of a closing drawer. The front should just barely contact the face of the cabinet as the inner metal parts of the glide bump snugly against the rubber stop."

And when you slam the drawer closed, the rubber compresses and instead of "barely contact" the face of the drawer bears the impact (reduced slightly by ther compression of the stop on the guides).

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 9:08AM
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