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Thoughts on Dovetailed Cabinet Drawers?

Posted by jenniestowe (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 17, 12 at 0:21

My husband and I have found a local cabinetmaker/woodworker to make cabinets for our new kitchen. He does beautiful work and I think he'll do a wonderful job. He's making the cabinet carcasses out of birch plywood and the face frames out of beech. We've decided on poplar drawer fronts (we're not having doors, only drawers) as we want to paint them.

He's suggested plywood for the drawer boxes (maybe I'm using the wrong term, but I mean for the sides and bottoms of the drawers) and stapling/gluing them together. We really had in mind something more like dovetailed drawers, with the drawers being made all of solid wood (with perhaps the exception of the bottoms being plywood). What's most important to us is to have cabinets/drawers that feel solid and durable and lovely as well.

I'm curious as to what people think. Will plywood drawers that are glued/stapled, feel substantially cheaper than solid wood drawers? My understanding is that from a technical perspective, dovetailing was developed when there weren't other methods of joining two pieces of wood at an angle such as there are now (strong glues, etc.). Nevertheless, I associated dovetailing with a certain solidity.

Overall our kitchen is going to be simple but, we hope, nice. We are having base cabinets only (supplemented by a shelf above the backsplash). We are hoping to salvage the original fir floors as well as the original subway tile backsplash (from 1927). We are leaning toward marble counters. We found a 1940s Universal stove on craigslist. So you get a sense of our aesthetic.

Very interested to hear people's perspectives.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Thoughts on Dovetailed Cabinet Drawers?

It sounds like you have wonderful plan in mind. Your aesthetic comes through, in your finishes and choices you have described.
Since you are clear about your preferences, it seems to me you would only be satisfied with the beauty and durability dovetailing with solid wood gives to the finished work. How many times a day do we open and close our drawers? My grandson hangs on them. That said, I am just finishing my reno, and chose to exclude the dovetailing due to cost factor, created by the number of cabinets and drawers. I would have loved the craftmanship and the longer warranty. My cabinets were made in Quebec Canada, where woodworking has been an art for a couple of hundred years, and I live in nearby Ontario.I chose solid birch for the doors and stained it a dark cabernet.

RE: Thoughts on Dovetailed Cabinet Drawers?

I would trust the judgement of your cabinetmaker if he meets your criteria in other aspects. Dovetails are by far the strongest joint you can have, but they were developed when people used solid wood, which moves with the seasons. Plywood does not have that problem. The drawers in our kitchen are over 40 years old and are made of high-quality AC fir plywood that is half-lapped and nailed. They are holding up beautifully. The cabinet faces are all banged up but the drawers are still solid.

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