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Question on aligning drawer fronts

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  • Question on aligning drawer fronts

    I've been working on a 3-drawer stand for a 10" bandsaw I received over the holidays and I finally got around to mounting the drawer fronts. The spacing left to right and between drawers came out pretty good for my first attempt, however, when you look at the drawers from the side, the top edges of the drawer fronts fit tightly against the faceframes, but the bottoms of the drawer fronts are angled away from the faceframes by about a 1/16" of an inch. The fronts are pulled up tight to the drawers and I used self-closing slides so I know there is enough room. I'm thinking that the slides are mounted at an odd angle causing the drawer fronts to angle away at the bottom--if that is it, do you think I would have a chance at aligning them by moving the slides or is that asking for bigger headaches?

    Has anyone else experienced this or have any suggestions? If so, I promise to post pics of the finished project as a source of amusement and laughter.

    Thank you

  • #2
    What type of slides - do they mount to the sides of the drawers or underneath the drawers? The ones that mount to the sides are easy to get tilted; those that mount underneath have 50% less chance of being tilted since only the slide pieces mounted to the cabinet itself are more susceptible to tilted mounting.

    See if the slides are parallel to the floor: open the drawers while looking from the side of the case... see if the drawers open uphill or downhill. Or, with the cabinet sitting level, puit a ball/marble into the drawers and see if it consistently rolls in one direction.

    For most drawer slide units, there are elongated holes in each piece - both horizontal and vertical ones besides smaller round holes. Ideally you use only the vertical holes for either case or drawer components and the horizontal holes for the other component. This way you can adjust the up/down of the drawer by using the vertical slots, and the in-out with the horizontal slots. I typically use the vertical slots of the slide pieces mounted to the drawers, referencing the leading edge of the slide to the leading/front edge of the drawer side panels. The horizontal slots get used on the slide parts mounted to the cabinet so I can adjust the in-out travel. Using spacer blocks nearly as long as the drawer slides (just scrap wood cut on the table saw to a consistent size) makes it easy to hold the cabinet mounted parts parallel to the cabinet floor: stand the spacer on the cabinet floor and rest the slide piece on the spacer while marking/drilling the pilot holes and then installing just 2 screws for now. I make a second spacer to position the slide a constant distance from the face frame too. Use the same spacers on the other side of the cabinet and the slide pieces ought to be installed identically. Make a third spacer that will sit on the installed slide pieces to get the spacing for the next cabinet mounted slide, etc. Some folks use a single large scrap piece of sheet material (plywood, etc) and make one tall spacer and install the TOP drawer slides first, then they cut off a few inches for the next slide down, etc. Either way works fine. My way does allow errors to accumulate though; the single sheet method chops up a bigger piece of wood but errors don't accumulate.

    You can make a spacer for the drawer mounted slide pieces too - for times when the slide pieces are mounted to the sides (not bottom) of the drawer. Mark a line where the center of the drawer slide should be... then clamp the slide piece on that centerline. Make a spacer that goes from the bottom edge of the drawer to the bottom edge of the slide... then screw another scrap to the bottom of the spacer making a "L" shape. Now it self-registers against the drawer bottom and is easy to clamp in place so you can concentrate on holding the slide piece, drilling, etc. Install only 2 screws initially.

    Once the drawers are adjusted and everything is lined up, remove the drawers (separate the slide halves - most will come apart again) and use the small round holes this time... use up the remaining screws to finish the installation.

    Since most drawer slide assemblies have way more holes than screws you can easily correct an "oops" by picking different holes... and just ignoring the small screw hole left in the cabinet walls or drawer sides. Or fill it with glue+sawdust.

    Last edited by mpc; 02-19-2012, 06:38 AM.


    • #3
      I agree with MPC for the most part. The differential in the drawer front can be due to a few reasons. If the floor of the cabinet was used for height and level for the mounting of slides, the face frame could be out of perpendicular to the floor of the cabinet. Various reasons can account for this condition. Placement of ends/dividers, or the stiles of the FF could be off slightly to the floor of the cabinet.

      If a face frame is used, it should be checked that it is flat to the face of the cabinet, and that it is 90 degrees to the floor of the cabinet. If side mount slides are used, either the side of the cabinet, or a buildout strip has to be flush with the edges of the face frame.

      If undermount slides are used (ones that attach to the bottom edges of the drawer box), similar squaring of the face frame and slides are necessary.

      If I'm installing multiple drawers (for a bank of drawers), either with or without a face frame, I use a piece of 1/4" plywood to lay out where the slides will go. Basically, I start with where I want the drawer front to end up, and where the box will attach to the drawer front, and then, where the slide will be attached to the drawer sides.

      From there, I draw a line with a framing square for the center line of the screw holes for the slides. The holes allow for a small setback (about 3/32") of the slide from the front of the cabinet (either the face frame or leading edge of a frameless cabinet). Then, vertical lines (at 90 degrees to the front edge of the piece) are drawn through the front to back lines for certain screw hole placement.

      Now that piece is marked for the front edge, and the bottom, so it can be used for both sides. I use a scratch awl to poke the drill locations. I then secure the plywood to a side of the cabinet, and use a very small pilot bit (1/16"-3/32") to drill the marked holes and pilot into the cabinet sides (or buildup strip).

      Mounting the slides will then be very quick. I find that doing it this way allows a very perpendicular hole for mounting the slides. Using a vix bit, or one of the spring loaded pilot punches, can offset a hole location enough (if not perfectly done) to allow the screw to skew as it's driven in. That bit of skew can cause the slide to move in an unwanted direction. I use the scratch awl so I can eyeball the center of the hole.

      So, just to recap a possible fix for the OP's problem, is that the slides are likely not 90 degrees to the face frame. Starting to figure out what is the cause isn't that difficult with some checking. And last, when all is installed, and the drawer fronts are not flat, the cabinet itself could be racked slightly as it sits. Lifting one corner at a time a bit will throw off that kind of alignment. I would first check that to see if shimming will better the alignment, before going crazy trying to find out what may not be out of square.



      • #4
        Thank you for the advice. I think I found it. I had to issues happening at the same time. When I looked closely at the drawer fronts, I noticed that there was a small gap at the bottom. The drawer slides were all aligned off of the same reference on the drawers and I didn't realize that there was a small protrusion (probably 1/32) on the slide itself by design. I moved the slides back on the drawer and reclamped and tighten the fronts down. that eliminated most of the issue. Secondly, by adjusting the slides on the sides of the cabinet, I was able to eliminate 99% of the rest of the gap. It's also possible that a little racking may be at play. At this point, it's well beyond accurate enough for shop furniture and also my first attempt at drawers, so I'm probably going to call it good.

        Thank you