No-sweat, flush-fit, inset drawers

Drawer front
Clean, modern drawers with precision reveals are just a few steps away.

Inset drawers give a modern, clean look to your furniture projects while speaking volumes about your craftsmanship. But the "reveals" (the gaps around the drawers) tend to highlight minor alignment discrepancies. (The fronts of overlay drawers overlap the cabinet face frame to hide those misalignments.) But here's a little secret: It's easy to make precise-fitting inset drawers with or without drawer slide hardware. Regardless of the mounting method you choose–slides or slideless–drawer fitting goes much easier if you start with drawer openings that are square. So take extra care when building the case.

Let's start with slides

For easy alignment, nothing beats the combination of side-mount slides and a false-front drawer–one where the visible front attaches to and hides an assembled drawer box–because of adjustments built into the slides.

First, measure the drawer opening, and cut the false front 18 " shorter in width and length. Next, construct the drawer box to fit the case, shortening its length to account for the thickness of the false front. Then, before attaching the false front to the drawer box, install the slides according to the manufacturer's instructions, attaching the case-side components using only the vertical-adjustment slots, shown in photo, and setting them back from the cabinet face the thickness of the false front.

Drilling slides
Start the drawer-slide installation by driving screws into the vertical adjustment slots, one at the front and one at the back of each slide.

Two cents buys a perfect reveal

Using double-faced tape, attach the false front to the drawer box for an initial test fit. Center the front horizontally in the drawer opening and use spacers, shown in the photo, to help center it vertically.

2 pennies on drawer
Pennies make great spacers, providing a reveal of about 1/16", perfect for matching the top reveal of false fronts sized 1 /8" narrower than the opening.

Check for parallel

Check to ensure the false front rests parallel (though not necessarily flush) with the face frame, as shown in the photo. If not, loosen the rear case-side screws in their vertical adjustment slots, and adjust the slides up or down slightly until the top and bottom of the drawer front is evenly recessed or evenly protrudes (or is perfectly coplanar, if you're lucky).

Once you have the drawer front parallel with the face frame, remove the drawer and drive centered screws in the horizontal adjustment slots and remove the screws from the vertical adjustment slots. Loosen the new screws enough to shift the components forward or back as needed to align the drawer front flush with the cabinet when closed. Once there, drive centered screws into the fixed mounting holes of the slides to secure them in place.

Ruler next to drawer
A steel rule and back light help you quickly check the alignment of the drawer front. Unequal gaps or protrusions require slide adjustments.

Screw it from the back

After all that adjustment, chances are the reveal needs tweaking. If so, remove the false front from the drawer and re-tape it in the proper position. Then, screw the false front to the box from the rear, as shown in photo. Check the fit and install knobs or pulls.

Drilling back of drawer
With the drawer front taped into position with a perfect reveal, provide firm support while you predrill and screw it in place.

Now let's try slideless

For slideless drawers you'll once again size false fronts 18 " shorter horizontally, but only 116 " narrower vertically than the drawer opening. Place the completed drawer box in the opening; then, use double-faced tape to attach the false front to the drawer with the bottom edge resting on the case and an even reveal on the sides and top. When you're satisfied with the fit, remove the drawer to predrill and screw the face to the drawer box.

To create the bottom reveal, plane or rout a 116 " chamfer along the bottom edge of the false front, as shown in the photo. The shadow created by this chamfer creates the bottom reveal.

Plan on side of drawer
Plane a small chamfer along the bottom edge of the false front, test fitting the drawer frequently to ensure an even reveal.

Stop ensure a flush face

Finally, to ensure that the drawer stops at the point where the face is flush with the case front, glue stopblocks in the backs of the drawer openings, as shown in the photo.

For slideless drawers with integral (rather than false) fronts, the techniques for achieving a flush fit are the same, except that the front should be cut to precise size before completing any drawer joinery.

Large clamp on drawer bottom
Clamp a scrap on the case front and press the drawer against it. Glue in stopblocks; avoid gluing the drawer to the case.

Drawer front
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