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Crank out durable drawers with the drawer-lock joint


If the fit is good but the front/back test pieces look like this, your material is too thick. Plane it down, cut off the test end, and repeat the previous steps.
I love using this joint to make drawers. It’s so fast! With one setup you’ll cut the corner joint in the drawer fronts, backs, and sides and the groove to hold the drawer bottom. Before getting started, machine the drawer stock to twice the thickness of the cutter. Cut two test pieces from that material and set the drawer parts to the side for now. Then follow the photo sequence below to set up and cut the joint.

  • Setting the hight

    Note: Unplug the router for all setup operations.
    Set the height of the slot cutter so the top of the cutter is flush with the top of your test material.

  • Position the fence

    Position the fence for a 14 "-deep cut (one-half the 12 " material thickness).

  • Rabbet the end

    Rabbet the end of one of your test pieces. Use a backer board to steady the piece and prevent chip-out.

  • Cut a dado

    Stand a test side piece on end and cut a dado across it. Use a push pad to hold the test piece firmly against the fence.

  • Test the fit

    Test the fit of the tongue in the groove. For a too-tight joint, lower the cutter. If the joint is too loose, raise the cutter.

  • Rabbet the drawer fronts and backs

    When the tongue and groove fit perfectly, rabbet the drawer fronts and backs (workpiece resting on the table, as in Photo above), and cut the dado in the sides (workpiece vertical against the fence, as in Photo below). Cut both ends of all the pieces.


    It’s a good idea to move the fence faces as close to the cutters as possible. This helps prevent chipping when you make the vertical pass on the drawer sides.

  • Groove the fronts and backs

    Pay careful attention to the orientation of the parts when you cut the grooves for the drawer bottoms. Groove the fronts and backs with the rabbet facing away from the fence.

  • Groove the side

    Groove the sides with the dadoes facing the fence. Cut the bottoms to size, and your drawers are ready to assemble.

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