Cure Ailing Drawers
Whether it's a project fresh from your shop or one of Grandma's treasured antiques, drawer problems are common occurrences. Fortunately, most drawer ailments can be easily corrected.
First, determine the cause of the problem. Drawers too tight or too loose can be traced to changes in humidity levels. (High humidity causes drawers and surrounding cabinet-frame parts to swell and bind; dry conditions cause them to shrink.) They can also result from wear over time, or a construction mishap. And, drawers that were simply built too tight or too loose in their frames to begin with will never get better without a small dose of corrective action.
To get started, examine the drawer for loose, damaged, or worn parts. Inspect the joints. If the glue bonds have broken, carefully remove the offending pieces, and then sand off the old glue, going down to bare wood. Then, reglue, reassemble, and clamp the drawer box back together, checking for square.
If you find a cracked or split drawer side, reglue the part if it appears salvageable, or remake it from scratch.
In rare instances, you may need to build a replacement drawer box. If possible, reuse the original drawer front. Before remaking any drawer part, check the other drawers in the same piece to see whether a similar problem exists elsewhere. That way, you won't waste time having to go through tool setups and machining stages more than once. And by having the old drawer parts, you can extract exact measurements.
If the drawer appears okay, check its opening for obstructions or damage. The problems can be many and varied, but below you'll find three common ones you may encounter, and a simple fix for each.
1. The drawer rubs along its top edge.
First, look for rub marks to identify where the drawer is sticking. If it's along the top edge, clamp the drawer to a workbench and use a block plane or 100-grit sandpaper to remove enough material in those sticky areas to allow the drawer to slide smoothly in its opening. Work slowly, frequently rechecking the fit. Don't create another problem by removing too much material.
2. The drawer drags loudly when pulled.
Apply adhesive-backed nylon glide tape, found at hardware or woodworking-supply stores. For best adhesion, first clean the area of any dust, debris, or old wax. Fit the glide tape snugly into the corners of the drawer opening, as shown.
3. The drawer rubs along its sides.
If the drawer rubs along its sides, you can uniformly remove a hair's thickness of material using a jointer. If the drawer has a front that can't be unscrewed, make a few quick passes with a belt sander instead.