Drawer Front Adjustment Issues

      Drawers with a sub-front and applied face offer the chance to adjust fit on site or during assembly. But what about four-piece drawer boxes with no sub-front? April 29, 2011

I am hoping someone will have a solution for my drawer front dilemma. We have started making four piece drawers. This means that there is no sub front, the finished front is dowelled into the drawer sides. The Hafele slides we are using on our lower end line are fully concealed and have no left-to-right adjustment. They basically copied the Blum Tandem runners. Also these cabinets are all frameless and I use varying side reveals. The side reveal for cabinets that are next to another cabinet is 1.5mm, but it is 3mm if the cabinet is next to a wall, filler, or other panel.

We bore everything on line boring machines so the setup gets ridiculous. The drawer front dowel holes have a varying side inset depending on the cabinet. This ends up determining the fixed location of the drawer within the cabinet.

The problem is there is no way to adjust the smallest error. Most of the time we get it dead on, which is pretty freaking amazing I think. But sometimes due to a bad cut or un-square part the drawer needs to be adjusted 1mm or so left to right. I cannot figure out how to do this. I have thought about shimming the slides out from the case with bits of laminate or something. I tried over sizing the box a little so it could be moved left to right on the slides then somehow secured in place with hot glue or a shim but with 15mm sides there is very little clearance. I really do not want to go back to using sub fronts and the usual floating finished front secured by screws method. This is a lot faster in assembly and requires less work in production.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
Why not just use metabox/tandembox drawers?

From the original questioner:
Using TandemBox adds $30 per drawer over the Hafele slides. In the US the additional labor of the drawer box would offset some of the price difference, but my labor costs are a lot lower. I use TandemBox on more than half my jobs.

From contributor M:
Iím not really sure how not adding a sub front saves you a bunch of time. The time to process that additional part is minimal, and makes attaching and adjusting the front super simple. I have a jig that i have rigged up to attach my fronts to dovetail boxes. I place the front in the jig, then the drawer box and screw it down. Without a jig, I could see it being very time consuming. Another thought would be to get away from the different side reveals. I use 1.5mm on each side regardless of where the cabinet is going. This would probably offset the time to make a sub front.

From the original questioner:
I have spent some time working on this. It is quite a bit faster for us to omit the sub front. It is not uncommon for us to build and assemble 20 drawer boxes in a day. We don't use a jig but we do use line boring machines that are very fast (I am sure faster than jigs) for mounting drawer fronts to sub fronts.

Basically mounting the sub front takes the same amount of time as mounting the doweled Drawer front. So we are completely eliminating the drawer front mounting process. If it takes five minutes to mount align and secure the drawer front to a sub front then we can save two to five hours a day! That is assembly alone.

Of course this does not matter if it looks bad due to the inability to adjust the drawer front. We have been nailing it dead on most of the time. The other times we have been able to compensate on adjacent cabinets to keep the gaps consistent.

As for the different reveals, I think about it all the time. We make a highend frameless product, so cabinets are generally trimmed out with side and top panels all the way around. It looks bad to have a 1.5 mm gap on the side panel to door then a 3 mm gap on the next reveal line.

From contributor M:
I do what I consider high end frameless as well. My design software plans for a 3mm reveal, 1.5 on the sides, 0mm at the bottom, and 3mm at the top, similar to Bob Buckleys True 32. When I run in to occasions where the 1.5mm will look funny, I will adjust several cabinets in a run to balance it out. I do this during install. I realize you may save a minute or so by not applying a sub front, but how much time does it cost if a couple things happen:

1. Need offset reveal, but workers did a standard reveal. Rework, or new front?

2. Box isnít perfect, and you need to adjust . Rework?

3. Does variation in material thickness play a role?

Minimize setups and you reduce the chance for error, setups cost money, as does error. Only you can evaluate whether the re-work is offsetting the savings in your operation. I just mounted six drawers using my jig. I was about 5/10 minutes for all six drawers, and I have the ability to adjust them. I didnít time it so I canít tell you the exact time, but it is very fast.

Drill a couple 5/16" holes in the sub front. It doesnít really matter where, as long as they will hit a meaty part of the drawer front. Place the front in the jig, then set the drawer on the front, and then drive a couple washer head screws through the 5/16" holes. Nine times out of ten they are perfect and donít require adjustment. For the one out of ten, adjustment is no problem. I guess what I am getting at, is take a real good look at what the rework costs versus the cost of a sub front. I guess the only other suggestion would be to try the new Grass slides. I believe they incorporate side to side as well as up/down adjustment. I havenít tried them myself, but I hear they are great.

From the original questioner:
As you know shifting reveals is not always a solution on the job site due to layout. Mistakes are definitely an issue, material thickness does matter (though our melamine never varies by more than .2mm from batch to batch) and the set up for this process is too complex.

I guess I will end up going back to the sub-front method. We do not use a jig. We bore a 5 mm hole in the drawer front and insert a plastic expansion dowel, then we bore an 8mm hole in the sub front and use a trusshead screw. I know it sounds like it is slower than the jig method (did it that way too). For us this is faster because we make all the doors, drawer fronts and drawer parts for one dayís production first. Then we make all the cases in single assembly flow from cutting to final assembly. Our bottle neck is assembly. With four guys in production it takes six people in assembly to keep up. Even then they fall behind. I am willing to sacrifice machining time to save assembly time. It was the same thought with directly doweling the drawer fronts.

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