Accurate Placement of Drawer Fronts on Existing Cabinets

Cabinetmakers describe various ways to quickly position and fasten new drawer fronts on an existing cabinet for a refacing job. January 2, 2012

I have to install a job that is re-facing a full overlay frameless kitchen with new doors and drawer front with 3mm reveals. I was hoping the customer would have picked out the hardware prior to us installing as I usually pre-drill the drawer fronts for the hardware and use those holes to temporarily position the front with screws so I can open it up and attach from the inside of the drawer box. I figured this situation can't be that unusually and was hoping some of you guys have a few tricks up your sleeves for situations like this.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor M:
Double stick tape?

From contributor D:
Two sided tape, and sometimes a 23 ga pin or two well placed and well filled will do the trick.

From contributor K:
See below drawing for onsite drawerfront application.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor E:
I use the Blum drawer front adjuster as it gives you play to tweak the front alignment. If you have a Blum machine it can be set up to drill the holes in the front. There have been a few times when I used them to apply end panels.

From contributor S:
Use the Blum drawer front adjusters. You can get a small portable drill press at Harbor Freight that is small enough to take to the job, and drills a good 20mm hole for the adjustors.

From contributor R:
The Blum adjusters are a great option. I've used double faced tape in the past, but recently started using FastCap Blind Nails. They are fast and easy, with minimum fuss.

From contributor W:
My guys will place two screws from inside the drawer leaving a 1/8th inch point exposed to the exterior of the drawer, then line up the drawer face and push onto the points. Line up the drawer with the points and fasten with the same screws - way too simple.

From contributor O:
Use dowel centers, drill a 1/4'' hole in the drawer, put the dowel center in place, the front on, and press. You'll see the indents, pre-drill, and use one of the washer-head/drawer-adjustable screws.

From contributor J:
I use a couple dabs of hot melt glue, set the drawer front on two spacers sitting on top of the door, then center side to side as you push it on. Open the drawer, shoot in the screws. Sometimes I have to take it back off to scrape the glue off, but itís quick and accurate.

From contributor B:
I like to first install and adjust all the doors. Next, drill 1/4" holes in drawer box fronts. Then use 1/8" thick spacers to place the drawer fronts. We use double stick tape to hold the drawer front in place when we cannot access the drawer from above, which you can't do when the countertop is installed, as in this case. Then we use a Vics bit to pre-drill the front in the center of the 1/4" hole - this allows some adjustment if needed later. Then we use four washer head screws.

From contributor P:
The Blum adjusters are the way to go, but invest in dowel centers to fit the 20mm hole. Bore the drawer front for the Blum adjuster, insert the dowel center, align, push to mark the holes, and drill for your 8/32 screw. Then insert the adjuster and secure the screw from the drawer interior. Once youíre on the job you can realign/adjust the drawer. Then nail or screw the front on for the final set.

From contributor J:
Failing that, we also drill two 3/8" holes through the front of the drawerbox and use dowel center finders to transfer their location to the back of the drawerfront. Then we use 1" truss head screws to hold it in place while adjusting the placement. Follow, of course, with another pair of 1" flatheads to set permanently before hardware.

From contributor M:
The big advantage of double-sided tape is speed. You just push the drawer front onto the box, pull out the box on the slides, and screw in the back screws. You never need to take the box out of the hole.

From contributor E:
We have a jig we use to align the drawer fronts. It has two layers of fences attached to a board in an "L " shape. The drawer front registers against the lower fence. This fence is about 1" thick, allowing most DF to slide underneath the upper fence (some applied molding DF need a thicker bottom fence.) The upper fences are offset from the lower fence by whatever distance the side and bottom of the drawer front extend past the drawer box.

Thus, if the top fence overlaps the bottom fence on the side by 1", then the drawer front will extend 1" beyond the side of the drawer box. The same is true for the bottom fences. To use, simply place the drawer front, face down, against the lower side and bottom fences, set the drawer box on top of the drawer front and push it up against the upper fences, and then attach with two screws. We drill 2 -3/8" holes in the drawer box and attach it to the drawer front with large round washer head screws 1 1/8" long. The oversized holes allow a fairly large amount of adjustment after you place the drawer box back in the cabinet. Once aligned, use a few more screws through small pilot holes to lock the DF in place. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty fast.

Most cabinets will have consistent bottom reveals, or at least a pattern so every drawer doesn't need a separate jig. On our own cabinetry, the bottom drawer has one reveal and all the others have a smaller reveal. So our jig is setup for the bottom drawer and we use a filler against the bottom fence to adjust the jig for the other drawers. The side reveal is always the same.

When adjusting the drawer fronts to their final position, it's important that the cabinet be sitting on a flat, level surface. If not, then the fronts won't align correctly after the cabinet is installed plumb and level. Don't ask me how I know! We usually start from the bottom and work our way up. Our bottom drawer box is flush with the bottom of the cabinet, so it's easy to get it aligned correctly.

We use a self centering jig to drill the holes for the hardware prior to attaching them to the drawer boxes. After they are attached permanently, we drill through the holes and through the drawer box. We then use longer hardware screws to attach the knob or pull. You could also countersink for these holes if you want.

From contributor T:
Try micro pinning the fronts on from the inside of the drawer box. Pin all of the fronts on a bank of drawers, and then adjust in place and use screws to fix them in place.