Wooden Drawer Guides

Thoughts on how to make wooden drawer guides slide smoothly. December 11, 2007

I've run into a slight problem. When I route a groove into the sides of a drawer and then apply guide strips to the inside of the cabinet, it seems that the drawer tends to bind more often if the fit is loose. Seems to me that if the fit is loose, it should slide easier. Any thoughts? Could it be that a looser fit with more clearance allows the drawer to move slightly from side to side and that's what's causing the binding?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor J:
It may depend on how loose a fit you're talking about. I only use that type of construction on stuff for the shop, but I haven't had any problems with binding. A couple of things to check are to make sure all back edges of the drawer are broken or slightly rounded. Sharp edges are more likely to catch, in my experience. Also use paraffin wax on all parts that make contact. Keeps things sliding. And generally I keep the gap between drawer and box at 1/16" or less, minimize the amount of play, but leave a little room for movement.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. This is for a stand up drafting table I'm making for myself, so it's somewhat of an experiment too. I minimized the clearance and waxed the runners so it's working well. It's a wide (24") and deep (20") shallow drawer to hold my vellum. The frame is ever so slightly out of square, so using some card stock to shim the runner in the back helped.

From contributor C:
In the future, I would suggest using a bottom mounted center wood guide with a tilt rail. I think that this is a better guide and easier to adjust.

From the original questioner:
When you use a center mount, what do you do to keep the outer edges from dragging? In the past I've been hi-tech and used a thumbtack! I agree, the side mount is somewhat of a hassle adjusting them because the slightest warp in the drawer or out of squareness in the cabinet makes it stick. Thanks for your input.

From contributor C:
You can use the tack or nothing at all. Just make sure the bottoms of the drawer are smooth and waxed. I have also seen little plastic things that stick on. They have a tendency to come off. What about furniture glides that are meant for the bottom of legs? I have worked in the furniture business my whole life. I have not seen a better way than a center glide with a tilt rail. With that said, I would take a modern slide (ball bearing, epoxy, etc.) over a wood rail any day. Furniture companies sell wood glides as a plus because if they are well taken care of, they will last two lifetimes. That may be true, but who would want to battle with a wooden glide when you could have a glide you can pull out with your pinky?

From contributor B:
I simply scraped the wax off and used SLIP-IT. It is made from animal fat, we think. Rounding the corners could solve the problem altogether, though. When I mount on the sides, we have found that a 1/16 loose T joint slide works the best.