One Great Tip » How-To Downsize a Drawer
While building a media cabinet, I broke the wise rule of “Measure twice,cut once." I made a quick measurement for depth on a drawer that would extend to be flush with the face frame, and I forgot to account for the additional thickness of the false front that would be attached. I left myself a half inch of wiggle room when I measured, but I needed nearly an inch to accommodate the thickness of the false fronts. I thought about simply planing the drawer face down to about a half inch, but this would have still left the back of the drawer “bottomed out” against the back of the cabinet car-case, and I don’t like leaving myself without depth adjust-ability in the drawer to account for variations (I built three drawers to this specification).
To fix this situation, I decided to cut the back off of each drawer and attach a new panel with glue and brads. The original back was attached with locking rabbet joints in each corner and a dado to receive the bottom panel, so my fix would not be quite as strong as the original, but by making the fix on the back of the drawer where there is little stress applied to the joints I was confident that it would hold up.
Here are the steps I took in “right sizing” my drawer:
First cut. I positioned the blade to remove about 1” from the rear of the drawer, and raised the blade to just over half the drawer’s height. I set up to make the cut through the top of the drawer first so that the bottom panel would hold the drawer together during the second cut. Then I slowly fed the drawer through the cut.
Second cut. I flipped the drawer, lowered the blade a bit, and fed it through slowly.
New style back. The new drawer back will sit on top of the bottom panel rather than using a dado to receive it as the old one did, so in my case it was ½” shorter than the original component.
Waste not, want not. I was able to re-use the back panels for my drawers by simply cutting off the protruding rabbet on each end and the dado on the bottom.
Glue. I applied a liberal application of glue to all mating surfaces. Because there is less of a mechanical connection, the glue will serve a more vital role in the joint. I made sure to coat all contact surfaces well.
Shoot brads through sides into back. Using 18 ga. brads approximately twice as long as the thickness of the drawer side, I shot a few nails through the sides into the drawer back. I was extra careful to orient the nail gun in such a way that the nails were not likely to blow through the sides of the back panel. With an 18 ga. nail gun this usually means that the nail gun is held perpendicular to the edge of the material being fastened.
Brads through bottom. Shoot brads every few inches through the bottom panel into the back.
Drawer now fits perfectly.
Is it strong enough? While the drawer is not quite as strong as before, the important question is whether the drawer is strong enough for the application at hand. I contend that this drawer is still far more durable than the majority of store-bought furniture. The joints that I modified will never fail under normal use in my media cabinet. And yes, it will still withstand a size XL stress test.
Result. This quick, inexpensive repair is not
noticeable unless you are specifically looking at the drawer construction and the strength is adequate for this application. It took me about 30 minutes to fix all three drawers, which wasn’t bad, but not as quick as it would have been to double check my measurement in the first place.