Drawer lock joints made using a drawer lock router bit are a GREAT way to put drawers together. Once the setup is right the joint can be cut very fast, and the mechanical interlock the joint provides makes it very strong. What’s not to like? Well, in all honesty the getting the setup just right can be fussy.
Making this work
For a drawer lock joint to fit correctly, the height of the bit AND the fence position must both be perfect. If either one is off, you’ll have a lousy fit, which compromises the joint. Bit height is especially critical. It’s definitely very handy to have a router lift in your table for making these fine height adjustments.
How to get it right
There’s a logical sequence of events involved in getting a drawer lock router bit set up correctly. Start by using the techniques we provide for getting it close. The, through a series of test cuts and tweaks, you’ll fine tune the set up until things are perfect. It’s important to make the test cuts in the same thickness material as you’ll be using for the project.
Controlling tear out
When making drawers one of the cuts will be across the face grain. This can lead to a lot of tear out and chipping on the face. Don’t sweat it, we provide you with a great way to avoid that.
Drawer locks can also be created on the table saw using a dado head. This is another great way to create lock joints. You should also check out our content on different types of joinery.
For more information on Kreg products visit www.kregtool.com or call (800) 447-8638
Kreg PRS5000 router lift
Drawer lock router bit
Once you’ve got the bit height and table positions dialed in, you should make your cut into a piece of scrap and then label and save it. Next time you need to make the cuts again in same-sized material you can re-set the bit and fence until it fits perfectly into your saved reference cut.
I avoid changing the fence position and the bit height at the same times. I record the bit heights and fence positions for these drawer lock cuts (as well as other common cuts) in a log book. It is based on the thickness of the front and sides. I measure from the fence to the miter gauge slot in metric. Using a magnifying glass, I can adjust the fence position easily by 1/2 mm. For these types of cuts, I use a designated, one-piece, sacrificial fence that I C-clamp to my regular fence. That prevents the tendency for the sides to rotate into the bit where the regular fence sides separate when routing a work piece vertically instead of flat on the router table. To make a sacrificial fence, clamp a suitable piece of 3/4 or 1/2 inch mdf to your fence with the fence placed behind the bit, start the router and pull the mdf fence towards you into the bit until it comes all the way through. You can easily re-use that mdf for the drawer lock bit next time. Exact fit over the bit next time is not required. You just want to have the area of the fence above the bit closed. I do not recommend chewing up your regular fence to do this. Yes, you can make new ones, but that requires a T-slot bit, 2 perfectly identical pieces for the sides and good bit alignment. It’s an unnecessary pain. The sacrificial fence works well whenever you need to route a piece vertically. That and other useful templates should be saved and available.
For the non-professional, like me, it is very useful to keep a log book of your projects. That way, should you decide to repeat them, you will be able to see how you build it the last time and you will also be less likely to repeat the same mistakes. The first few pages of my log book have router bit/fence settings for various cuts. To obtain consistent results, always measure with the same ruler.
For the Baltic birch plywood I see you use, does the shortness of the joint cause a problem with the layers shearing off? I have experienced That little nub is susceptible to breaking off and hence the joint does not hold… any suggestions on how to either reinforce or keep from shearing off?
Hello Gene. As long as you use high quality BB plywood, and are careful in forming the joint with a good fit, you shouldn’t have any problems with it. I’ve been making these joints for 20 years, and I’ve never had one fail. I regularly test the strength of this joint by flipping the drawer over and standing on the bottom of the drawer. Even with that kind of stress, this joint stands up every time.
Woodworkers Guild of America
Avoiding tear out on birch ply drawer sides
I think it’s important to mention that in changing one thing you affect the other. In other words changing the fence position moves the groove to position the side correctly, but it also changes how it cuts the tongue, so it compounds the adjustment. Also, changing the bit height not only adjusts the tongue thickness, but it changes where the groove lands on the front, effectively shortening or lengthening the entire drawer box. Maybe just a little and maybe well within the adjustment of your drawer slides, but it’s something to consider.
All that said this is a great video! It’s a tricky joint to get right even with a setup block.
I’ve tried creating blind dovetails on the 1/2″ baltic birch George used with mixed results. I was using my Leigh RTJ400. They did not recommend using plywood. He used a zero clearance fence to avoid chipping. Is there something equivalent I could do when cutting my dovetails. Dovetails can look so nice when using baltic birch when it works. Thanks!
Hi Bill. I haven’t used this particular jig, but from Leigh’s info it looks like half blind dovetails on the RTJ400 are cut the same way as on the Porter Cable jig I use; the pin and socket board in the horizontal position, and the tail board vertical. The pin and socket board should, then, be backing up the face of the tail board to help reduce chipping there. You’ll get help against chipping on the inside face of the tail board by doing a scoring cut on the face before cutting the tails.
The folks at Leigh are very sharp. It would be worth a call to them to see if they have additional suggestions.
What router table are you using?
Hi Christopher. Here is the router table top that George uses: http://amzn.to/2slMBaZ.
It is mounted on a shop-made cabinet that George built.
This is the router table used in this video https://amzn.to/2I9Gdfz
While your on the subject demonstrate the lock miter bit which is even more fidgety to dial in, accordingly highly recommend using a router lift with a bit height locking feature.
I would 1st start with a sacrificial fence mounted and then make my adjustments. I would never purposely cut into my Kreg fence! That really surprised me!
Instead of cutting into my router fence, couldn’t I use a backer board?
Hi Dennis. The step where you cut into the fence is to create zero clearance around it. You can use a sacrificial fence for this. A backer board can be used behind the piece as you push it through the cut, which will reduce the chance for blow-out on the trailing edge of the cut.
This was very useful. I always enjoy watching George’s instructional videos, and this one was exceptionally well done. You’re a wonderful teacher, George. Thank you!
I think it would be really hard for me to cut into the fence for zero clearance. I paid a lot of money for my Jessem fence. This would mean my fence would be cut for a specific thickness of stock.
You can always take the stock fence off and replace it, temporarily, with an MDF or melamine shop-made face.
Can you tell me the maximum material thickness this 1″ bit will work with? I need to use 3/4″ plywood.
Hi Curtis. I believe that you can use it on any thickness by making the proper adjustments to your router table fence, but Whiteside suggests other bits in their product line for thicker stock. Here is something that I found in the documentation for this bit:
“Thicker Drawer Front – For 3/4”+ drawer front thickness use bits 3350 or 3352 for even more glue surface area andstronger joints. ”