Today, we are going to discuss four methods of how to build a drawer like a pro, what materials you need, estimated cost and tips and instructions to make this one of your easiest builds ever.

Drawers are one of the most important pieces of furniture in your home. They can store anything, from kitchen utensils and pots and pans to clothes to art supplies. But buying them from a store can be cost-prohibitively expensive. And where is the fulfillment in that?

A DIY, or do it yourself, a drawer is a satisfying, rewarding experience that allows you to customize your furniture in a way you can’t by picking something out of a big box store. In many DIY books, the only instructions for building your own drawers are “use the drawer building method of your choice,” but what good is that if you’ve never built your own drawer before?

The four methods of how to build a drawer are going to go over are as follows:

  • Sliding Dovetail Drawers
  • Hand-Dovetailed Drawers
  • Drawer Lock Myth
  • Rabbets and Brads

How to Build a Drawer

Assembling of table drawer - how to build a drawer

Learning how to build a drawer can save you a good amount of money. But why do people need drawers in the first place? Cabinets work just fine, right? Actually, drawers are much better than cabinets. Let’s talk about a few of the reasons why.

Ease of Access

Have you ever lost a pot or your grandmother’s bowl? It probably got put in the back of your cabinet, and you won’t see it again until your annual spring cleaning if you even have one. It can be hard to both see and reach things in the back of your cabinets because there are several feet of other items. On the other hand, you can easily pull a drawer the entire way out and see and reach anything you may want to find.


It is much easier to add dividers to drawers to help keep your kitchen and other rooms organized. This even extends as far as your junk drawer. You can have a drawer for miscellaneous knick-knacks but still, know exactly where every item is. Looking for two AAA rechargeable batteries? Gorilla glue? A tape measure? Carefully and neatly organized in your “junk drawer.” Try adding dividers to a cabinet to organize random items in your house.


Drawers are much more efficient than cabinets. It is particularly important to use your space efficiently when living in a small apartment or trailer with limited space. It becomes a very precious resource to be used to its fullest. How to build a drawer help with this. Imagine storing silverware in a two-foot deep cabinet.


Drawers are beautiful. And you can do so much more with them visually than with clunky cabinets. Why not upgrade your storage space while renovating the rest of your kitchen?

Here’s A Video On How To Build a Drawer

What You Will Need on How To Build A Drawer

Collection of vintage woodworking tools - how to build a drawer

Building drawers are simple and rewarding. Depending on what you’re looking for, all you need is hardwood or plywood, a saw, a mallet, a chisel, a miter gauge and some blades. Any other tools you have on hand will only make your project easier.

Tips & Instructions On How To Build A Drawer

Now you understand a little about why you need drawers, let’s get into how to build a drawer.

Sliding Dovetail Drawers

opened kitchen drawer - how to build a drawer

Sliding dovetail drawers produce very long-lasting results. This is because the drawers go together like a puzzle. A half inch space is automatically created for the slides. Unfortunately, you have to be very careful about how you set up your tools. But if you can get this right, you can easily make very sturdy drawers in just a couple of steps.

  • Set your 3/8″ dovetail bit, so it extends 5/16″ above the top of your router table. The fence should be 9/16″ between the bit and fence.
  • Cut the sockets on both ends of the drawer front.
  • You should cut the socket on the back end of the side pieces.
  • Leave the bit’s height the same as you cut the male portion of the joint.
  • Shift the fence, so only 7/64″ of the bit extends past the fence.

Hand-Dovetailed Drawers

top view of empty open drawer - how to build a drawer

These visually stunning drawers are time-consuming to make but well worth the effort. If you have never made one before, we recommend you do a trial run using some scraps and test joints. Also, be sure you use sharp, well-tuned saws and chisels as dull, inaccurate tools will greatly increase your learning curve. There are several books dedicated to this method of drawer-making alone, but we will give you a broad overview so you can determine if this is a method you would like to dig deeper into.

  • Mark out your tails on the end of the grain and outside face of the drawer side. Mark the waste portions of your joints with an “X” before making your cuts.
  • Use a fretsaw or coping saw to remove the waste between the tails.
  • To remove the waste outside the tails, use a hacksaw.
  • Use a chisel to remove the waste between the tails and ends of joints.
  • Ensure your chisel is perfectly perpendicular to your work as you remove the last of your waste.

Drawer Lock Method

man closes the drawer of the desk - how to build a drawer

The drawer lock method is easily the most expensive method on this list. The bits will run you about a low-range price depending on the brand, but the quality of these drawers is astounding. Fortunately, this expensive bit is not only usable for simple insert drawers, but overlay drawers and a mechanical drawer slides as well.

  • Set the bit to 1/2″ high. While this will doubtfully be your final setting, it will put you in the right ballpark.
  • Align the rear, cutting flute flush with the face of the fence. To do this quickly, use a straightedge or small rule. Set your fence faces as close to the bit as you can.
  • To test the final bit height, run two pieces of scrap material flat against your work surface using your miter gauge to support your cut. If the tongues fit loosely into the socket, raise the bit.
  • Once you set your bit height, make the first cuts on both ends of the sides. The inside surface should be just against the fence. Then, create the bottom grooves in the front and sides.
  • Unplug the router, reset the fence and run the drawer front and back. Then, use one of the sides to adjust the fence to set the protruded flute of the bit flush with the outside edge of the side piece.
  • Use a miter gauge to guide the cut on the ends of the front and back. Rabbet the front and reset the router one last time to run the drawer fronts if you are making an overlay drawer.

Rabbets and Brads

vintage wooden chest of drawers with black metal handles open - how to build a drawer

Rabbets and brads are by far the simplest method of building your own drawers. All you need is a table saw setup and dado stack or an eighth-inch kerf blade. You only need the outer two blades of the dado set to cut a quarter inch rabbets, and you can make drawers all day. The setup will be slightly different if you substitute the dade stack for the kerf blade, but the concept remains the same.

Finished front drawers require front and back rabbets while false front drawers require side rabbets. It is recommended that you shoot the brads into the sides of the rabbits. These brads will provide strength and decrease the required clamping to build these drawers.

  • Mount the two full dado blades to get that quarter inch cut and set the cut height.
  • Make your first cut at the end of the piece and use the miter gauge to guide the cut to remove waste.
  • You should make your second cut with the end of the piece being guided by the rip fence, defining the inside shoulder of the rabbet. You may be required to make a third cut to clean out the inside of the rabbet’s cheek.
  • Finally, make a quarter inch by quarter inch groove to accept the bottom. Accomplish this by running the two sides, and front piece flat on the saw, guiding the bottom edge against the fence.

How to Build a Drawer – The Conclusion

Wardrobe with sliding doors and drawers drawer. modern materials and furniture for interior - how to build a drawer

Drawers don’t have to be expensive and building them yourself doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it is almost criminal how easy building your own drawers can be. There are several methods of building a DIY cabinet, and they all have their pros and cons. Depending on the time you have to how to build a drawer, financial situation and confidence in skill, we hope whatever method you choose, you have fun learning which method works best for your unique situation.

Sliding dovetails are not just for making gorgeous bookcases. They can make beautiful drawers as well. Rabbets and brads is a very forgiving technique that can be mastered quickly. This will give your confidence the boost it needs to use other methods to make shelves. It is by far the simplest and best for novices just starting to get into do-it-yourself projects.

The drawer lock method may have the highest upfront cost, but you can reuse the bit over and over again, and the aesthetics are well worth the up-front cost. Last, but certainly not least hand-dovetailed drawers take the longest to make but are well worth the investment in time.

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