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Drawers Storage Hardware
April 19, 2018

Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Drawer Types

When it comes to keeping your home looking fresh and organized, storage is a must. From filing paperwork in your home office to storing clothes in your bedroom dresser, you depend on drawers throughout your home every day. But how much do you know about drawer types, your drawers’ quality or what to look for when purchasing storage furniture?

Whether you’re shopping on a budget or splurging to furnish your dream home, there are a few things you should look for to ensure your drawers will hold up. From dovetails to drawer slides, here’s everything you need to know when shopping for furniture with drawers!

Joint Construction

A drawer’s joint construction is a great way to determine a drawer’s overall quality, as it determines the drawer’s longevity and strength. Among the most popular joint construction types are butt joints, dovetails, mortise and tenon and corner blocks.

Butt Joints

The majority of budget-friendly furniture pieces are crafted using butt joints. This joinery technique connects two pieces of wood by placing one end of wood flush against the other. The drawer sides are then held together using a combination of adhesives and/ or fasteners like strong glues and nails or screws.

While this joint is less durable than other types like the dovetail, these drawers are ideal for infrequently used spaces, like a dresser or nightstand in your mulit-purpose guestroom. It is also a great option for short-term needs like a first home, apartment, child’s bedroom or college dorm.

Dovetail Joints

A dovetail joint is a sign of true craftsmanship. This construction involves cutting two pieces of wood so that the ends can lock together like jigsaw sieves, creating a joint that is resilient, difficult to pull apart and stands the test of time.

English Dovetail: Through and Half-Blind Joints

An English dovetail is among the most popular joints and can be found in most heirloom-quality furniture. It is considered the tightest and longest lasting joint types.

When looking for an English dovetail drawer, look at where the wood pieces adjoin. You’ll see the wood wedges joined together like interlocking fingers. If the joint is a through dovetail, you will see the joint from all outside surfaces. A half-blind dovetail will include sockets that hide the joint from the drawer’s front side.

French Dovetail: The Sliding Dovetail Joint

Another popular joint is the French dovetail, also commonly known as the sliding dovetail. Instead of using interlocking wood wedges, this technique involves one wood board with a channel cut into it and another with a long wedge. The two boards slide together like a key.

This joint, however, is made a few inches from the drawer-front’s edge. This means the drawers are often narrower or shallower than English dovetail joints. This technique is used in luxury furniture boasting curved fronts.

Mortise and Tenon Joints

Mortise and tenon joints are also known for their durability, and this technique is a wonderful sign that your drawer is masterfully crafted.

This joint typically connects two pieces of wood at a 90-degree angle, which creates the strongest joint. One wood board features a protruding tenon cut that is designed to fit tightly into a mortise, a hole cut into the corresponding wood piece. Once connected, the boards are further secured with an adhesive.

While the strength and quality of this joint type is similar to a dovetail, a mortise and tenon joint cannot be seen from the outside and is usually completely hidden from view.

Corner Blocks

Though corner blocks are not technically joints, this construction technique does add value to your drawer’s quality. The bottom side of a drawer is typically constructed from plywood or a wood of similar strength. Over time, these drawer bottoms can be susceptible to sagging – especially if the drawer is used to store heavier items. This is where corner blocks come in.

Corner blocking uses triangular blocks that are either glued or screwed into the bottom corners of your drawer. This provides support at the drawer’s greatest pressure points, giving it an extra boost that prevents the bottom from deteriorating.

Drawer Slides

Drawer slides, also known as the drawer glides, determine how your drawer moves and how much weight it can hold. Does it pull out smoothly or does it resist? How far does the drawer extend? Does it get harder to operate as time goes on? All of these questions can be answered based on the drawer slide used in your furniture.

Center-Mounted Slides Versus Side-Mounted Slides

Where your drawer’s slide is mounted makes a big difference in how the drawer moves and how much weight it can hold. Typically, a drawer will be either center-mounted or side-mounted.

A center-mounted slide is placed beneath the drawer along the – you guessed it – center. This positioning may reduce the drawer’s depth slightly and it also cannot support as much weight as a side-mount. However, this mount type does keep the mechanism out of sight, which adds to your furniture’s visual appeal. Also, having the mount along the bottom allows for a wider drawer.

Side-mounted drawer slides may not offer the same width as a center-mount, but it does have a number of other benefits. These slides operate from each side of the drawer and offers the best support for heavy loads. If you’re storing files, office supplies or heavier knick-knacks, side-mounts are for you.

Consider what uses your drawer will serve and the frequency of use when selecting your storage furniture.

Wood on Wood Slides Versus Metal on Metal Slides

Traditional, solid and reliable, wood on wood slides are known for maintaining the integrity of crafted wood furniture. There are some drawbacks, including the wood’s tendency to warp or stick in humid seasons. This glide is also less smooth and does not allow for full-extension features. However, there are some great advantages as well.

Wood on wood glides are able to support very heavy loads without crumbling under the weight like metal on metal glides tend to. They also add to your drawer’s beautiful, solid appearance. Metal on metal glides, however, have become more popular for furniture that requires smoother gliding. Not only are metal on metal glides easier to use, but they are quieter as well.

Ball-Bearing Slides Versus Roller Slides

Ball-bearing slides and roller slides are very similar in that they both provide very smooth and quiet operations. They can be mounted on either the drawer bottom or sides. However, there are some key differences.

Ball-bearing slides are considered higher quality because they can hold a lot of weight, operate smoothly, and are often full-extension. Roller slides are an economic alternative to these slides that cannot bear as much weight and usually allow only three-quarters extension.

Additional Drawer Features You’ll Love

Knowing your drawers’ joint and slide is the most important step to understanding the quality and value of your furniture piece. There are other features, however, that can add to your overall experience using the furniture.

Whether they provide additional function to your space or simply improve the piece’s aesthetic, look out for these bonus features when shopping our Good, Better and Best furniture options.

  • Full Extension Drawers
  • Felt-Lined Drawers
  • Drawers with Stained Interiors
  • Drop-Front Drawers
  • Soft Close Drawers
  • USB and Outlets in Drawers



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