I built a wooden cupboard with drawers. When the woodworking was finished, the drawers could be pulled out smoothly but I then applied stain onto the drawers and the cupboard, which now makes the drawers block.

When pulling, the drawer sticks on the same spot until it gets loose and suddenly moves fast.

This happened even though I specifically paid attention to using only block-resistant stain. Which apparently wasn’t block-resistant after all.

How would you guys think I best make the drawers move smoothly again? Other than taking everything apart and sanding the stain off...

  • 3
    Traditionally, the parts of drawers that slide on each other are not finished. I'd pull the drawers and scrape the surfaces that are binding enough to get things to go smoothly. Judicious application of beeswax might help, too.
    – user5572
    Aug 18, 2020 at 1:02
  • Thanks. The surface under the drawer is also stained and I'm afraid I won't be able to disassemble the cupboard without damaging it. So I was wondering about applying some smoothener, silicon spray or something. Ot beeswax as you say. I have beeswax but to me it feels to be too greasy for this
    – Hacktisch
    Aug 18, 2020 at 7:03
  • "the drawer sticks on the same spot" - I understand "sticks", but "which now makes the drawers block." I don't understand "block". What is "blocking" and what is a "block-resistant" stain?
    – FreeMan
    Aug 18, 2020 at 10:39
  • 1
    This isn't exactly blocking, but it's close enough that I don't think it's a language issue on your end. @freeman Blocking is when finish/paint isn't completely cured and you put something on it, which then sticks to the finish. You'd typically see this with shelves that were painted right before someone moves in. I don't think this is blocking because I don't think this is actually due to the stickyness of the finish. I think the finish added thickness to the piece or the water content caused wood movement which is physically binding the slide. Aug 18, 2020 at 15:45
  • 1
    I agree with @jdv that the solution here is to remove material from the slides so that they don't bind. Aug 18, 2020 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


Let's just capture the comments as an Answer.

Pull the drawers out and scrape or sand the surfaces (often referred to as "slides") that bear on the carcase (sometimes called "rails") down to bare wood.

Do the same for rails, as well. Both of these bearing surfaces should generally be free of any finish. There may be very hard and fast-drying finishes that wouldn't wear down and get sticky, but I suspect that would only be for special applications.

The idea here is to remove the finish on the bearing surfaces, or those surfaces that are intended to ride on each other in a relatively low-friction manner. You don't have to remove the finish on surfaces that do not touch each other.

Just rub a fine coating of wax on the fresh wooden bearing surfaces, reapply when you remember (like, every couple of years) and that's it.

As an aside, wax, especially beeswax, may seem sticky, but that is just a little static friction that is easily overcome. Then the wax conforms to the force and softens almost immediately so the slides and rails ride over a very low-friction surface. More to the point, it continues to do this over the lifetime of the furniture, unlike some finishes that may even cement together over time.

Of course, another option is to retrofit your design so the drawers take mechanical slides and rails (often in single installable packages) but that is beyond the scope of this answer.

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