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I'm refurbishing my room and I have gotten to the point of building my new drawer unit/shelving units. My old ones hold themselves using wood f4 50mm screws, two on each joint. I'm debating if I should do the same or use small single L-bracket on each side, or using both for sturdiness? The drawer unit has the following dimensions: Sides are 72cm high and 55 deep, there is a top portion which connects it which measures 46cm(width of the unit) and 55cm depth and also two small bottom supports which are 8cm x 46cm. There won't be a floor or backing. What would be the best way to secure it, L-brackets or wooden screws? Looking at easy of use and durability. Three drawers will be fitted and It'll be a standalone unit. I'm using laminated particleboard.

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  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. By all means use both if you don't mind doing that, one rarely regrets going more robust in building furniture if it'll see a lot of use and/or you intend it to last without getting all loosey-goosey. But the choices on how to put this together go way beyond these two options (with dowels topping my list for ease of use and permanent assembly). Someone will be along in a short while to ask for a sketch I'm sure ^_^ but I think the key thing that isn't mentioned is materials. Answers can vary depending on if you're using particleboard/chipboard or ply or solid wood. – Graphus Feb 18 at 10:36
  • I'm using laminated particleboard. It's 18mm thick. I'm open to all suggestions. With dowels, should I still use some sort of screws or bracket to hold it tightly or just dowels are enough? I have some experience but not with completely building everything myself. Dowels seem to have the shortest length of 30mm and it says to keep it 50/50 inserted in each side. That would mean drilling 15mm on one side on my 18mm board. Would it be okay to use 10mm into the vertical one while the remaining 20mm will go in the horizontal one? – TimothyY Feb 18 at 10:43
  • If you used dowels they can provide the entire joinery solution if necessary. And 18mm material means you can go beefier on the dowels than if you were just using 12/13mm stock. Just to mention, if the plan was to use 18 mil stuff throughout this is really overkill for the drawers. It's quite normal to use thinner material for drawer boxes (in solid wood as well as with manmade boards) with the thicker and/or nicer stuff used just for the front. – Graphus Feb 18 at 11:05
  • I bought a big 2.8m x 2.0m particleboard 18mm slab in my desired color and cut a desktop, two drawer units and a few shelves. As I wanted to keep my desk top at 18mm, it made financial sense to make everything of the same material. The actual drawer boxes I'll be reusing from my old drawer unit, so I'm making just the outside box. What size dowels do you recommend for me to buy? I'll use a wood drilling bit to create the holes for it. I was thinking either 8x30mm, what do you think? – TimothyY Feb 18 at 11:15
  • If you go with dowels (remember they're just one other option, and you need careful technique to ensure square holes that line up if you aren't using through-dowels) I would go with the thickest that won't compromise the material. 10mm would be my preference, although 8mm dowel is still quite strong (and you can simply use more of them with thinner stuff to gain back strength). The wood of the dowel is very important BTW, softwood dowels are significantly weaker than hardwood, all other things being equal. If you are able to buy your dowelling in person [contd] – Graphus Feb 18 at 11:23
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Screws or L-brackets to build a drawer unit?

Yes :-)

Either method can be used to build simple pieces and, if done well, can yield pieces strong enough for service; long-term durability isn't necessarily guaranteed though, because of the friable nature of particleboard/chipboard.

My old ones hold themselves using wood f4 50mm screws, two on each joint. I'm debating if I should do the same or use small single L-bracket on each side, or using both for sturdiness?

By all means use both if you want to help ensure a sturdy, long-lasting construction.

As both methods rely on screws and since you're using particleboard it's worth mentioning that there are screws made specifically for this material. The common type sold these days tend to be both hard and tough, actually making them ideally suited to a range of applications in furniture making (for both solid wood as well as manmade boards, including MDF). See this image if necessary to see how countersink, clearance and pilot holes1 work together to ensure a screw pulls the workpieces together.

Note: be careful not to overtighten screws when driving them into particleboard, particular the edges. It's very easy to strip out the material, even with good-quality boards that are typically denser than the cheaper stuff.

But the choices on how to put this together go way beyond these two options, with dowels topping my list for ease of use in permanent assembly.

IF using dowels
Unless you're using through-dowelling2 good alignment of each pair of corresponding screw holes is extremely important.

Using dowel centres as you indicate you will be in the Comments is a great way to do this, in their absence ensuring good alignment starts with careful marking out (ideally transferring marks from one piece directly to the next).

The next important step in either case is drilling straight and square, which can be done successfully freehand but there are numerous types of simple jig that can help in drilling square to the surface. Of course to get reliable square drilling and guaranteed spacing many rely on a dowelling jig of some kind. Homemade ones can be built purely from wood, with no metal components, although needless to say you get a longer lifespan from one if you incorporate metal bushings of some kind.

Some further tips:

  • Make sure each cut dowel is shorter than the combined depth of the two holes it will go into (to allow space for glue pockets at one or both ends).
  • Chamfering the edges of dowels helps a lot in inserting them initially, as well as in bringing the joint together once they are in place in the first component.
  • If your dowel holes end up a particularly tight fit to your dowels (which is a good thing if working with most woodworking adhesives) this previous Q&A will prove useful, How can I flute my own dowel or create dowel with similar properties
  • If on the other hand your dowel holes end up a little oversize (easily done, even using a bit that perfectly matches your dowel diameter) such that the dowels slip in a little too easily, or worse actually have space to jiggle side to side3, it would be best to glue them in using epoxy.

More valuable info in the following links:
Dead-on dowel joints on Wood Magazine.
How to Use a Dowel Jig: The Ultimate Guide on Family Handyman.


1 Although pilot holes are frequently not absolutely necessary when fastening into the edges of particleboard.
2 Which although a good method is generally not well suited to working with particleboard, although there are some workarounds.
3 Even if only very slightly.

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