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I am new to this site and I am neither a woodworker nor a carpenter. I’m sorry if this question sounds naive.

I watched many YouTube videos about constructing drawers. Unusually it has 4 sides joined together to form a box and finally add a face like this.

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So my question is why does it need another plate to be the face. Why not the face act as one of the sides?

enter image description here

I believe there must be a reason. It is just that I do not understand the matters. I had been searching online but all I found was showing how to make drawers without telling why the way it is. Hope some professional here can let me know.

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  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. "I had been searching online but all I found was showing how to make drawers without telling why the way it is." A good way to look into a subject like this is often to start with the basics, general information on drawer construction will often explain the features of designs A, B, C etc. while an article on how to build these (lay-on drawers) may omit this, assuming the audience is already familiar with them and just looking for some how-to details.
    – Graphus
    Apr 30, 2023 at 9:47

2 Answers 2

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So my question is why does it need another plate to be the face. Why not the face act as one of the sides?

Sometimes the front-facing drawer side does also serve as the drawer face. There are various joints that can be used to connect the front to the sides while hiding the joinery from the front (e.g. locking rabbet joint, half-blind dovetails). These joints are great if you want the drawer faces to be flush with the front of the cabinet.

They're not so great if you want the drawer faces to overlay the cabinet front, though. You probably could start with a thick piece, cut a rabbet around the edges, and then join the sides of the drawer to the remaining thick part. It's much, much easier, though, to just build the drawer box first, and then attach a separate drawer front. Not only is the joinery easier, but keeping the drawer fronts separate and adding them at the end gives you a lot of room to adjust. If the drawer doesn't fit perfectly in its space — maybe it sits a little too high or low, or a bit to the left — it doesn't matter, because you can position the drawer front correctly on the cabinet front and then attach it to the drawer. If you have a series of drawers, you can adjust the drawer fronts so that they're spaced evenly, and even trim them if needed, without having to modify the drawers.

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You could build a drawer the second way, but it's not practical for any scale of [edit: home] production. You'd need to figure out a way to hide the fasteners or joinery that attaches the front to the sides. Adjusting the front face within the carcass would have to happen with the drawer slides (which is a curse). Applying finish would be a little more complicated. [edit to acknowledge the very correct comments: high volume, high precision production does use this method, clearly with great success. For the home-builder, I’ll stand by my points.]

Alternately, the normal way means that the 4 pieces of drawer body are easy to assemble. You can easily adjust the positioning of the drawer front to suit the cabinet. You can also purchase the drawer fronts separately (to go with the doors, probably) from specialty suppliers.

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    "You could build a drawer the second way, but it's not practical for any scale of production" Not sure that's accurate. Obviously lay-on drawers are now super common, but there are ways of doing the second on a commercial level (first thought being pocket-hole screws). I actually own a piece which I think must be older commercial output because it's just a little too good in certain areas to be amateur/enthusiast work, and has other details which are obvious cost-cutting measures like you'd see on commercial stuff. Anyway, the drawer sides are housed in the drawer fronts, in stopped dados.
    – Graphus
    Apr 30, 2023 at 9:54
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    @Graphus -- poor choice of words on my part... agree that you could do it in a production environment, was trying to get across the idea that I'd only do it as an artisan piece. Apr 30, 2023 at 14:10
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    Lots of IKEA drawers do it the second way and you can hardly get a larger production scale than that! May 1, 2023 at 1:45

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