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I'm a big fan on making my own drawers and wooden drawer slides (much cheaper and less mental math than installing hardware, IMO). I tend to use this type of construction where the drawer bottom sits (and slides) on runners (see image below). When I first started building these sorts of drawers, I cut the drawers about 1/8 in less than the distance from bottom runner to top runner to ensure that the drawer fit. The problem was that the drawers would tip whenever I opened them. So I began modifying my design to allow a smaller gap. Now I'm at the point where I cut the drawers sides to the exact same size as the drawer opening, then run a handplane past it a couple times to get a tight fit that slides easily. The end result is that my drawers, even when fully extended, open parallel to the floor without tipping (like they used to when I used a 1/8 in gap).

Drawer slide construction

I've seen other websites recommend this sort of snug-fit construction (can't recall where off the top of my head). But I'm wondering if there will be seasonal movement problems? I just build these drawers in the last few months (I have a garage, aka, COLD workshop). Will I have problems in the summer when wood expands? I know wood expands across the grain, so it seems I should have problems. If I refit the drawers in the summer, won't they then be too loose during the winter? How do I combat these seasonal changes in drawer sizes?

  • Unfortunately, seasonal movement is just a fact of life that we have to deal with when working with solid lumber in any application. Sometimes you can make design decisions to limit movement, but often you need to account for it. – rob Mar 23 '15 at 17:27
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Yes, the 1/8" gap that you mentioned is recommended precisely to account for wood movement, and you may find that the drawers fit too tightly once they pickup moisture during the more humid summer months.

Similarly, if you had constructed the drawers during the humid summer months instead of the winter, you would want a tighter fit to begin with, because the drawers would shrink and fit more loosely during the winter months.

You can also limit wood movement by using more dimensionally-stable materials such as MDF or plywood rather than solid wood.

Keep in mind that many factors contribute to wood movement, including material, species, climate, and grain direction. You can use the Shrinkulator to estimate movement based on a specific material or wood species.

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    So how do you prevent the drawers from tipping when they have a 1/8 in gap? – dfife Mar 23 '15 at 16:13
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    @dfife don't extend them out that far – ratchet freak Mar 23 '15 at 16:14
  • @dfife are you concerned about them falling out or is it just that the tipping is annoying? – rob Mar 23 '15 at 17:27
  • @rob--it's just annoying, I suppose. – dfife Mar 23 '15 at 17:29
  • @dfife This is more a band-aid than a real solution, but if you just don't want to be tempted to pull the drawer out far enough to tip, you could install a false back. The downside, of course, is that the drawers won't be quite as deep...though with a little tweaking you could turn the very back of the drawer into a secret compartment. – rob Mar 23 '15 at 17:51

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