Attaching Drawer Fronts to Dovetail Drawers in Frameless Cabinets

Thoughts on a tricky drawer assembly problem. November 23, 2012

Sometimes our customers insist on solid wood dovetail drawers in frameless cabinets with five piece drawer fronts. We have not been able to come up with a good way to attach the drawer fronts and still have ease of adjustment. Does anyone have a solution?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
Have you considered using the Blum drawer front adjusters? I vastly prefer metal box systems.

From contributor D:
I drill two 5/16" diameter holes in the drawer box and insert 5/16 dowel centers into these holes. The drawer front is than placed where you want it and pressed into the dowel centers, leaving small dents where the screws will go. Attach the drawer front with washer head drawer screws and you will have some play for the final adjustment. Two more smaller holes can be used for a couple of locking screws after final adjustment and when the pull is installed, that will also hold the drawer front in place. It helps if the drawer front stiles are wide enough for the screws to catch solid wood and not just the hollow place where the center panel goes.

From contributor U:
Are you saying because it is a 5 piece front, you do not have much stile to screw into?

From contributor V:
Double sided foam tape, which is about 3/32 thick. Then washerhead screws from inside the drawer. Very fast.

From the original questioner
Yes - it works on wider stiles, but not 2 1/4". We do as contributor D does with wider stiles.

Blum adjusters or foam tape do not work because the panel is too thin to put screws into. We have tried the plastic blocks that mount on the outside of the drawer behind the front, but they are a pain to install and look terrible. We are looking for ease of adjustment for the installers after the cabinets are installed. We also prefer metal box systems for this reason, but wood and dovetails rule around here. We do try to talk them into metal boxes, but it doesn't always work.

From contributor F:
Oh... Didn't realize this was a flat five piece drawer front! What about drilling the mounting hole for the handle slightly larger than the screw, but obviously small enough so that the handle will cover up the hole? Wait, let me guess: they want knobs?

From contributor V:
With a flat 1/4" panel, I drill the screw holes on a 10 degree angle right in the corner of the drawer side and it manages to catch the 2.25" frame. You have to use 1" screws, or 1.25 if you have 5/8" drawer boxes.

From contributor K:
We put ours on after install and use the foam tape. If you are looking to install in the shop and adjust in the field, you may consider trying the new Grass undermounts. They have the usual up and down, but also a side to side adjustment that is pretty sweet.

From contributor P:
Build (or order) your drawer fronts with a reverse panel raise so the panels are thicker.

From contributor H:
That doesn't work. A reversed raised panel is only 1/2", not thick enough for the Blum levelers. I use Tandem undermounts that have a smaller clearance space and a 3" shaker frame, which a lot of my clients like. This gives me the ability to use the Blum adjusters in the stiles. We also make a lot of painted shaker doors with 5/8 MDF back and a 1/4" applied frame. The door still works well with the Blum hinge if you adjust the hinge, boring a little closer to the edge, and I coat the back of the 1/4 thick stiles and rails with yellow glue, shoot it with 1/2 23 gauge headless pinner, Bondo and sand. One coat of water/glue mixture to edge and ready for priming. The clients love the wider rails and thicker doors. With a simple positioning jig to keep the 1/4 rail/stiles flush with the outside edge, you can build them very quickly and the flat inner panel is smoother than using a CNC bit, which exposes the inner MDF core. If you can find 1/2 MDF with white melamine on one side, you don't have to spray the inside at all if you are using melamine boxes, but I cannot find this product here in Florida.

From contributor R:
I agree with contributor P's and D's approach. We also use this technique when applying shaker drawer fronts. The panel is a reversed raised panel, 1/2 inch thick. With a Blum undermount slide you can easily make adjustments on site and once the handle or knob is installed, the drawer front is not going anywhere.