Attaching Five-Piece Drawer Fronts to Dovetailed Drawers

Advice on a tricky assembly problem. January 21, 2007

Is there a nice clean method of attaching a 5-piece drawer front (flat paneled) to a dovetailed drawer box setup with Tandem slides?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
To quote an earlier post on this topic:
"I use drawer front adjusters from Blum. They are a plastic grommet with a loose cam in the center. Put two in each face and use an 8x32 screw to secure it to the box. Snug the screws and the face will rotate 1/8 inch in all directions. Then you can fix the face permanently. Works great either after installation in the field or producing in the shop."

Get the Blum catalogs, and in the back of the Tandem one you'll find the items you'll need. You need the plastic inserts themselves, a 20mm diameter forstner bit and the solid metal locator insert. And 8-32 machine screws in length equaling your drawer box thickness plus about 3/8". Great system.

From contributor T:
We set up a wrongly sized dovetail box with everything in it - dedicated space for the L&R clips, drill, screw guns, etc. While attaching the clips, we drill 2 countersunk holes in the bottom (the 1/2" below the bottom) for 1 1/4" locking screws - insert now - screw in on final install. Now with the drawer flipped over, we drill a 5/16 hole upper L&R face corners, insert drawer in cabinet, put 5/16" dowel centers in holes, align head, press, center now marked, head face down on bench, drill with 3/16" tapered point on mark. Attach with 1 1/8" large floater heads. We have done it a dozen different ways in 20 years, including the Blum cams (hard to spot the box holes - add drill press). This has given us enough play for adjustment and differences in head styles - mitred and M.T. as to where the screw lands.

From contributor J:

I love ya, man, but I have no idea what you said in your post. You lost me right after "We set up." Can you clarify because it sounds like you have a better way to install these things.

From contributor H:
We use the same system as contributor D and it is fast and foolproof. We use a carbide bit with a depth adjuster for Rockler or the drill press to drill the 20mm hole in the back of the drawer face. Many people do not know about the 20mm metal plugs that Blum sells to register the hole location to the drawer face - these are the secret to fast installations. If you are spraying your doors after installing to check fit, then cover these plugs with masking tape first so that lacquer does not get into the threading. Also insert into back of hardwood drawers with a rubber mallet on a rubber mat. I have cracked a door or two by whacking it with too much force. When installing shaker doors with a 1/2 solid panel, I sand down the drawer adjusters a little on my edge sander so they fit flush.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I do use the Blum drawer front adjusters and the pointed metal locators normally in slab drawer fronts. And I also have a jig especially made for this purpose. It's these 5 piece drawer fronts with a 1/4" panel that I'm working with, so I can't put the adjusters in the panel. The stiles on these drawer fronts are 2 1/4" (57mm) wide, so the 20mm hole would have to be right on the edge of the stile in order to put the attachment screw in a place in the drawer box that I can get a screwdriver to it. This is kind of scary, but I might try it anyway. Next time I will go with a wider stile, maybe 2 1/2".

From contributor T:
The guys in the shop were always searching for all the tools and parts - we put it all in one place, an old loose drawer box.

#1 Attach clips.
#2 Drill 2 countersunk holes with a 9/64" tapered drill bit and Fuller countersink in bottom front below dado.
#3 In these holes put 1 1/4" screws.
#4 Put drawer in cabinet and drill a 5/16" hole in the L& R upper corners, insert 5/16 dowel centers in holes. Press head onto box/cabinet - mark centers.
#5 On these marks drill with same taper point drill -1/2" deep. No countersink.
#6 Screw head on with 2- 1 1/8" long Floater head screws, tap into place with plastic tipped hammer. Done in shop.
#7 Drive 1 1/4" screws on site final install.

Hope this clarifies the process. I'm printing this out to put in our manual.

From contributor A:
Try to think of your cabinet door as a dishwasher panel or a finished end panel on a cabinet. Build an edge banded, edge finished maple 3/4 panel. Fasten it to your finished door. Then fasten it to your drawers. If you line the panel up with the drawers, no one will pay much attention to it. I have had to do this in the past on inset face frame cabinets with Tandem slides.

From contributor J:
Thanks, contributor T. I see how these work now. I looked at the Blum site but couldn't find a picture of the adjuster clips themselves, but I did see the dowel center.

From contributor C:
I'm assuming they are 1/4" flat recessed panels, which from the back have nothing touching the drawer box except the perimeter edge of the frame of the DF. We locate our DF's with spacers and attach with small dots of hot melt. We then pre-drill from the inside at an angle or whatever is required to hit the outer frame where there is some meat to screw into.

From contributor V:
Look at Kolbe Korners from Fastcap. They are designed for this purpose.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I do have some of the Kolbe Corners. I think these might be okay on plywood drawer boxes, but they detract from the look of the nice dovetails. I have also in the past done the angled screw trick, which works okay.

From contributor K:

Undermount drawer slides make the process of mounting 5-piece fronts even easier than in the past. When used with 2 1/2" stiles, there is enough room to bore 5/16" holes through the drawer box (tight to the outside), and use drawer front adjuster screws into the drawer front stile. We've tried every method there is, and this is the cheapest, fastest, cleanest method out there.

Kolby corners look terrible and cheap, especially considering they hide the dovetail. Drawer front adjusters take too many steps and can split the drawer fronts. Drawer front adjuster screws work even faster if you establish a consistent reference distance for all of your drawer fronts, which allows you to make the necessary jigs to pre-drill everything. Mounting fronts becomes a process of holding it up to the cabinet and running a screw into the hole.