Drawer System Choices

Cabinetmakers consider the pros and cons of various manufactured drawer systems. September 27, 2008

We have typically built Baltic birch drawer boxes. However, I have a large job coming up that requires 1500 plus drawers. I have had both Blum and Grass reps in to demonstrate their drawer systems. I am still undecided so I would like some feedback. What are the pros and cons to either system?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
At 1500 boxes the price should be your deciding factor. Ask for a Blum minipress, a bomber jacket, and a couple of hats for the boys.

From contributor J:
I agree with the free machine. Get what you can, it's slow times and suppliers now value their accounts more than ever - at least a set of loaners. It could be good for you and them.

From contributor I:
Over the past 20 or so years I have used both Blum and Grass, I have found that the Grass is easier to use, assemble-adjust, and engineer. By this I mean, engineer: the hole location for the cabinet side is based on drawer front placement, the hole location on the drawer front is a consistent, it is the same dimension from the bottom of the drawer regardless of size, with one exception the 6035 which is there really small drawer that most people don’t use anyway. The Blum uses a front left and right fixing bracket (additional cost) that is mounted at different spacing from the drawer bottom based on the height of the drawer.

By the Grass using a consistent spacing I feel that it is much simplifier to lay out.

For assembly if you get all the correct assembly tools for either type they are close on assembly, but if you get the large A Frame type press from Grass the assembly is so quick and easy anyone can use it. If you purchase a large amount of drawers both company’s should be willing to give you the equipment outright or a very good price. Also because the Grass does not use the separate front fixing bracket assembly on the Grass is simpler and less field problems. (I have had the Blum fixing brackets get loose and fall of in the field).

One of the biggest selling points for the Grass over the Blum is the full extension. If you want full extension drawers, the Grass you just order a full extension member, and lower the cabinet mounting slide 32mm, where the Blum you must purchase a whole new drawer and slide assembly, mounting is similar, I cannot remember if you move the slide up or down 32mm. If you know you are using full extension from the start it doesn’t make much of a difference, however if your drawer extension changes after you have ordered, it is much easier to change using the Grass.

From contributor D:
Slides with offsets (slide ledge up to closest system hole) less than 13mm are more system friendly. Slides with an offset greater than 13mm may need to be mounted 32mm higher on the panel, i.e. more wasted space. IIRC, the Blum offset is 17mm and Grass 11mm.

From contributor L:
We did the research and realized 17 minutes per drawer box/front assembly by picking Grass. We got the press, ecopress and hammer all of it for free. We built a router table to route the bottom notch. For the size of job you are looking at your local Grass rep should be helpful in setting you up.

From contributor T:
Having used both, we went with Grass. When we used Blum, we were constantly moving the fences on the mini-press. Get an eco-press and ram and getting it together is quick. Plan on a dedicated router table (or dedicated well adjusted saw to cut the grooves in your bottoms). The consistent spacing from the bottom of the drawer front is the key for us.

The tough part is when the drawer fronts don't line up. Getting behind the front with a posi driver to loosen and adjust the "up and down cams" isn't too bad. Getting the left and right adjusted is slower with a tap here and a tap there. Then when you tighten the screws the front moves, so you do it again. Sometimes you force it out of alignment so it aligns when you tighten it. It can be a pain.

Also, don't forget your angle drill/driver 'cause you need to run some 5/8" screws into the back of the drawer fronts to hold them tight and hold the adjustments. Remember they are just pressed together and sometimes those press-in dowels let loose. It is especially important on the 6436's (tall ones). Use square drive pan heads with a long driver bit so you can go in as square as possible. A flat head will cause your front to move (again). Or you can do what my competition does and just forget about the screws and hope they don't get loose.

Keep an eye on the plastic bumpers that are snapped on behind the front roller (cabinet member). These disappear from time to time. If they go, then your drawer front will be smacking against your cab constantly and will definitely loosen the plastic dowels.

Lastly, if you wind up in a very quiet room, and your customer is particularly picky, the noise will bother them. They are not quiet when they close. Grass has not introduced a quiet close system for Zargen's (that I know of) yet. I guess it's difficult to have a slow close with a gravity close type slide. Or the cost (already high) will go through the roof.

From the original questioner:
We have been leaning a little more towards the Grass system. Both manufacturers have offered the equipment for free. I was mostly concerned with hearing if anyone has had any problems with the Blum fronts becoming loose.

There is a wrinkle to this project that I didn't want to divulge too soon. The fronts are going to need to be interchangeable in the field. The customer wants tenants to have the option of black pl, natural maple, and maple stained cherry. Although the Blum system has the added of benefit of clipping off one front and attaching another, this is also their drawback.

The bigger concern, however, is that we are thinking of going to a drawer slide system for all of commercial projects which means that I needed to look at this with a broader scope than just this one job.

I wasn't aware of the A-frame clamping system. The literature says that assembly times of 60 boxes per hour are attainable. With the mini press we thought that we would be in the 20 box per hour range. Do you have experience with the bigger press? What are the realistic times?

From contributor I:
The A-Frame clamping system is the way to go if you have a lot of drawers, once it is set up you can blow through a lot of drawers, I have used this setup in two different shops. I have never checked how many drawers per hour can be done but the sixty per hour does sound reasonable.

From contributor N:
I've been trying to get my shop to switch to Zargens for over year. I’ve used them in a nested-based system where the CNC drilled to holes for us, and the same bit drilled the holes in the case parts for the knock-in grass hinge plates - a very slick system.

The A-Frame is absolutely worth the investment, and buying in the bulk 300 pack is great as well, as the case sides go right to the assembly area in their own boxes. We pocket-screwed the front of the bottom to hold it tight against the face, and set up a dedicated staple gun on the A-Frame press for shooting through the back into the bottom.

The only problem is when you have both partial overlay and full overlay situations, as the faces with have holes that are offset, which adds extra sorting into the mix. I've used the metabox, and it’s a good system, but grass is the one I would go with for both ease of use and speed in assembly.