How to attach a drawer front
Fine-tuning the attachment of applied drawer fronts. September 25, 2002
I am interested in how other people attach their applied drawer fronts. I do a lot of inset drawers and I feel I need to be able to fine tune the position before locking it down, but I have not found a method I am satisfied with.
I'm partial to the Blum meta-box system. The front fixing bracket allows fine tuning. For wood boxes, I use a #6 X 1 1/8" washer-head screw. Sub front is pre-drilled with 1/4" hole to allow fine adjustment up to about 1/8".
Ditto for me on the metabox. It is a great product and since switching, my customers have been very happy.
I just got a set of tandembox slides and have been playing around with them. These things are awesome. If you can get your hands on a set, try them out.
I'm guessing you fit the fronts before finishing, and would like to be able to remove and replace them without Swiss cheesing the backside, or wallowing out the holes? Try 2-sided carpet tape.
I'm sure you know the key to insets is making certain everything is square and in alignment. I machine everything from a single point of reference, just like a tool and die maker, in order to "push" the accumulated tolerances away from the critical face area. Once the box is sitting square and perpendicular to the face frame, attaching the drawer front is no great shake.
Drill the D/F for its knob with a 3/16” bit.
Line up the D/F in the opening and drill through the drawer box.
Remove the D/F and enlarge the hole in the drawer box to 1/4” or 5/16”.
Attach the knob through the drawer box and D/F using moderate pressure.
The slop in the hole should give you all the adjustability you need before locking in.
We use Blum's drawer levelers. They install with a 20mm bit and have adjustability from side to side and up and down. I would not build cabinets without them.
We do nothing but inset and use drawer front washer head screws that use a 5/16" hole in the drawer box. Combined with the adjustability of Hafele under-mounts, it's almost foolproof. I tried the 20mm levelers, but that was too time-consuming. If you want to use regular screws, I suggest a couple dabs of hot glue to hold the face in position until you can fasten it.
We use the 20mm Blum levelers also. We pre-bore the drawer-box front piece before assembling with two 3/16" holes and also some countersunk holes for permanent "fixing" screws when the job is installed and fronts are adjusted. The levelers can work out if the drawer front happens to contact the case on closing or stuff in the drawer gets stuck between (like paper in office drawers). Two fixing screws for narrow heads and four (each corner) for larger heads. A 3/16" center punch is used to mark the backs of the heads (jig located) for the 20mm bore required. Use a spacer in the jig for bottom drawers to accommodate the additional hangdown with frameless cases.
I've been using the Blum 20mm plug system with very good results. Since the adjustment is based on friction with no solid lock, we make sure there is a final locking step for the alignment. If we are installing the hardware, this usually suffices. We drill the fronts for the 20 mm plugs on a drill press and drill for the handles on a CNC before the front goes on. I'll probably switch over to running all on the CNC soon... all parametric so the attachment screw positioning is more consistent. The range on these is +/- 2mm any direction.
By the way, I've never had any trouble with the plugs working out. It is important that you use a 20mm rather than a 13/16" drill (20.64mm). Also, use a drill press so you can avoid any wobble in the bit. I've had employees get the bit slightly crooked in the drill press, causing a loose fit.
On the rare occasions when I've needed to pull one of these, I've been surprised by how well they hold. If it's in hardwood, you literally must destroy the plug to get it out. In particleboard or MDF it'll tear out the back side of the panel before it'll pull straight out.
Another note - these require a 12.5mm deep bore in the drawer front. If you're using a recessed panel drawer front, they will only work if they're set in the rails. I've avoided this by convincing all my customers so far that slab drawer fronts are better even with shaker doors.
My method may be quite simple, but has worked well for me. Prior to installing the front, I pre-drill my drawer for attachment screws. I slightly oversize the holes so that the screw can spin freely, to prevent the screw from pushing the drawer front away when fastening it. I then locate the drawer front on the drawer box and shoot a couple of 1" brads from behind to hold it in position. The brads still allow up to 3/32" in adjustment in any direction. If I miss the first try with the brads, I can always pop off the front and try again. I always assemble on a level bench so that, hypothetically, the cabinet is in the same position it will be installed. On banks of drawers, I start with the bottom drawer and work my way up. After the fronts are adjusted to my satisfaction, I lock them in with 1" wood screws (flathead or bugle – it’s your choice). You can lock the position of the front, if needed, with a couple more brads. Regarding the shaker drawer fronts, I have my door guy use a 1/2" ply reversed panel. The drawback to this method is that adjustment in the field is more difficult, whereas a cam type device would be preferable.
Here's the way I do it with face frame inset drawers. The drawer guide (cabinet) members have already been installed into the carcasses and the drawer boxes have their respective guide members attached. This procedure is done after the cabinets have been installed but before the countertops are installed!
Install the drawer box into its cabinet opening.
Pull box out until front of box is even with outside edge of frame and adjust cabinet guide members (if necessary) to cause front of box to be even with the front surface of frame all the way around. This procedure ensures that when the drawer front is attached, the face of the front will be flush with the outside face of the frame, all the way around the front. Of course, the cabinet guides must be set in from the frame the appropriate distance to account for the thickness of the drawer front.
I use three thicknesses of laminate to shim and hold the drawer front off the frame at the bottom and at both sides. Use whatever you want or have handy but the shims should be the actual thickness of the desired reveal. Note: I often leave off the shims on the sides and "eyeball" the reveal on either side of the drawer front.
The drawer box is predrilled with slightly oversized holes to accept standard 8 x 1-1/8" (washer head) drawer front screws. I use a couple strips of double-sided tape (the 3M thin stuff) on the back of the drawer front and press the front against the box front. Hopefully the mating surfaces are both flat so that the tape sticks well – use enough tape near both ends of the drawer front to hold the parts together secure enough that they won’t come unstuck before you get the screws driven in.
Be careful when you set the bottom edge of the drawer front on top of the shims and do not disturb the vertical or horizontal movement of the drawer box as you place and press the drawer front against the drawer box. If you do, the drawer will settle out of square in the opening when you remove the shims!
Drive the screws to complete the installation, leaving the tape right where it is.
By the way, I charge a flat 30 percent more for an inset door/drawer option.
The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).
Comment from contributor A:
For attaching drawer fronts and fine tuning the fit I use a hot glue gun. Put four dabs of hot glue onto the drawer front and attach to your drawer. The hot glue will give you enough time to adjust your drawer to your marks. Hold until the glue sets up, which is fairly quickly. You are now ready to permanently secure your front.
Comment from contributor B:
If you fit before finishing you can pin nail them on with a 23 gauge pin gun and then screw them on. They can then be removed and the holes in the drawers slightly bored out for post install adjustment.