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Drawer Slides

Nine Models for Nine Situations

By Brad Holden

Open the drawer of a well-made modern cabinet. How do the slides feel? They should be effortless, smooth and precise.  You have more than a dozen types of slides from which to choose. For that perfect glide, the trick is to match the situation and the slide.

Here are nine common kinds of drawers and recommendations for the type of slide to buy for each. As to the specific brand and model, lots of good choices are available. With each drawer, I’ve listed one of my favorites. You’ll find information about where to find a distributor for each slide in the Sources, below. 

Dovetailed Drawer

Don’t cover beautiful dovetails with a side-mount slide. Use a totally concealed, ball-bearing undermount slide. They’re the latest thing for high-end kitchen cabinet drawers. These particular slides are super-smooth and have a self-closing mechanism. Buy the slides before you build the drawers, though. The slides have specific requirements regarding the thickness of the drawer sides and the location of the drawer bottom. 

Click any image to view a larger version.

Face-Frame Cabinets

Two simple brackets added to a side-mount, ball-bearing slide make installation a lot easier than building out a cabinet’s sides to be flush with the face frame. Fasten the front bracket to the face frame. Clip the slide onto it. Then clip on the rear bracket and attach it to the cabinet’s back. If the back is only 1/4 in. thick, apply a mounting block to the back so the bracket’s screws can get a solid grip. 

Outdoor Drawer

Exposure to the elements causes a slide to rust and corrode, and there’s no easy way to clean it. There is an answer: stainless steel slides rated for outdoor use. They’ll hold up well on this patio potting table.

Tall Drawer

I bought the legs for my table, rather than turn them myself. It isn’t as much fun, but it is much quicker. Here are three legs I considered. They’re all made from solid 2-3/4-in. stock, with no glue lines, and are sanded ready to go. I chose the middle leg for my table. These suppliers make many more leg styles in various widths, lengths and wood species.

Melamine Drawer

For a white drawer, use a white slide. These particular roller slides are a bottom-mount style, so-called because they wrap around the bottom edge of the drawer side. Melamine drawers are often assembled in the simplest fashion, with a bottom that attaches directly underneath the drawer side. These slides cover that joint and help support the drawer bottom.

Small Drawer

A small drawer requires an equally small slide. For a piece as nice as this tiny keepsake chest, use a ball-bearing slide. This particular slide doesn’t take up much room: One half is housed in the drawer side and the other is only 1/4 in. thick. Unlike other slides, this one doesn’t come apart in two pieces. You mount the slide to the cabinet, extend it and add the drawer.

File Drawer

Use an overtravel slide rated to carry a minimum 125-lb. load on a file drawer. An overtravel slide allows the drawer to open about an inch beyond its full depth. This gives you easy access to the rear files. Mounted on an upper drawer, this slide’s overtravel would also allow the back of the drawer to open beyond an overhanging desk top. 

Shop Drawer

Use roller slides in a dusty shop. The lubrication in a ball-bearing slide would attract sawdust and, in no time, the slide would begin to stick. Roller slides are much easier to keep clean. Simply brush or blow out the sawdust and you’re good to go. Tool storage drawers like this one should be capable of carrying a lot of weight. These heavy-duty roller slides can carry a 200-lb. load. 

Wide Drawer

A wide drawer is prone to wobble if you use a standard slide. To eliminate racking, use a rack-and-pinion slide. Both sides are connected with a steel rod, so they act in tandem. Installation takes a little extra time, but it’s worth it. This Schock-Metall slide is rated for 200 lbs. and can handle a drawer almost 5 ft. wide.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Blum Tandem premium undermount drawer slide, #562H, 15-in. to 21-in. lengths; Knape & Vogt 100-lb. full-extension drawer slide, #8400, 10-in. to 28-in. lengths; Face-frame and rear-mounting brackets; Knape & Vogt 75-lb. stainless-steel full-extension drawer slide, #6400, 16-in. to 22-in. lengths; Liberty 100-lb. full-extension ball-bearing slide, #D750 series, 12-in. to 26-in. lengths; Blum drawer runners, #B430E, 10-in. to 32-in. lengths; Rockler, Mini ball-bearing drawer slide, #30804, #30811, 7-1/4-in. to 15-1/8-in. lengths; Accuride, (562) 903-0200,  • Blum, (800) 438-6788, • Knape & Vogt, (800) 253-1561, • Liberty, (800) 542-3789, • Rockler, (800) 279-4441, • Schock-Metall, (800) 345-8550, www. • Woodworkers Supply, (800) 645-9292, Knape & Vogt full-extension lateral file slide, #8520, 16-in. to 20-in. lengths; Woodworkers Supply, Super heavy-duty drawer slide, #115-793, 20-in. length, available in 20-in. to 36-in. lengths; Schock-Metall, Schock rack-and-pinion drawer system, #RPD series, 18-in. to 22-in. lengths; Knape & Vogt full-extension lateral file slide, #8520, 16-in. to 20-in. lengths; Woodworkers Supply, Super heavy-duty drawer slide, #115-793, 20-in. length; Available in 20-in. to 36-in. lengths; Schock-Metall, Schock rack-and-pinion drawer system, #RPD series, 18-in. to 22-in. lengths. 

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker November 2005, issue #118.

November 2005, issue #118

Purchase this back issue.


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