Dining Room/ Home Office {Drawer Fronts}

It seems that every time I build something, I modify how I went about making various parts.  I have built drawer fronts for cabinets using a few different methods now, and this time I am very happy with how they came out.  I don’t know if my level of skill has increased or if the Greek gods who oversee straight boards were pleased with me, but every one of these drawer fronts came out flat and square and just the right size.  Love it when that happens–probably because it is a rare thing ;)

I used the same method as I did on my DIY closet organizer but in this post I’ll show you how I clamped it all together and pinned the plywood backs in.

Rule Number 1.  Use. straight. boards.

Rule Number 2.  Straight boards.  Use them.

Rule Number 3.  See Rule #1 and #2.

Off topic, I shot a video during this build where I talk about picking straight boards because I think it could be a difficult thing for a beginner, and because sometimes you can get away with boards that aren’t straight, but only when they are warped certain ways (depending on what you are using them for).  Would anyone find that helpful or are my readers past that point in skill level?  Don’t want to waste time editing a video nobody wants to see…please chime in in the comment section!

I used two options to assemble: one was a combination square to hold the corners square.  This works, but it isn’t my preferred method.

Use a combination square  to assemble drawer fronts

I also used a face clamp over the joint where I was driving the screws to keep it flat, but I didn’t take the picture with that on there in order to simplify what you are seeing.

The way I prefer to build because I think it results in really square drawer fronts is to use a piece of scrap plywood the size of your drawer front (or a couple of pieces to get the size you need) to provide a flat work surface.  Then I use a Clamp-It assembly square I got from Rockler to get square corners.  I got mine on sale, so I didn’t pay the price listed (so watch for their sales!).  If your boards are really straight, and your cuts are really straight, and Lady Luck is smiling on you, you can get away with just a Kreg face clamp over the joint and a Kreg right angle clamp in one of the pocket holes.  This picture just shows that clamp set up without the assembly square, etc.  Don’t have a right angle clamp?  Just use an Irwin Quick Grip or similar to hold the pieces together (they will want to spread apart).

clamps to assembe drawer fronts with pocket holes

Here’s the set up with the assembly square when you have an ornery corner and the boards are fighting you to remain square.  Add in the Right Angle clamp as well.  Sometimes the boards want to fold toward the middle when you are driving in the screws so just add a clamp on each edge of the assembly square, a clamp over the joint, and if you have the right angle clamp, add that too.  If you don’t have a face frame clamp then use a scrap of wood under a Irwin quick grip over the joint (or some other clamp you can get in there).  Improvise!  I started out with only a few Irwin quick grip clamps and have slowly added more kinds of clamps each project.   I just got the face frame clamp for this project :)

pocket hole drawer fronts--clamps to assemble

An issue I ran into with the closet organizer drawer fronts was splitting the wood when I was driving the screws.  I was going to predrill some pilot holes because that was suggested in the comment area of that post, but I couldn’t get my drill in the area I was trying to work in.  So this time I dialed down the clutch (read more about what that means at This Old House) so that the drill bit would disengage when it met resistance.  It is set at “1” here, but I think I used it at about 5 or 6 on the drawer fronts.  It eliminated the actual splitting that happened on the closet drawers, but it did bulge a bit on two corners (out of 56 corners–much happier this time).

Clutch on cordless drill

I also decided that instead of just gluing the backs in before painting, as I did in the closet organizer, I would paint and topcoat everything before I assembled the drawer fronts.  That meant that wood glue wouldn’t work and I’d have to nail these in with my nail gun.  I used 18 gauge 3/4″ nails.  Position the gun pointing down first.

Pin in plywood back drawer fronts

Then angle it back.  Please don’t have your person positioned directly behind the gun.  Be safe.  My brother had a stray nail go through a finger this summer while building a porch.  It doesn’t sound like fun to me and it happens fast.

Pin in plywood back drawer front

I’m not sure if this option was a better one than painting after.  It was easier to paint, certainly, and I didn’t have any pooling of topcoat in the corners.  But I did have this happen.  On two different drawers.  (Huh.  That made me swear just seeing the picture.  Didn’t expect that.)  This would be a nail through my beautifully finished drawer front.  I hit the trigger on the gun before I had it angled all the way back.  The other stray nail hit one of the pocket hole screws and came out the front.

oops nail through drawer front

If you own a nail gun you might as well make friends with a nail set.  Mine was a hand-me-down, but I saw a set of 3 for about $2 at Home Depot not long ago.  Pound that nail in (sometimes I snip it shorter first), being careful to reign in your frustration–you don’t want to repair a hole made from mad.  You want it below the surface of the wood so wood filler is on top.

Nail setFill it with some wood filler, sand, prime, paint, and topcoat.  See why I wasn’t thrilled?  Not sure which option I will pick next time.   I made my doors this way too, and I think I’ll glue them the next time since I had to fill all the holes after they were assembled.  You see the backs of doors!

These fit first time in–no trimming.  That was a wonderful treat and unfortunately it did not last through all of the door installations.

Inset drawer fronts attached 2

Don’t forget to leave a comment letting me know if a video on picking straight boards would be helpful!  If you’ve already been in a store and generally know what you are looking at, you won’t get much from what I filmed.  I also filmed my router table set up to make the rabbet in the back of the drawer fronts and I plan to edit that one for sure.

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About Pink Toes and Power Tools

I'm a DIY girl with a blog. Trying to complete one project before I jump into the next one!

15 responses to “Dining Room/ Home Office {Drawer Fronts}”

  1. Laurie says :

    You are amazing! I think a video would be great. Nothing more frustrating than pulling out every board the home improvement store has only to find the board you bought is not straight. Did you teach yourself how to build? Wish you were my neighbor! :D


    • Pink Toes and Power Tools says :

      Hubs taught me how to sight a board to see if it’s straight and gave me a demo on the miter saw before my first project and I took it from there! I’ll let you know when a house goes up for sale in our neck of the woods, lol :) I’d love to have a building friend next door!


  2. Kat says :

    Yes! A video would be great, and I “wood” certainly appreciate it. I’m currently working on a big (for me) build, and all your info is quite helpful. I refer back to it often.


  3. tlsmith1976 says :

    I enjoy watching informational videos even if I feel I’m past that particular level of experience because I feel you can ALWAYS take something from it.

    I continually have issues with getting my pieces square and I’ve been eyeballing those jigs from Rockler for quite awhile! Looks like I’ll be getting some new equipment soon! ;-)

    Question about your door/drawers. Are you using 3/4″ boards and 1/4″ ply for the centers or some other width board?


    • Pink Toes and Power Tools says :

      I really like those jigs. I like my Bessey corner clamps too, but the Rockler ones are quicker to set up and I find that I reach for them often. I think they are more versatile too.

      You’re right on the dimensions–the frames for the doors/drawers are 3/4″ pine and the backing is 1/4″ ply. This build they are all 1x2s.


  4. Diane says :

    Yes please on the board choosing video :)


  5. Heidi says :

    I think I do alright picking straight boards, but a video, like tlsmith said, would still be helpful. Also, I REALLY WANT to see that router video. Sorry for shouting. But I REALLY WANT that one!


  6. Beth says :

    Yes to the video! I’m a visual learner so that would be a huge help. Have a router that I’m scared to use(no table). Thanks for all the info.


  7. Leticia says :

    Yes please, on the video. I plan on starting a couple of DIY projects this winter, a video on choosing the right boards would be very helpful. Thanks.


  8. Tim Raleigh says :

    Those drawers and cabinets look great! Nice site. I found your site after reading Shawn Nichols’ blog “While the glue dries”. I noticed that those pocket holes in the shallow drawer stiles didn’t leave you with much material.
    As a suggestion, you may find it easier if you make the stiles (vertical piece) the full height of the drawer front and make shorter rails (horizontal). That way you get a little extra length to drill your pocket holes in and you won’t see the end grain when the drawers are closed.
    Hope that helps.


    • Pink Toes and Power Tools says :

      That’s a great tip, thanks Tim! The pocket holes did eat away at the stiles since they were so short and I hadn’t thought about that until everything was cut and routered. I was very relieved it still worked because I didn’t want to have to start all over with them!


  9. Anonymous says :

    Where can I get your plans for this? Thanks Ray


  10. Aisha says :

    Please do put up a video on choosing straight boards. Sometimes you think you know something then someone puts a different perspective on it and you’re like ‘Oh! Why didn’t I think of that!’ So it would be very appreciated! Thanks!

    PS. I love love love the drawers and can’t wait to see your router video as well!


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