Woodworking Drawers Complete Guide: Types, Drawer slides, and How-To’s

There are many methods to create drawers and many different types of drawers you can create. Designing and creating the perfect set of drawers may seem like a daunting task. Luckily, the general steps are the same. In this article, I will go over how to design and how to make YOUR designed drawer.


  1. 2 Drawer types
  2. Drawer slide types
  3. Tips for choosing drawer slides
  4. 5 Steps to Create a Drawer

2 Drawer types

There are two main drawer types to consider when designing a drawer. You have inset and overlay drawers.

Overlay drawers are drawers where the front of the drawer overlaps the cabinet frame. Inlay drawers are flushed with the cabinet frame.

Inset vs Overlay drawers

Inset DrawersOverlay Drawers
DescriptionDrawer face in flushed with the frameDrawer face overlaps the frame
LookMore minimal lookMore traditional look
DifficultySlightly harder to buildEasier to build
SpaceSlightly less spaceSlightly more space

Inset Drawers

Inset drawers are when the drawer face is flushed with the frame of the workpiece. These drawers have a more minimal look, but they do result in less drawer space and are harder to build.

Overlay Drawers

Overlay drawers are when the drawer face is overlapping, or in front of, the frame of the workpiece. Overlay drawers have a more traditional look, have slightly more drawer space, and are easier to build.


Inset and overlay drawers both look really good. Your decision will largely depend on preference. The amount of space difference is less than 1″ and inset drawers are only slightly more difficult to build than overlay drawers.

Drawer slide types

Drawer slides are the mechanism that allows for you to slide the drawer in and out.

Below, I will go over the 3 types of drawer slides, 3 mounting locations, and 5 drawer slides features.

3 types of drawer slides.

Ball bearing drawer slidesRoller drawer slidesDIY drawer slides
DescriptionBall bearings are used to extend and contract the drawer slide1-2 Rollers are used to extend and contract the drawer slideWooden drawer slide designed by the user
$16-200+ per pair
$2-7 per pair
roughly $3-50 per pair
Weight capacity: 100-300lbs per pair
Weight capacity: 50-100lbs per pair
roughly 50-200lbs per pair
Assembly difficulty*******
  1. Ball bearing drawer slides
    • Ball bearing drawer slides are the most common types of drawer slides. They come in many different mounting locations and can have the largest array of features.
    • Ball bearing drawer slides have a cabinet and drawer profile that attaches to the cabinet and to the drawer.
    • Ball bearing are in-between both of the profile to allow for easy movement.
    • Cost
      • One set can be from 16-200+ dollars depending on the duty and features
    • Durability
      • Ball bearing drawer slides can be very heavy duty and can support a lot of weight. However, cheaper ones can be flimsy and of lower quality.
  2. Roller drawer slides
    • Roller drawer slides have 1 – 2 rollers to open and close the drawer.
    • Roller drawer slides do not support additional features like soft-closing, self-closing, and push to open.
    • Cost
      • A set of roller drawer slides are commonly sold for 2-7 dollars
    • Durability
      • These drawer slides are commonly made of cheaper material and cannot support as much weight as ball bearing drawer slides.
  3. DIY drawer slides
    • DIY drawer slides are commonly made out of wood or particle board. Some people make a cabinet and drawer wooden track to open and close the drawer.
    • You can also create a dado in the side of the drawer and a cabinet profile for the cabinet to create a drawer slide.
    • DIY wooden drawer slides need to be lubricated regularly and wood shrinkage and expansion needs to be considered so the slide mechanism doesn’t become tight or loose.
    • Cost
      • Based on how you design the drawer slide, you can expect to spend as little as 3 dollars for the amount of wood you use or up to 50 dollars for a set with heavy duty rollers and other features.
    • Durability
      • Depending on the design, DIY drawer slides can be lower quality with a lower weight capacity or higher quality with a higher weight capacity.
      • DIY wooden drawer slides can commonly support between 50 and 200lbs
    • Assembly difficulty
      • Since DIY drawer slides have to be designed and created by the builder, they are much more difficult to do than pre-manufactured drawer slides.

3 drawer mounting locations

  1. Side mount
    • Side mount drawer slides are connected to the side of the drawer and the inner wall of the cabinet
  2. Base mount
    • Base mount drawer slides are connected to the bottom of the drawer and the bottom of the cabinet opening.
  3. Under mount
    • Under mount drawer slides are connected to the sides of the drawer but the top of the cabinet opening

5 drawer slides features

  1. Soft-closing drawer slides
    • As the drawer approaches the closed position, it slows down and closes softly to prevent the drawer from slamming.
  2. Soft-Open drawer slides
    • Soft-open drawer slides gradually opens the drawer to prevent the drawer from slamming open.
  3. Push to open drawer slides
    • Push-to-open drawer slides do not require drawer handles and allows the user to push in on the drawer to spring it open.
    • Ideal for a modern, minimalistic design
  4. Self-Closing drawer slides
    • Automatically shuts the drawer as it approaches the closed location. Ideal to prevent the drawer from staying cracked unknowingly.
  5. Lock-Open/Lock-Closed drawer slides
    • A drawer lever will lock the drawer in the open or closed position when pressed.

Tips for choosing drawer slides

Partial vs full extension

You should choose full extension drawer slides if you want to easily access all of the contents in the drawer. However, you should choose partial extension drawer slides if you will have heavy items in the drawer that may tilt the furniture when fully extended.

Drawer slide overall length

You want your drawer slides to be 1-2 inches shorter than the length of the drawer.

Too small drawer slides will not function correctly and will be too much stress on the slides. Too large drawer slides will be too long to mount.

Read on

As promised, now that you know the different types of drawers and drawer slides and their functions, we can now start building our drawer.

5 Steps to Create a Drawer

You can create a drawer in 5 general steps. These 5 overarching sets have many sub-steps that will depend on the tools you use and your drawer design.

For each step, I will go over the different methods to complete the step and the tools needed for each method.

These are the 5 steps to create a drawer.

  1. Consider drawer type and drawer slides and placement: Design the drawer
    • First, you will learn about the different types of drawers and drawer slides.
    • Then, you will design the drawer either from scratch or through inspiration.
    • Afterwards, you will sketch up dimensions and joinery plans.
    • Lastly, you will purchase the materials.
  2. Create a box
    • Most drawers are box shaped. So using your plans, you will create the drawer, which is essentially a box.
    • Note: The specifics of this step will be different for everyone, depending on their design.
  3. Add the draw slides
    • You will now add the drawer slides according to your plans.
  4. Mount the box to the workpiece
    • This is the hardest part of creating a drawer, mounting it to the work piece.
    • There are many methods to mount a drawer and many jigs to make your life easier.
    • In this section, I will go over the different methods on mounting the drawer to your workpiece.
  5. Add the face: Optional
    • Depending on your design, you may want to add a superficial drawer face.

Below, I will explain the 5 steps to building a drawer.

Part 1: Design the drawer

This part, designing the drawer, has four steps. First you will pick your drawer and drawer slide types, then come up with a design. Afterwards, you will make a blueprint and sketch your specific dimensions. Lastly, you will purchase the materials.

Step 1: Pick your drawer and drawer slides type

First, you will need to pick the type of drawer that you want to create, inlay or overlay. This is important because it will affect your overall design.

Then, you will need to pick the specific drawer slides that you will be using. Picking the drawer slides now are also important because the slides will affect the dimensions of your drawer. Many drawer slides are 1/2″ thick, but the thickness can vary based on manufacure.

When picking drawer slides, remember consider additional features that you may want, drawer slide overall length, weight capacity, and carriage width.

My project: I chose inlay drawers with the artificial face and drawer slides that are 1/2″ thick.

Read the first part of this article, to learn more about drawers and drawer slides types.

Step 2: Find inspiration or design from scratch

Now you will design the drawer. When designing, I like to get inspiration from Pinterest, YouTube, and through google searches.

I like to do this because I am not a great designer and I always find better designs online.

By using inspiration, you can find the right color scheme and overall product dimensions.

My project: I chose a dresser that is 66″x22″x32″ LxWxH with a medium brown stain.

Step 3: Draw blueprint and sketch dimensions

Now that you have the design and the drawer slides, you can now sketch the dimensions.

In this step, you will first take the dimensions of the cabinet space, and then take the dimensions of the drawer.

1. Dimensions of the cabinet space

To create the dimensions for a drawer, you will need to find the dimensions for the cabinet opening space.

When finding the dimensions of the opening, you do not want to include the thickness of the wood.

My project: My overall dresser length is 66″. Horizontally I have 3 pieces of wood that are 1/2″ thick each. That takes off 1 1/2″ to make 64.5″. I have two drawers horizontally to make each opening 32 1/4″ long. Using the same process, I found my opening width to be 22″ and height to be 10″.

2. Dimensions of the drawer

To find the dimensions of the drawer, you first want to take the cabinet opening space and subtract 2 drawer slide thickness from the length. This will give you the length of the drawer.

You want at least 1/4″ of space each inbetween the drawer bottom and cabinet and the drawer top and cabinet. So you will have to subtract at least 1/2″ from the opening height to get the drawer height.

You also want at least 1/4″ of space from the back of the drawer and the cabinet back. If you are designing an inlay drawer with an artificial face, then you will need to subtract the artificial face thickness.

For overlay and inlay drawers, the width of the drawer will be the opening width – 1/4″. For inlay drawers with artificial faces, the width of the drawer is the opening width – 1/4″ – the artificial fence thickness.

My project: Since I have 1/2″ drawer slides, I subtracted 1″ from my opening length to get my drawer length. Since I am using an artificial face, I created a larger 1″ gap between the top and bottom of my drawer and the cabinet. So I subtracted 2″ from the opening height to get my drawer height. Lastly, since I am creating a inlay drawer with an artificial fence of 1/2″ and I wanted a 1/2″ gap between the drawer back and cabinet, I subtracted 1″ from the opening width to get the drawer width. My artificial fence will have a 1/4″ gap between the top and bottom of the cabinet.

After finding the dimensions of the drawer box, you will need to determine the cut sizes for your drawer.

Important tips

You want to leave at least 1/4 of an inch of space between drawers to allow for slight drawer sag when fully extended.

You also want to either have the face the the drawer in line with the frame, for overlay drawers. Or you the face of the drawer behind the frame, for inlay drawers.

If you are making inlay drawers, you want your drawer face to be thickness of the wood behind the cabinet frame. So that when you add the drawer face, it will be flushed with the cabinet frame.

To learn how to create a full blueprint and joinery blueprint, then check out my article here.

Step 4: Gather materials

Now that you know how much wood you need, you can gather all of your materials.

The materials that you will need to create a drawer are wood, drawer slides, and drawer handles.

You will also need tools to create the drawers which can include, but is not limited to, wood glue, chisel, a saw, a router, a drill, and stain/paint.

What type of wood to make drawers?

You can use essentially any type of wood for drawers. The main factors that will impact your decision is the type of joinery that you want to use, the desired weight of the workpiece, the environment, and the durability of the wood.

You only need 1/4 inch-thick wood or particle board to make drawers. More heavy duty, load bearing, drawers can be made with wood 1/2 inches thick.

Wood of 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick are most common for cabinets. Cabinet backing are commonly 1/2 inches thick, but they can be 1/4 or 1/8 inches thick if the backing is not load-bearing.

To learn more about wood characteristics, then you should check out my article here.

Part 3: Create the inner drawer and cabinet

Now that you know the dimensions, you can now create the drawer and cabinet.

Creating a drawer and cabinet is very similar to creating a box. Both require right angle joinery.

This drawer will look very simple to begin with, but once we mount he drawer the the cabinet, we will mount the drawer face to the inner drawer.

To learn how to create a box, check out my article here.

Part 4: Add drawer slides

Now it is time to assemble the drawer slides.

If you are using DIY drawer slides, then you should already have your assembly method planned out.

If you are using pre-manufactured drawer slides, then you will need to assemble them according to the instructions.

To add drawer slides, first you want to mark the bottom and top location on the cabinet where the drawer will be placed.

Next you will determine where you want the slide to go on the cabinet.

Then you will add the slide to the cabinet and then extend the slide to secure it to the drawer.

Part 5: Mount the drawer faces

To mount the drawer faces, you will first want to start from the bottom up and have a wood spacer to create even gaps between the drawers.

First you will add wood glue to the front of the drawer.

Then you will align the spacer and add the drawer face to the drawer.

Then you will let the glue dry to lightly secure it to the drawer and remove the drawer.

Lastly, you can secure the wood either using nails or screws.

Important tips

The hardest part in this step is getting the drawers perfectly aligned. The key is to take your time and use the spacer.

The actual drawers themselves may not be aligned, but if the drawer faces are aligned, then it will look aligned to the user.


In this article we learned about the different types of drawers and drawer slides. We then learned how to design your own drawer and create one.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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