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Small Drawer Lock Joint


I'm in the middle of building a nightstand. As part of that I needed to make several drawers. There are many ways to make a drawer. I'm not about to say one way is better than another. For this project, I chose to make my drawers using a small drawer lock bit. As part of that, I decided to document the process and present it here.

I'm using a small drawer lock bit from Lee Valley Tools. I've looked around online and there are several similar kinds of drawer lock bits available from different vendors.

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Small Drawer Lock bit at Lee Valley (NOT an affiliate link)
Similar Rockler bit from Amazon

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The cool thing about this method is that all of the drawer joint cutting operations are accomplished with ONE router table setup.

(There are instructions on the Lee Valley website. There are two methods, one for drawers made of 1/2" wood, which I am using, and one for drawers made of 1/4" stock.)

First, the router bit is set to the depth of one quarter inch, which is half the thickness of your stock.

Next, you set the fence so that the middle of the angled part of the bit falls at the middle of your stock. This is of course a tricky setting, so you will definitely need to have some scrap wood available for making test cuts.

In this photo I am making a test cut on a piece representing the side of a drawer. These pieces are oriented against the router fence.

Here I am making a test cut on a piece representing the front or back of a drawer. These are oriented face down on the router table.

The two cut pieces then fit together likke this, locking together. This is my fourth test piece. So I had to adjust the fence four times to get a nice flush fitting joint. Considering how rudimentary my fence is, I think that is pretty good.

With the router table properly set up, I proceeded with batch cutting all of the drawer pieces. In order to keep things from getting messed up, I first lay out and cut all the drawer fronts and backs...

... then I layout and cut all the drawer sides.

You need to be careful with the sides, to hold them perfectly perpendicular (with the end flat on the table) as you cut them. I had a few mistakes where the piece tilted a bit as I pushed through the cut, and I had to re-do those pieces.

I then moved on and cut rabbets along the bottom of the drawers, to h hold the bottoms. I cut the back of the drawer shorter, so that the bottom can slide in and out. I also cut out the bottoms.

None of that was filmed, as the focus of this article was just on the joinery.

With the drawer pieces ready, it is now just a matter of adding glue to the ends and then alinging and clamping the pieces. I slid in the plywood bottoms immediately, as they help with ensuring that the drawer box is square.

Here is a shot showing a nice tight drawer corner joint. The two drawer pieces lock together securely, and the joint is closed and flush.

In the interests of full honesty, here is one of my ... less successful joints. Fortunately this joint was at the back of a drawer where it will almost never been seen. Otherwise I would try to fill this with sawdust and glue to close the gap, or redo the joint entirely. Note that thet joint is still strong, it just is a bit ugly. I suspect this might have been caused by those problems I had with the side pieces wiggling a bit while being cut on the router table.

And that's all for now!


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See Also:

Double Decker Nightstand

Aging Cherry With Lye

Shaker-style Stepstool