View Full Version : Woodworking question

01-20-2013, 11:00 AM
Ugh. Facing a problem and not quite sure what the best way to deal with it is.

I just finished making a set of cabinets. The cabinets look great, and the only thing left is the drawers. My original plan had been to borrow my friend's router and use it to route a grove in each drawer piece for the bottom to slide into. Normal stuff.

The problem is, I'm having a heck of a time getting it to work well. I know this works with table routers, but this is just a basic plunge. I built a jig, and the jig seems to be working to keep it straight, but I have a couple of pieces where the plywood I used to cut the sides is cut against the grain, as there wasn't really a good way to cut it otherwise short of going and buying a whole new sheet for two pieces.

I'm only working on practice pieces so far, but the router causes splintering on the bottom edge and it's completely unmanageable. I originally had a 1/4" bit, but that was actually too snug for the plywood bottom (which was odd because I've always heard the plywood is actually slightly less and is usually loose when you use that bit size), so I decided to get a 3/8" bit to give myself some wiggle room, planning to glue the bottoms in place once they slide in.

I didn't have a problem at all with this when I was using the first bit. I was able to make pretty decent lines against and with the grain, but for some reason the bigger bit just doesn't want to work as well.

I think part of the problem might be that it's just a cheap tool, but I don't have the money to buy a nicer router. I'm half tempted at this point to just buy some new plywood for the bottoms and recut them and nail the darn things on, but that would be a final resort. This is driving me crazy. This is the last thing to do and it just doesn't want to work right. Any advice would be appreciated.

Old Hack
01-20-2013, 12:20 PM
Kaitie, could you score the edges of the areas you're planning on routing out with a Stanley knife before you use the router? Or could you perhaps screw battens around the base of the drawers, on the inside, and just drop the bases in?

We have a joiner-friend so I'll ask him what he thinks next time I see him, if I remember.

01-20-2013, 07:23 PM
If you're using plywood, that's most of your problem right there.

01-20-2013, 08:17 PM
If you're using plywood, that's most of your problem right there.


Make the sides, front, and back of the drawers out of 5/8 to 3/4 inch pine, oak, etc. Solid wood gives better results when using a router. The bottom of the drawer can stay 1/4 plywood.

01-20-2013, 08:25 PM
Well, I'd seen plywood recommended, it's economical, and the whole thing has to be painted anyway because we're trying to match our current cabinets (which are all handmade and painted). Considering it didn't have to be super pretty, especially for the drawer boxes, I thought it would be okay. Especially considering the number of people suggesting making drawer boxes by ripping the pieces from plywood. Trust me, if I could afford it I would be doing all of it from solid wood rather than just pieces.

I'd been a little wary of making drawers because to me that's always been intimidating (getting the measurements), but I was reassured by a few people that it's not hard at all, and considering the rest of the cabinets went together so well and how great they look, at this point I was feeling confident and sure I could do this. And honestly, as much as we've gotten done I have to figure out some way to because I certainly can't go buy drawers now for the custom-sized cabinets I designed.

I'll try the trick with scoring it and see how that works. I know to prevent chipping on counter tops they recommended masking tape along the cut edge, but I'm not sure how well that would work on something like this.

01-20-2013, 08:39 PM

Make the sides, front, and back of the drawers out of 5/8 to 3/4 inch pine, oak, etc. Solid wood gives better results when using a router. The bottom of the drawer can stay 1/4 plywood.

See, that's what I'd thought, too, but when I started looking into how to do this online, most people recommended ripping plywood to the right size, and it was less expensive to do that way (well, I could get crappy pine for cheap, but that seemed a bad idea. the nice pine was more expensive). We're on a major budget and since I saw it recommended in so many places I thought it would be a good solution. Had I realized that it would be such a pain, I'd have done this differently.

01-21-2013, 01:35 AM
First, I agree with the scoring, to reduce splintering. Also, the 1/4" bit was working fine, it's just the 3/8" that was having problems? Would it be possible to make two overlapping passes with the 1/4"
bit to give you the extra width without the splintering?

01-21-2013, 02:46 AM
I could try, but we were hoping to avoid that just because it seemed hard to set it up perfectly to do two passes. I could probably do it, though. I'd have to go back to the store and get it again, though, because when that one didn't work we returned it and got the bigger one, thinking it was the right size.

I wish we'd done this on the table saw while we had it. It might have taken a couple of passes, but it would have been much easier.

01-21-2013, 02:55 AM
You could always do it the old way with a back saw and a chisel, but I'm afraid you'd likely have the same problem with the splintering plywood.

01-21-2013, 05:24 AM
Mind if I put in my 2 cents Kaitie?
First off, masking tape down your cut line works reasonably well. Not a hundred percent, but maybe good enough.

Now if your 1/4 bit is cutting just a smidgen too small, you can take some other material ( if nothing else, a piece of cardboard rectangle will work.) smaller than the 1/4 cut, wrap sand paper around it and file out the grove enough to fit the bottom piece.

01-21-2013, 05:28 AM
Well, I just picked up a different sort of bit (downcut spiral) that should work better, and I got the smaller bit so that I can do it in two passes if it still needs to be wider. I ended up picking up a better router, too, which was more expensive than I'd wanted, but the one I borrowed just isn't designed well. After reading some reviews and seeing other people had problems with it, it just made more sense to get one that was better made. With luck it'll work better this time. I'll still do the mask and score for the cross cut pieces, though, just to see if that helps.

Thanks for the tips, guys. I'll let you know how it goes.

ETA: It was definitely a problem with the tool. The new one works like a dream. I didn't even have to do anything special--it just made beautiful, perfect cuts. It also has an edge guide, which makes it so much easier than doing it my jig like I had to on the last one. Now I'm just doing some fine tuning and dry fitting, but it looks like this is going to work much better and ought to look great. :D Just goes to show it's worth it to get quality tools.

01-21-2013, 04:47 PM
Glad it worked out. I suspected it was the tool.

01-21-2013, 07:30 PM
I was a little surprised because the person I borrowed it from was always meticulous about getting really good products. I was sure I was doing something wrong until I read the reviews, though. I'm really happy about this now. It's going to look awesome. :D I'll try to post a picture of it all once I'm finished.