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Thread: Cutting grooves for drawer bottoms

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Somerville, MA

    Cutting grooves for drawer bottoms

    I now have a big pile of nicely dovetailed 3/4" poplar waiting to be assembled into drawers, but as bottomless drawers (isn't that against the TOS?) are less than useful, I need to cut grooves for the drawer bottoms. I was about to set up my tablesaw for this when I realized that the end of the groove would show on the dovetail joints, due to the locations of the pins and tails. I could move the bottoms up to be on a tail rather than a pin, but that would lose some drawer depth. And I can't do a stopped cut on the table saw because the slot has to go from full-depth to nothing in 1/2" tops, which also rules out a slot-cutter bit unless I find a really tiny one (plus I'd probably have to build a router table, which I wasn't planning on doing yet).

    Anyone have any brilliant ideas? Maybe do a short stopped cut and clean up the ends with a 1/4" chisel?

    This is the result of poor planning: I chose the wood for the drawers based largely on what was available at the orange box and would fit in the drawer openings, not thinking about how it would work with the joints. It's 3 1/2" wide, and the jig cuts 1/2" dovetails, so there are exactly 4 pins and 3 tails.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City, Oregon
    Are these through dovetails, not half-lapped? If they're through dovetails, is there room to add an applied drawer front, which would cover up the drawer bottom grooves if you went ahead and cut them on the tablesaw?

    This is a really good application for a router table, whether routing a stopped groove or continuous. This is your excuse to build one--even a basic, non-fancy router table. You wouldn't need a slot cutter bit, either--just a straight bit. You could make a simple router table to do the job in less than an hour, probably!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Phoenix, AZ
    How about using a plunge router and a spiral bit? An edge-guide or some sort of jig setup would keep your cut properly placed.

  4. #4
    I agree with Brett. Since you have several panels to cut, it would be worth the time to make a jig and use a router.
    If sawdust were gold, I'd be rich!

    Byron Trantham
    Fredericksburg, VA
    WUD WKR1

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Oh, they're half-lapped dovetails (and I'm putting on false fronts anyway). I'm concerned about the slot showing on the sides. Sorry that wasn't clear.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Quote Originally Posted by Brett Baldwin
    How about using a plunge router and a spiral bit?
    Thank you! I knew I was missing an obvious solution.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    The Kudzu Patch
    I simply mark where the dado blade stops and starts on my throat plate and/or the fence. Mark the wood where I need to stop and just do stopped dados. Then over to the bench and a couple minutes with a mallet and chisel. I can do that about as quick as I can do anything else.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Laguna Beach , Ca.
    On drawers you need to stop the groove just short of the edge...a router table and stop work well
    "All great work starts with love .... then it is no longer work"

  9. #9
    One way to do this is to use a slot cutter of the proper width with a bearing that gives you the depth you want. Assemble the drawer - you can use a strap around it if your dovetails are loose but usually the dovetails are tight and are all you need to hold everything together.

    Set up the slot cutter on your router table to the proper height and put the bottomless drawer over the cutter. Run the drawer around so that you cut the slot into all four sides. Afterwards, you'll have to trim the corners with a chisel to get the last bit that the slot cutter didn't get.

    The advantage of this approach is that the slot is "perfect" meaning that it lines up all around. Sometimes when you do dovetails, one board winds up a bit high or low. If you reference to the bottom edge, your slot will not align when you assemble it.

    Additionally, you don't have to worry about whether your slot hits a pin or tail since the slot is a "stop slot" and doesn't show on the ends of any of the boards.

    Good luck.


  10. Sorry, I use my WoodRat when using power.

    In the past before the WR and when I have painted myself into this particular corner, I make sure the drawers when assembled have the bottoms flush and just use a hand-held router with a guide. I've also used the shaper with stops and or tick marks on the fence, but I like being able to see the cut and the hand-held is fast and painless [just really dusty] Just mark where to start and stop and cut.

    Take care, Mike

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