Creating Drawers

I’m planning on expanding my work area and adding in some more storage. I was thinking about using my new CNC to create the drawers so they could be accurate and it would hopefully be less tedious(Probably making 20 of these to start).

My plan is to rip a sheet of plywood down into a specific size (to be determined) and create the 4 drawer faces/bottom in one file/cut. If I had to, I could then mount the sides at the front of the machine to cut the joinery.

Does this all sound reasonable? or is this something where it’s going to end up being more work to do on my CNC? What joinery should I use? It’s just shop storage so I’m not very particular about the aesthetics. As long as it’s sturdy and easy to make, it should do the trick.

I thought it would be really nice to have this file so any time I wanted to expand my storage I could load it up and create some new drawers.

Please see:

If you’ll let me know what thickness plywood you’d like to use, and the dimensions you want the drawers to be (provide outside dimensions) I’ll gladly work up a file for you to try cutting.

Alternately, if you want a more traditional construction see:

I’ve also got an idea which would allow a plain front — let me know what you want and the stock thickness and dimensions and we’ll work something up.

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If you want 45 deg cut glued corners, you can easily do that with 1/2in plywood . Check out the video on cubes produced by John Clark @45rpm to see the simple but efficient technique.

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Rich, did you create your toolpaths like a rake?

Yes/No, created a solid model from my drawing and then did the CAM from that, and I used the drawing as a guide. They used 8º but I could only find a 1/2 x 8.2º so I modified it to fit my cutter, and drawer size.

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I’m still in the planning stages of this, just trying to get everything ready for the weekend.

I’m thinking I’ll probably use 1/2 plywood and they’ll be ~ 29" x 29".

I’ve also considered creating a 1/4" groove at the bottom of each side and then sliding in a piece of 1/4 plywood for the base. Do you think that would work and be easier?

I read through most of what you posted. Seems like a big help, thank you. I’ll definitely be referring back to those in the future.

Those look fantastic. I think probably too fantastic for my use case though :joy:. I’m guessing it would be quite a bit of work to make 20+ of those?

I’ve seen that approach before but wasn’t sure how it would hold up scaled to a bigger size. These are going to hold tools, some of which could be heavy. Do you think that approach would work? I could add some biscuits to it.

Dovetail joints are the strongest of all joints, so yeah…no biscuits are required.,

Once the machine is programmed, and stops are set each joint only takes about 2 minutes to cut, so it’s pretty quick.

Using the technique, you basically fold the plywood with an onion skin in place. You would not be able to add biscuits besides they serve mostly for alignment not for strength. Glue like Titebond 3 and some brad nails is very strong. I have butt-jointed plywood and added wood screws for all my drawers because it is quick and was not making them heirlooms but I’m sure they will be holding well after I have closed my shop.

Yes, a 1/4" bottom is easily done — the bottom of the MTG fingerjoint box is only a little thinner than that.

For dovetails, please see:


When a carpenter has only a hammer everything looks like a nail. Utility drawers can be made fancy with dovetails or finger joints. For plywood it is a waste of time. Even with Baltic Birch the results can be bad due to the lamination of the plywood. For me I make utility/shop drawers with pocket holes. Its quick and dirty providing you have the pocket hole jig. The pocket hole jigs are not very expensive and you cannot get a much stronger joint. For the bottoms on custom cabinets I make the captured plywood bottom but for utility/shop drawers I screw the bottom to the bottom of the drawer box. You need to pre drill and countersink. If you want to make them on the CNC it would be quite a task and in the end you still only have utility/shop drawers that you will throw stuff in. It is possible but I would recommend pocket holes and get them made. All the cuts are square, low tech and sturdy.

Here is a youtube video about making pocket hole drawers.

Depending on you style of drawer you could make false front drawers and carve them with the CNC for either designs or text.

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That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to investigate — what is a joint which is:

  • easily cut on the CNC
  • requires a minimum number of setups/tool changes
  • void free (or close to it)
  • aesthetically pleasing

The relieved fingerjoints are good for the first two, but don’t meet the latter two requirements.

Machine cut fingerjoint, Knapp joints and dovetails do well on the latter two, but can be a bit fussy for the first two.

Full miter joints do well on all those requirements, but fail as a joint when considering strength if done along end grain.

I’ve got a few more ideas, but waiting on some tooling and to get a few more prototypes cut.

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This is good advice. I own everything I would need to make them with pocket holes and that might ultimately be the way to go. My Shapeoko is new and shiny though and I wanted to at least explore making these with it. Pocket holes would definitely be my backup plan if it’s too hard or time consuming to make them with the CNC.

Hey Will, what do you think about this joinery? It looks like it would be very easy.

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Yes, that would be quite easy to draw up and mill, and one could easily adjust for differing widths of plywood — you’d just need an endmill smaller than the rabbet — also, unlike on a table saw, one could do a stopped rabbet pretty easily.

I’ll see what I can do to model those when I get a chance.

FWIW, I’ve done similar boxes in the past: (used to be project #1 on the old Shapeoko Projects site)

and c.f.,

I’ve been looking at this since I made my reply and I think that a Dado butt joint may be the easiest strong joint to create for drawers with a CNC. In each corner, one side has a rabbet while the other has a dado. Since this is a straight cut, it would take minutes to create the joints for all 4 corners and you could also cut a dado on all planks perpendicular to hold the bottom of the drawer. 3 - 3 1/2 in high drawer could be created as a single job on a Shapeoko.


Yeah, that’s pretty similar to the link I posted up above. I think i’ll give this a try this weekend. It definitely fits my criteria to make a bunch of them quickly. I could even have 2 different cut sets, one to cut a bunch of Rabbet pieces, then another to cut dado pieces, i think that could reduce the cut time a bit. on my XXL I think I could cut 8-10 side panels at a time. Thanks for your input.

Late seeing this post. Scanned the reply’s but saw no mention of V Carve as a solution for those who have the program. V Carve has what they call gadgets. One is box joints and another is dovetail! Maybe someone who has V Carve can set up a job for anyone wanting to try such a project that does not have such. I am super busy right now, wife has cancer and I’m the caretaker.