How to Fit a Drawer in a Workbench
Step by Step Guide to Fitting a Drawer in a Workbench
This is a simple project to fit a drawer underneath a workbench using an existing (spare) drawer and scrap wood which you may have in your shed or garage. If you don’t have a spare suitable drawer you could make one from scratch or from a drawer kit. Also, if you don’t have the scrap wood you can either purchase it as new or reclaimed wood.
This project doesn’t go as far as telling you how to make the drawer in that I was given one from a friend who had a spare drawer after he dismantled an old redundant chest of drawers so that he could fit the drawers under his workbench. Likewise, if you have any old cabinet or other furniture with drawers which you plan to get rid of and it’s destined for the dump then providing the drawers are a suitable size salvaging them for this and other projects could save you the time and expense of making them.
This project just explains how I fitted a wooded drawer to my workbench using the side runners for the drawer slider and as the drawer support. Although you may not have a similar workbench where you want to fit a drawer on runners the principles and steps, with the tips and advice given could be adapted for fitting similar drawers to any suitable work surface, bench or furniture.
The key to success is measure twice and cut once using the right tools; and taking your time at each step e.g. not rushing the project.
Time required: 2 hours
- Floorboard or similar wood to fit
- Beading or similar wood to fit
- Drawer, spare or made to measure from self-assembly kit or scratch.
- Sonicrafter or drill and jig saw
- Sander and sandpaper
- Tape measure
- Screws and wood glue
1. Measuring and marking.
Measure the depth of the drawer to make sure it will fit e.g. that it will not be too long. Decide where you want the drawer to go and position the drawer face there then mark around the edge of the drawer face onto the front of the workbench with a pencil to give your cut-out mark for a nice snug fit for the drawer.
Many years ago my plumber demonstrated to me the ease and effectiveness of the Sonicrafter when he quickly and neatly removed a section of skirting board to lift some floorboards, and after fixing the skirting board back the join hardly visible.
2. Cutting the opening in the front of the workbench where the drawer will fit.
You could take the more traditional approach and drill a hole in each corner large enough to fit a jig saw blade and use an electric jig saw to cut straight lines between the corner holes. However, as any DIY enthusiast will know, the jig saw blade has a tendency to bend when cutting through thick wood which if it bent inward (narrowing the gap as you went back) would require additional work to get the cut straight and square.
Therefore I used a Sonicrafter (as shown in the photo) which cuts true and straight through the full depth of the wood; albeit the Sonicrafter is designed for cutting small pieces of wood in awkward positions. So you cannot force it through the wood in one go but just allow it to cut through quarter of an inch or so at a time along the length of the cut until you cut through the full depth of the wood.
Demonstration on Using a Sonicrafter
This short video clip (which I made for a previous DIY project) demonstrates a Sonicrafter in action and demonstrates how it is ideal for a DIY project like this
The accessories I find most useful with the Sonicrafter are the cutting blades; of which this kit has a good selection.
3. As shown in the image, the Sonicrafter makes a neat cut so all that is required afterwards is just to smooth and round the edges a little with a sander or some sandpaper.
4. Make the side runner support for the drawer. Where I made the cut in the front opening one side was next to the legs so I could fit a simple runner support to the legs on that side. However, on the other side the only bench support is the front and back panels. Therefore for that side I measured and cut a length of wood to go the full depth of the bench between the front and rear panels to which I fitted battens at each end on one side of the wood so that it would easily be screwed to these front and back panels. On the other side of the wood I carefully measured and fitted the runner support.
5. Assemble the runner support. Measuring is critical; the width of the battens should be just a fraction smaller than the recess in the side of the drawer so that it is a good fit (but not too tight) so that the drawer will pull in and out along the runners smoothly.
For assembling the drawer runner unit shown in the image drill pilot hole for the screws and then screw and glue the pieces together. For screwing the runner itself to the side support wood drill a recess for the screw heads before drilling the pilot holes so that when assembled these screw heads will be below the surface of the wood and not snag on the side of the drawer when fitted.
As it happened the depth of the recess in the drawer I used was just a fraction over inch and the scrap wood I used was a piece of spare inch pine floorboard I had in the shed. Therefore I cut a strip of the edge of the floorboard to make the runners and battens.
6. Fit the runners to the underside of the workbench. It is critical to carefully measure the distance from the top of the opening for the drawer and ensure (when fitted) the top of the runner is just a couple of millimetres lower than this opening. Likewise the inside measurement between the two side runners should be just a couple of millimetres wider than the width of the draw less twice the depth of the recess in the drawer side e.g. one recess on each side of the drawer in which the runners slide.
7. It cannot be stressed enough how critical it is to get the depth and width of the runners just right so that the drawer will fit properly and run smoothly. Therefore, check the fit for the drawer once the side runners are fitted so that you can make any minor adjustments if appropriate.
8. The front of the drawer I used does not have the recess in it for the side runners so the front of the drawer acts as a stop to prevent the drawer from being pushed back to far. So the critical measurement here is fitting the side runners so they come to the outside front of the workbench less the thickness of the front panel of the drawer itself.