Make a Locking Drawer Joint

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Locking Joint

There are many joinery options for drawers. Choosing what’s right for a particular drawer project involves a number of factors: appearance, durability, the equipment you have available, and the number of drawers you need to make. Dovetails will always be popular, of course. (See p. 40.) But for the pair of drawers required for my Go gameboard (p. 50), I decided to use a different type of interlocking joint that I could cut quickly and precisely on my tablesaw.

Locking Joint

A locking drawer joint provides a strong corner connection that also looks attractive in many applications. There are specialized router bits you can use to cut this type of joint on a router table, but the technique I’ll demonstrate here only requires a stack dado and a zeroclearance throat plate. The dimensions and setup details given are suitable for drawers with 3⁄4"-thick fronts and 1⁄2"-thick sides, a combination that’s fairly common. Make sure your drawer sides and fronts are milled to uniform thicknesses before you begin. If you are using 1⁄2" plywood for drawer sides instead of solid wood, use only high-quality, void-free material to ensure strong joints. Rout bott om grooves fi rst, then get set to make 3 cuts.

Locking Joint

Start by planing drawer fronts and sides to uniform thicknesses. Prepare some scrap stock so you can test your tablesaw setups. You’ll also need to make a backer block for your 􀏐irst cuts in the drawer fronts, as shown on the facing page. Attach a tall auxiliary rip fence to your saw’s rip fence, and make sure it’s perpendicular to the table surface. Then set up your stack dado. Use only the two outer blades—with shims inserted if necessary—to create a dado width of 1⁄4".

Making the locking drawer joint requires three cuts. But I suggest grooving fronts and sides for drawer bottoms before making any corner joint cuts. This will make it easy to keep track of the inside and outside faces of your drawer parts.

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