Saturday, June 18, 2016

Drawer Slide Salvation

The other day we walked into our kitchen and discovered one of our drawers was askew. It turned out the plastic piece that held the slide rail broke.
The slides on our drawers were pretty much the worst thing in the world, so it was inevitable that this would happen. I've wanted to replace all the slides for some time, but have never gotten around to researching what is available these days and following through. Now I had to do something, and it involved being in this position for extended periods:
You won't find this position in an Ergonomics Handbook, for good reason.
Choosing the new slides was easy with the help of Rockler Woodworking's website on the topic. With the geometry of our drawers, the only choice was to go with a center-mount slide. I could have used a similar slide to what we had, but I desperately wanted something better, so I went with Rockler's ball bearing unit, which has a lifetime warranty. By the way, Rockler had a much better selection of drawer slides than Home Depot or Lowe's, so if you ever need drawer slides and you are near a Rockler, go there first. Surprisingly, I think the prices were lower at Rockler as well.

Now that I had replacement slides, I was ready to get to work. The first step was uninstalling the old hardware.

Next I installed the rear brackets for the new slides. This wasn't easy because they have to be positioned so the slide will be level and it is incredibly awkward to reach them, but I got them eventually.

Then the cabinet half of the slides were installed.

Before installing the drawer half of the slide, I had to do some repair to the drawers. Our old slides rest all the weight of the drawer on the sides, which run along wheels when they are opened and closed. After years of use, the particle board was starting to disintegrate.

I applied a generous helping of wood glue and things were much more solid afterward. I would probably have done a more extensive repair, but the new slides carry the weight in the center, so the sides won't have nearly as much wear on them anymore.

The slides didn't quite fit our drawers, so I had to customize them with an additional hole.

After that, I screwed on the slide and did a test fit. It didn't go well.
The geometry of the drawer wasn't right, so the edges hit the cabinet. I had to do something.

The solution was to cut shims to go under the slides.

With the shims in place, the drawers fit perfectly, but they were a little stiff and there was an odd clunk halfway through the travel. It turned out one of the screw heads was hitting another part of the slide, so I had to grind down a little tab to increase clearance. The stiffness was fixed with a quick application of grease to the bearings.
If all goes as planned, I should never have to mess with these drawers again.

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