What Are Drawer Slides
Drawer slides, sometimes called drawer runners, are device that attach to your drawer to help ensure that the opening and closing motion is fluid. I’m sure we have all experienced opening a stuck drawer, where the friction of the wood prevents the drawer from opening easily. Wood doesn’t like to slide across wood. The simplest designs of drawer slides will utilize small wheels or bearings attached to the inside of the drawers. They would run on a metal guide track, avoiding the friction of wood dragging on wood.
In order to prevent the drawer from being pulled all the way out and falling to the floor, a block is added to the guide track at the end. This block obstructs the path of the wheels, ensuring the wheels stay in the track and preventing the drawer from pulling all the way out. Most designs incorporate an opening set at a 30 degree angle, allowing you to tilt the drawer in order to remove it completely. There are several kinds of drawer slides to choose from, here are just a few.
Wooden Drawer Slides
Obviously there were drawers in the Middle Ages and beyond, drawers that could have only been made with wood. There would have been a time that the metal tracks simply couldn’t have been made. Traditionally, drawers were designed to slide along wooden runners. These were simply strips of wood that supported the weight of the drawer and allowed it to be slid in and out. In most cases those runners would be fitted with guides, ensuring that the drawer didn’t twist and turn as it was being opened and shut.
Now, I have already mentioned how wood drawers sliding on wood runners causes a bit of friction and grinding, potentially making the drawer difficult to open. So I am sure that you are wondering why we would even bring up choosing wood drawer slides when there are other options available. Choosing wooden variants do have their own merits worth considering.
If you can get a properly built and properly fitted wooden drawer slide you will see that they work very well. Minimal friction and easy opening are exactly what you expect and that is what you will get when it is done right. It takes a lot of skill and patience to be able to properly make a drawer fit the runners snugly with out it being too tight. Often times you will see drawers be wobbly and loose or fight so snugly that they are difficult to open.
One benefit of wooden slides of the more modern variations are that there are no further financial concerns once these have been finished. Mechanical slides, on the other hand, are eventually going to cost, even if only a little.
An additional aesthetic benefit of choosing this option is that the front face of your drawer can be the finished face, since there will no longer be a need for a dummy face. In addition to this, you can appreciate the craftsmanship of the drawer without metal fittings intruding.
That being said, there are some negative aspects to the wooden slides as well. For example, they do not permit full extension. Basically, this means that once you pull a drawer out a certain distance it will begin to fall and you will have to hold it up with one of your hands. The farther you pull these drawers out the more unstable they become.
Another concern is the fact that the weather can greatly affect their performance. A snug fitting drawer can get stuck if the weather is humid. This is especially concerning in areas where it is humid year round.
Mechanical Drawer Slides
If the negatives outweigh the positives then you should consider using a mechanical slide. The amount of options of these is varied, and they have many advantages over traditional wooden runners. Some of these advantages are that they run much smoother, they provide for full extension without danger of the drawer falling, and they are much quieter. Not only that, they should function the same, regardless of humidity.
These are typically mounted on the side and are referred to as “side mounted ball bearing slides.” These are typically dependable, last for a long time, and they are affordable. This version of the drawer slide has many optional features. For example, they can be capable of supporting a much heavier load capacity when fully extended. There are even specialty varieties to choose from, such as what you would see used with lateral files and in file drawers.
One of the primary advantages of these mechanical slides is that they are very easy to install. This means that they can be put nearly anywhere you could want them. Just make sure that you measure everything properly and you can install a drawer just about anywhere you can imagine.
In addition to that, your drawers can be set much deeper or shallower. You can fit them to the dimensions of your imagination. It doesn’t matter the shape or fit of the bottom and top of the drawer as long as the rail attachments are properly secured and lined up. Some examples of how these are utilized include having the drawer be flush on the bottom, having it slide into groves on the front and sides, or having it fitted into slips.
Another design feature is the use of a lever to allow the drawer to be removed. This makes for a much more user-friendly approach. You no longer have to worry about everything falling out of the drawer while you are tilting it during the removal process.
In addition to this, these drawers are often designed to be adjustable. They can be moved forward, backward, up and down as you desire in order to achieve the perfect fit. Some even come with cams that can be adjusted by a screwdriver to fine-tune those adjustments.
Many people gravitate to these because they are so flexible and are affordable on almost any budget. If you are looking for something that is affordable, allows for flexible construction, and permits full extension, then you should definitely consider using side mounted ball bearing slides.
Now, all of those pros seem pretty good, but there are a few cons that need to be considered. For one, if you don’t align them properly when replacing them after removal, you can easily damage them. In most cases that means they will need to be replaced.
Another thing that you will notice is that these have a distinctive sound, and they are not at all silent. There is a metal on metal sound that can be distracting at times. These slides also take up space in the width of the drawer, limiting the available space inside the drawer. Most of these require at least a half-inch on each side. That is a whole inch of width lost.
Also it is important to note that you will almost always have to use a false or applied face to the front of your drawer in order to hide the distracting hardware. You can make the face inset so that it runs flush with the cabinetry, but that can require a bit of extra work and fitting. This is one of the biggest flaws in the design, as they will almost always be visible when opened. They do come in a vast array of finishes to suit all tastes, but no matter the finish used, it detracts from the aesthetic overall.
Self Closing Drawer Slides
Self closing undermounted drawer slides are another great option. These are wonderful for a few reasons. For one thing, they are typically completely silent. In addition to that, they typically have the hardware hidden, whether the draw is opened or closed. This is one of the most popular drawer slide designs around today.
These offer silent operation, a smooth opening and shutting motion, invisibility, and full extension. These are also adjustable via the same method mentioned above. What’s better is that the drawers can actually close themselves, with some unique design characteristics and some help from gravity, of course.
Now, your options for the drawer dimensions are going to be limited. That is because this model requires exact and precise measurements. They have to be a specific width and depth for these slides to function properly. This also means that there is a bit more work on the installation. These undermounted slides also require more of a clearance in the drawers height, which also minimizes the total storage space in the drawer.
If you are looking to revamp your kitchen, are you simply need to replace a drawer, I believe that drawer slides are the way to go. You have so many options to choose from. These few that I have shared today are just the tip of the iceberg. If you can think it up, there is probably something out there that you can use. Whether it’s the traditional wooden drawer slides or the more modern undermounted self closing drawer slide, you are sure to find some kind of drawer slide that will fit your needs.