I’m still working on getting my first cabinets fully assembled, but I wanted to make a few suggestions while I’m still thinking about them:
Bottom panel w/Blind Dados: When assembling the cabinets with screws instead of glue, this works perfectly fine for interior cabinets. However, if the side of a cabinet is exposed, I found that the full-width mortise & tenon means you can’t use pocket screws (they won’t actually bite into the side). I was able to get a screw on each side of the bottom, but not the middle. A fairly simple fix here might be to have multiple, smaller tenons, which could be a per-cabinet option. Then pocket screws could be used in-between the tenons. (For any inner cabinets, the full-length tenon is better.)
Drawer Bottoms & Backs: I’m not sure if there’s a reason why the drawer design has the back panel come down longer while the drawer bottom stops, but I think it should be flipped. I’m pretty sure in most traditional drawer designs, the bottom would extend to the back, underneath the back panel. The benefit of this technique is 2-fold: the bottom can be slid in or out later if it’s not glued in (making it easy to repair or replace the drawer bottom if it gets damaged), and it also ensures that you don’t end up with visible gaps at the front or back of the drawer, since the bottom can be butted up to the front and any error is hidden under the back panel. Right now, all 6 of the drawers I’ve assembled have visible gaps at the back, and there’s no room to push them together.
(Obviously this could be mitigated with a full dado on the front, but that requires flip-milling, which wouldn’t be necessary.)
Drawer Sides & Bottoms: Is there a reason the dados for the drawer bottoms go all the way through? This design leaves a small piece of plywood that broke off on many of my drawer sides. Nobody will ever see it, but it seems like the drawer would be stronger if the bottom dado stopped inside the front-panel dado. If the above change is implemented, I’d do something similar, having the bottom dado go through on the back, but the back dado stop within the bottom dado.
I’d also be interested in looking at a blind dado for the front and back, similar to how the cabinet bottoms is handled. This would prevent any through-dados, leaving the plywood veneer intact and improving the strength of the machined piece. It would also prevent the dado from showing on the top of the drawer.
On more thing I just remembered: It might be useful to have an option for handling edge banding.
I’m only using thin iron-on edge banding, so this doesn’t really affect me right now, but if I wanted to use something more robust, like solid 1/8" or 1/4" wood on the front edge to hide the plywood (and allow for roundovers or other details), the calculations for drawer and/or door hinge holes would now be off—possibly by enough to make them not work.
Having an edge-band option would mean the software could subtract that off the front edge of the design of the cabinet boxes, correcting for any issues there.
And for doors & drawers, if an edge band is being calculated (which might be a different thickness than the one on the box), this would help preserve the intended reveals.
Finally, it would be nice to have this included for shelves as well, which would possibly be a 3rd size. For example, I might want to add a full-width 1/2" lip to the shelf out of hardwood, which adds strength and looks nicer.
I just finished assembling and putting finish on the drawer boxes, and I’ve decided I’m really not a big fan of the current design.
The half-blind dados lead to splitting in the plywood. Obviously nicer plywood would help, but even with high-quality plywood, the design puts a lot of stress on the veneers, both at the edges and also along the drawer side. Most of the six drawers I assembled are showing visible splitting between the veneers (and again, I acknowledge that a lot of this is due to cheaper plywood). I believe this has to do with the way the dados interact with the sides.
In some drawers I designed myself previously, I used a simple 1/2" rabbet (with no shaping on the front or back panel) and it didn’t put the stress on the veneers, also with cheap plywood.
Besides the note above about the bottom & back design leaving gaps, the bigger issue I’ve now noticed is there’s no support for the bottom across the drawer. This will almost certainly lead to sagging drawer bottoms. I’m already feeling more flex in this design than I like, and this is with 1/2" bottoms!
If the drawer design is switched to a rabbet, the front can be milled to include a dado to support the drawer bottom horizontally. This, combined with the bottom mounting under the back panel, would eliminate any potential gaps, and increase the strength of the drawer bottom.
I don’t think the simpler design would meaningfully reduce the strength of the drawer box, either (and it’ll look a little nicer at the top than the current half-blind dado, since it shouldn’t leave a visible gap). It would also be strong enough to switch to a 1/4" bottom, if that option ever became available.
The current design requires assembling all 5 pieces at once, around the bottom, which can be time-consuming when putting together a lot of boxes. With the bottom a separate piece, it would be possible to glue up the sides, pin the frame, and then slide the bottom in for squaring if desired. There’s a lot less pieces to glue up at once.
These issues, combined with the lack of option for 1/2" side-mount slides, mean I’m probably not going to use the generated drawer boxes for the rest of my cabinet build, which is a big part of the value of the CNC-built cabinets. Luckily for my case, most of the remaining drawers are the same dimensions, so I only have to hand-design a couple of them to finish out the build.
If you want more clarity, I’m happy to write/talk/etc to provide more direct feedback. I can also take some photos and provide drawings of what I mean by the above comments.
This is incredbile feedback, thank you! I’ll do my best to respond to each of your points below. I’d be more than happy to set up a call for us to chat more!
Bottom panel w/Blind Dados
This is a great point! We’ve had pocket hole construction on the roadmap for a while now, including more recent discussions among the team about how we would integrate them into Easel Cabinetmaker to be cut with a CNC router bit. Our goal would be to offer a pocket-hole only solution, and another option for both pocket screws and blind dados.
- You said you were “able to get a screw on each side of the bottom, but not the middle.” Could you share some pictures of this?
- Do you use any specific pocket hole systems in your work?
Drawer Bottoms & Backs
I’m sorry your drawers have these gaps! We chose to have the drawer backs “come down longer while the drawer bottom stops” to accomodate the holes that go into the back of the drawer for the back hooks on Blum drawer slides. If the drawer bottom went all the way to the back of the box, those holes for the hooks would fall at the intersection of the bottom and back drawer panels. We’re doing some additional testing of the fit and assembly of drawer cabinets, and I will make a point to review this concern during the testing and consider improvements to the current construction.
- Did you measure and update the thickness of the material used for your drawers before generating the workpieces?
- Easel Cabinetmaker generates the geometries based on whatever material thickness is entered in the
Material details. We’re working on improvements that mitigate some of these challenges with nominal and actual material thicknesses, but for now it is best practice to make sure your material thicknesses are accurate in Easel Cabinetmaker before generating workpieces or cut lists.
- Can you share images of the gaps at the back of your drawers?
Drawer Sides & Bottoms
Great suggestions! I’ll play around with this during our upcoming drawer base testing to see if we can make a change here to improve the strength and appearance of the construction like you’ve outlined.
More stellar feedback! In addition to pocket screws, we’ve also had some recent conversations about edgebanding among the team. The work we are doing with the cabinet compiler project should set us up for success down the road to make it easier as we build out tolerances for edge-banding. We’ll need to finish up the cabinet compiler work that we are currently doing before I’d know when we can start working on support for edge banding, but stay tuned!
Your Results and Findings
Thank you for such detailed feedback about your experience making these drawers. It is incredibly valuable for us to get this direct input so we can continue to improve our software. I’m going to test out your recommendations for drawers and look into how we can make some positive changes to our current implementation. I’ll let you know how this goes!
As for the 1/2" slides, we have a card in our queue to allow users to cusomize drawer dimensions - no longer restricting those dimensions based on the Blum TANDEM 563 specifications. Please stay tuned as we move this card into developments, and as we work on adding additional drawer slide hardware directly into Easel Cabinetmaker!
- How many plies did you have in the plywood you used for the drawers? Did you use graded plywood? Do you know how thick the veneers are?
- I just want to make sure we are thinking of all the different variables at play on our end when considering box construction methods.
- What drawer slides do you typically use?
Thank you again for sharing your time, efforts, and expertise to bring us this feedback! Please let me know if you’d ever like to set up some time to chat with our team!
Glad you can find it useful! I’ll try to answer everything below, though with all the photos, I’ll probably make several posts.
Bottom panel w/Blind Dados
You said you were “able to get a screw on each side of the bottom, but not the middle.” Could you share some pictures of this?
Sure. I’m not sure it matters, but I’m building my cabinets without built-in toe kicks (I’ll make them separately and level them first, before adding the cabinet boxes).
As you can see in the photos, I could get a pocket hole on either side of the bottom panel, and I could get two into each cross-brace. This allows the tenon to support most of the weight, with the pocket hole screw just pulling the sides together. But there’s no way to get a pocket screw in the middle of the bottom. So I had to glue and clamp up the rest of the bottom.
Note that I only used the pocket hole screws for the cabinet sides that are visible. For all the other sides, I just screwed in directly through the side, which works great.
(These are all the same cabinet box.)
Do you use any specific pocket hole systems in your work?
I have a Kreg R3, which just broke (but they are sending me a replacement part). I’ve also ordered a 3rd-party knock-off of the larger style with a clamp to make it easier. TBH, I generally hate pocket holes. I find them fiddly and sometimes frustrating, so I prefer traditional joinery when I can. But obviously, for making 20+ cabinets, it’s just not practical to have to glue & clamp up each one.
Drawer Bottoms & Backs
Did you measure and update the thickness of the material used for your drawers before generating the workpieces?
I didn’t when I cut this first batch of cabinets, but the difference between measured and actual thickness is something like
.01". (actual is around
.49")More to the point, the place I’m having issues probably should not be affected by material thickness.
Can you share images of the gaps at the back of your drawers?
It was hard to capture in a photo, but here’s a couple examples.
Inside and outside of a drawer for a 24" cabinet.
Back and front of another drawer for an 18" cabinet. This one is particularly bad. Notice even the front isn’t a perfect fit—the back is large enough to have thin things slip through.
In these you can also see how bad the half-blind dado looks. I don’t think it’s an issue of the measurement (since it was off by less than
.01"). It just leaves an ugly void at the top of the drawers.
Your Results and Findings
How many plies did you have in the plywood you used for the drawers? Did you use graded plywood? Do you know how thick the veneers are?
You can see the veneers in the photos above. Obviously this isn’t cabinet-grade plywood, since these are shop cabinets and I’m on a budget. Looks like 5 veneers of dubious quality .
But here’s some photos of the veneers splitting, as well as how the final fit came together for the drawer corners, and you can see how the corners pop off and break:
What drawer slides do you typically use?
I’m using generic cheap 1/2" side mount slides. You can see in the photos below how I had to pad out the cabinet to make the slides work (but you already know this ).
One thing about these is they allow for a much longer drawer (I’ve got 22" slides and still have room to spare.) So another thing I forgot to mention is it would be nice to be able to specify longer drawers.
Please let me know if you’d ever like to set up some time to chat with our team!
I’d be happy to. I saw the usability testing link, but wasn’t sure I had the time right now to sit through it. I’m a software developer myself (woodworking is still a hobby I’m working on), so I’d love to discuss the product with you guys.
I have been playing around a bit and noticed that no matter what the drawer bottom is the same thickness as the sides in the menu for “Drawer box material” It would really be nice to specify a different material for the bottom of the drawers. If I make my drawers from 1/2" or 5/8" I usually use 1/4" bottoms and on lighter things maybe 3/16" Even on the heaviest of duty, typically a 3/8" drawer bottom is plenty even if the sides are 5/8"