A mark of quality

I’ve opined here before that dovetails are not necessarily the be-all and end-all of fine joinery, nor does woodworking including it automatically become quality workmanship.

In my previous home, all the drawers in my kitchen cabinetry were of dovetail construction. The oak cabinets looked nice, but it ended there: The cabinet doors had oak-plywood panels. The narrow panels at the back of the toe kick were fiberboard. The oak drawer fronts were solid and sported very nice hardware. But those dovetailed drawers? The drawer boxes were particleboard covered with a wood-grain vinyl, and the bottoms were thin hardboard.

We lived in that home for about 18 years, and while the cabinets still looked pretty good when we moved, those drawers didn’t wear well. No matter how carefully and slowly you close a drawer, the solid front and total drawer mass (which includes the contents) slams against the face frame with some amount of force, coming to a sudden stop. After a few years and hundreds upon hundreds of closings – not all of them slow and careful – those particleboard dovetails began to crumble. By the time we moved, almost every drawer was due for replacement, and had we stayed it would have been at the top of my to-do list.

Our new home has awesome cabinetry. Solid hickory throughout, solid raised panels in the doors and all exposed cabinet ends. Solid hickory crown molding. No hardboard anywhere. I’ve priced the cabinet knobs, and they’re all in the $5-$6 range. The drawers have solid hickory fronts, while the boxes are solid maple with all the top edges nicely rounded, and they’re mounted on 3/4-extension soft-closing slides. The drawer bottoms are excellent-quality plywood. Even empty, the drawers are quite heavy.

Dovetailed drawer boxes? Nope. Those boxes are glued and stapled, and I couldn’t be happier. I have no idea what the cabinet contractor who did my kitchen was thinking, or what their building procedure was, but it’s clear that those drawers will last a lifetime. Do those staples cheapen my kitchen? Not at all.

Would dovetails have increased the quality in my mind? Same answer.

Till next time,

A.J.

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