How to Build Your Own Drawer Slides

Friday, August 9, 2013 -

I'm sure this happens to you too. You somehow come across a great dresser (find it at the thrift store, curb, attic, etc.). Its solid wood and has great lines. Then you try to pull out one of the drawers. 

Maybe the problem isn't coming out, its trying to put them back in. Either way, you've got some messed up drawer slides. Never fear! I inherited a great, Broyhill dresser from my brother when they were moving a few weeks ago. Actually, it came out of my sweet niece Morgan's room.

My brother warned me it needed some work when he gave it to me. Not so bad on the outside, but the inside was a mess. Of course it got a pretty, painted make-over (which I'll share soon), but I first needed to address the function. All three slide rails were broken beyond repair.

There are dozens of styles of drawer slides available today, but fortunately most old furniture typically uses one of only a handful of styles.

This dresser came with a simple metal, c-shaped channel attached to the bottom of the drawer box.

And screwed to the dresser frame were plastic, t-shaped rails. Since these were the pieces that needed to be recreated, I carefully studied the size and shape, taking measurements on all sides. 

I 'll show you how I created 3 replacement rails. To fabricate the rails, start with a 2x6, approximately as long as your dresser is deep, and a table saw.

*Make sure to be very familiar with your table saw and always use eye and ear protection. 

Using the existing rail width as a guide, set your fence.

Make 3 passes with your board, creating 3 blanks.

Turn the rail 90 degrees and reset your fence.

Turn each blank 90 degrees and pass through the saw again. At this point, each blank should have the same external dimensions as the original rail. The next step is to shape them into a "T".

Take measurements of the stem. 

Set your blade height to the height of the stem.

Cut a channel on either side of the stem width. Move the fence in 1/8th inch and pass the blank through again. Continue to move the fence in and pass the blank through until you've reached the outside edge or removed most of the material. Break off any remaining wood and clean up the cuts with a chisel and some sand paper. 

Your blanks should now resemble the shape of the original rail. It's usually okay if its not perfect, but close.

The rails are counter-sunk on the dresser frame a bit, so you need to cut some of the stem to account for that. Place the rail where it will be mounted to the dresser frame and mark with a pencil where frame ends.

Set the height of your blade to 1/8 in. Place the rail perpendicular to the fence and adjust it so your blade lines up with your pencil mark, taking into account the blade width. Just like creating the rail stem, move the fence in at 1/8 in increments and pass the rail through till you reach the end.

It may look a little rough until you clean it up with a chisel or if you're careful, a utility knife. The little pieces clean up easily.

Put the rail in place on the frame. Use a square to make sure its sitting perfectly. Pre-drill a hole through the rail, into the frame. Drive a wood screw, securing the rail to the frame. Depending on the dresser configuration, you may need to screw the other end of the rail to the frame.

Attach the other 2 rails and you're done! Sanding the rails smooth and rubbing on a bit of soap or wax helps the drawer to slide smoothly. I also recommend sealing any small cracks in the wood with some wood glue.

I know I made the steps sound hard and detailed, but I promise I wasn't hard at all! If you are familiar with your table saw and have some scrap wood, you'll never buy replacement drawer slides again!

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Linking at:

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  1. I'm pinning this cause I know I'm going to need it latter!!

  2. Impressive Elisha! Such great info to know... thanks for sharing!

  3. Fantastic tutorial!! I am a DIYer myself and I honestly did not know how to do that! Thank you so much for sharing - I am bookmarking so I know where to find the info when I need it!!

    Cher @ Designs by Studio C

  4. This is a great post. I can really use it now.
    Thanks for sharing with us at our Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop.
    Angel @

    Also a new GFC follower

  5. Very impressive! Thanks for the tutorial. I'll definitely be pinning for later. Hoping to get a table saw this weekend! Stop by my Friday's Five Features tomorrow and link up this post (and others)!

  6. This is an awesome tutorial!! A lot of the furniture I buy from thrift stores are missing the drawer slides so I will definitely be using your tutorial :)

  7. Stopping by from the party at Restoration Redoux. I need to do just this project to several drawers in an old dresser of mine. Great tutorial, glad I found it! Amy @ StowandTellU

  8. Fantastic tutorial! I always wondered how to fix those broken drawer slides. I'm pinning this! Thank you for sharing it at What We Accomplished Wednesdays. Have a great weekend!

  9. Love this, its a "must pin" for later for me, i will need this at some point, thanks for sharing

  10. The dresser I have from my mom had this problem. She had my grandpa do the same thing, plus some extras in case I need them in the future!

  11. I came over for a look,but I don't have these kind of tools. I found it interesting though,but my 2 dressers that need new runners are very old and actually run on just a single piece of wood not grooved. Back to the drawing board I guess :)

  12. Stopping by to let you know you were featured at the TGIF Link Party this week! We hope you'll stop by to grab a button and link up with us again!

  13. This is a great post! I had the same thing happen to me, with a bedroom set my sister gave to me because the drawer glides were broken. I had to replace the drawer bottom panels also, but that was an easy fix. My dad made new ones, and 20 some years later the set is still going strong. I don't know why there is no online source for these parts, so many people need these it seems like a sure seller to me.

  14. I am so glad you posted this, I was trying to find how to fix mine...this is awesome!! THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!


  15. where can I buy a metal c-shaped channel guide for the bottom of dresser ddrawer?

  16. Fantastic tutorial, but to avoid issues in 5-6 months..

    2 recommendations:

    1. Cut the ends off the wood that is off with a miter saw.

    2. Pre-Drill "through" holes where you put the screw in. It also helps to countersink the screws to not cause a metal to metal (or wood) grind.

  17. Great work ! to help preserve al your efforts , run a wax candle or good quality soft silicone / wax along the new runners and drawer bottoms / edges, It will help it all work better and stop the wood areas in contact wearing each other away quickly ! ...enjoy

  18. I know I am coming to this post late in the game . . . but thank you !!! I have a couple dressers that have been in my parents room as long as I can remember. They both have now passed and I do not want to throw them out.

    But every draw gives me a hard time, or won't open. They have a wood 'slat' on the bottom of the drawer, not metal. But with your wonderful tutorial I can figure out the 'right' configuration to git 'r done. Thanks for such detailed descriptions and pictures.


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