Easiest Drawer Slide

I’ve built too many drawers to remember. Most of the drawer sides were from pine or poplar – I try to match my secondary woods to the region from which the original piece was built. If I’m copying a piece from a museum, or something that I’ve found on the World Wide Web, I generally have that information at hand. If that information is left to a guess, I have a rather simplistic rational for determining what species to use.

In evaluating the major city centers of period furniture, anything north of Newport, Rhode Island (you know, the area of Goddard and Townsend) I use pine as my secondary. South of there I consider poplar to be the wood of choice – that extends all the way down into Philadelphia and Baltimore. (Federal period pieces from around Baltimore often referenced “whitewood,” which was, indeed, poplar.)

As you make your way into the South, you begin to see pieces built with yellow pine as a secondary wood. I have built a few pieces from the South using yellow pine. I’ve built a few pieces for Southern customers, some ask for yellow pine and some do not. And I’ve built at least one truly Northern piece of furniture and used yellow pine as my choice for secondary wood. That’s because I was building it for myself, so I could get away with my transgression.

Here’s what I’ve discovered. No drawer slides like a drawer built with yellow pine. What if you apply wax to pine? Not as slick. Paraffin to poplar? Nope. It’s not as smooth an operation. Yellow pine, in my opinion, wins hands down.

What’s your opinion?

— Glen D. Huey

Posted on

4 thoughts on “Easiest Drawer Slide

  1. If you’ve ever tried to drive a nail into a 20+ year old joist of SYP, you know how hard it gets. But where do you get it other than 2x10s at the big box? The last time I used it, I ripped wider stock down to get rift- and quarter–sawn stock and threw out the pith. And of course, let it dry a lot.

    1. I know of what you speak, Keith. I’ve had the pleasure of driving nails into old YP back in my days as a Home builder. I purchased YP from Shiels Lumber in Cincinnati. They had 4/4 by 6″ and 8″ at the time. I even asked if I could get quartersawn and they happily agreed. Before that, I did the big-box version same as you.

  2. After using both, I think YP slides a little smoother, but poplar looks a little nicer.
    Just my opinion naturally.
    And like Glen said, it also depends on the overall nature of the piece, or what the customer wants.

  3. I agree about yellow pine being slicker. And just last weekend I was patching drywall on our kitchen ceiling and I got a reminder of what it’s like to drive screws into old syp joists. As a side note, years ago I was talking to a country forester (I believe he was Walton County) about finding some good pine logs to have sawn. We got to talking about old furniture from Georgia, and he told me that much of the 19th-century “heart pine” furniture from the piedmont area of Georgia is actually made from slash pine (Pinus elliottii) rather than longleaf (P. palustris) or loblolly (P. taeda) (which most people think of when they think of “heart pine”). All of them get grouped together as “Southern yellow pine” at the mill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *