Full Extension Drawer Slides in Period Furniture

“What!” I hear the reader groan. “Has he taken leave of his senses?”

As far as I can discover, the pressed steel and ball bearing fittings that we know as ‘drawer slides’ or ‘glides’ first appeared in the early 1960s. Their metal construction was unique, but the principal has been around since at least the 1760s.

George Hepplewhite illustrated an all-wood full extension guide for the fitted top drawer of a dressing chest in his Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide (published in 1788) allowing complete access to all compartments within the drawer. He doesn’t lay any claim to the invention of the guides, nor even makes any mention of them, thereby corroborating their common usage by this date.

Hepplewhite’s wooden drawer guide, c.1787.

Jack Plane

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About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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4 Responses to Full Extension Drawer Slides in Period Furniture

  1. Tico Vogt says:

    Have many of them held up over time?

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    • Jack Plane says:

      I have restored a number of dressing chests with fitted drawers, but only ever needed to address one drawer guide. Specifically, the rear part of the loose slide on one required reattaching to eliminate a little droop that had developed.

      JP

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  2. Jeff Aldred says:

    Jack:
    Could you, explain how it works? (or better yet, make them in your desk, and show us pictures!) I think I see a tongue let into the side of the drawer, and a stopped dado into the cabinet side with a block at the back of the tongue running into the dado. Pull out the drawer far enough, and the block in the drawer hits the stop and the front of the side providing support for the drawer, that is then pulled out resting on the tongues in its side. Close? Any of this cut as a sliding dovetail?

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Jeff, you have a good grasp of the workings of the guide and the components are in deed of sliding dovetail type construction.

      It’s a bit too late for my current job, but I may well build a dressing chest in the future and if I do, I will cover the full extension guides in detail.

      JP.

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