Drawer slides

Undermount Drawer Slides

We're re-doing the kitchen in our late 1940s cottage in Northern California. The kitchen was clearly designed back in the days of one person doing the cooking and maintenance, so it doesn't work for two people who both spend a lot of time in the kitchen but have very different cooking styles, and we want to spend the rest of our lives in this house, so we're going to make a place that's very comfortable to us. The kitchen (along with the house) is fairly small, so we want to make this space as efficient for us as we possibly can.

One of the luxuries we were sure that we wanted was soft-close undermount drawer slides.

We'd kicked the tires at a lot of kitchen and bath showrooms, and had decided on the Blum Blumotion soft-close drawer slides. We'd bought a pair of the earlier Accuride self-closing drawer slides, and didn't really like the way that the snapped shut, so when I asked a question about drawer slides over on LumberJocks, I casually mentioned that we'd dismissed Accuride. Bill Coffey of Accuride saw my message, and sent me a number of different drawer slides to review. As the type of guy who loves that Festool has fixed pricing because it makes dealers compete on service, I absolutely loved that a company cared enough about my business to go out and get my attention in that way, so I decided to revisit our decision.

So I went out and bought two other drawer slides to compare to the SC slides from Accuride, a set of Blum Blumotion slides, and something referred to by my lumber yard as "cheap Chinese knock-offs". I also tried to get a set of Knape & Vogt slides, but had no luck finding a dealer nearby. There appear to be a few other brands of soft-close undermount slides, but as I dug further I wasn't sure who manufactured what for whom. Besides, this was my kitchen, the decision was only re-opened because the Accuride folks were so awesome, and I didn't see the point in spreading myself too thin.

Especially since I was buying the slides to review.

So, on that point, let's talk about cost first. I could go dig up the exact price, but it doesn't really matter. We're planning on living in this house for the rest of our lives. I only want to do this kitchen once. There's some up and down depending on exactly which model and which options, but I think of both the Blum and the Accuride slides as costing roughly $50 per drawer. The cheap Chinese knock-offs cost $18 (pre tax). You'd think a factor of more than two would be huge, but it's not: Even if I only make it to 65, that still means the expensive slides are costing me two bucks a year. Northern California housing prices and the time and energy I'm putting into building this kitchen dwarf that price.

It may be a deciding factor for you, it's not for me.

The toughest drawers in our kitchen are the two beside the stove, in which we plan to store our pots and pans. These drawers are wide enough that there are potentially racking issues, I like cast iron, so the drawers are going to be heavy. I decided that that would be our torture test.

I took some cheap CDX plywood and built a mock-up of the size I expected the drawer to be, and installed the slides. The first thing I noticed: I like the Accuride system for clipping the drawer to the slide. Two pieces, simple, easy:

Clipping and unclipping the drawer from the Accuride slide

The Blum and the cheap Chinese knock-off slides have these funky complex catches that need to be aligned fairly precisely, and have flexing parts. This is not a common operation, I actually don't think that there are issues that will crop up in the Blum system, but I like simple engineering.

We then tried opening and closing the drawer empty, to see how we liked the motion:

  • Blum soft-close slide mounted drawer, empty, being opened and closed
  • Don't see a whole lot of difference there! Then we loaded those suckers down and tried again:

    This is where the difference started to show: The Accuride slides didn't catch a heavy drawer. Yeah, the drawer closed all the way, but if we pushed the drawer hard, it slammed, where the Blum didn't. Note, however, that the Blum occasionally didn't manage to pull that last bit, where the Accuride did.

    At this point it was time to put the cheap Chinese knock-off in place, but while both the Blum and the Accuride slides dealt with 3/4" drawer sides, the others only dealt with 5/8", and, having played with slides all day, I wasn't sure that the cheap ones were constructed nearly as well as the name brand ones, so we didn't continue that part of the experiment.

    Our up-shot? We're going with Blum for the undermounts. We'll probably use Accuride side-mount slides for some of our other applications (further review coming in a bit), but we like the "slam the drawer" action, and don't mind that it'll occasionally leave the drawer just barely open. If you're a person who normally closes things all the way, and wants the slide to always do that final pull, you should look at the Accuride.

    Category: Woodworking