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March 29, 2023

Furniture Makers

We Speak Furniture

Modern cabinet hardware: Good, bad, or fine?

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As a professional cabinet maker, I have welcomed much of the modern hardware that has been developed over the last few decades. It has made building fine quality cabinetry more efficient and more functional. I have been using the same models of hinges and drawer slides for many years. I have memorized the part numbers and installing them is a walk in the park. That’s the left side of my brain, which is my cabinet maker side; however the right side, or furniture maker side, says this type of hardware has no place in fine furniture making.

Blum drawer slide and the orange lock that holds the drawer to the slide. 

While I totally agree that a drawer with hand-cut dovetails that slides perfectly home with a piston fit is a thing of beauty, it is not as convenient as one with a full-extension drawer slide with soft close. A drawer equipped with these modern slides can have 50 lb. in it and still be opened with one finger and bumped closed with a hip. And it won’t slam. 

These are my go-to slides, Blum 562H. Full-extension, under-mount, soft-close slides with a 75-lb. capacity. 

Well-installed knife hinges are almost like magic. They have a clean appearance and are truly the mark of a fine craftsman. Yet a concealed cabinet hinge has that soft close feature (again) and is adjustable should wood movement become an issue. They also clip on and off easily for delivery or repair. 

Blum Inserta hinges. The one in the background is for inset applications, the foreground is for overlay applications.

I would never suggest that using these types of hardware makes for a finer piece of furniture, however in a piece of furniture like a chest of drawers, they sure are convenient. So my question for you is this: Are pieces of furniture made with modern hardware considered fine furniture? 

The soft-close function is built right into the hinge cup and can be turned on and off with the little switch I’m pointing to. 

My take is that I would never use modern cabinet hardware when building my best work, even if it meant the piece would not function as well. For everything else, I would. What are your thoughts?

The hinges clip on and off the base plates easily. 

I am getting ready to build a chest of drawers for my wife and myself. I’m leaning toward using under-mount slides because it’s a piece that will get used daily and needs to be easy to use. But there is a part of me that would really love the extra touch of class that would come with hand-fitted drawers on wooden runners. 

These hinges open 110°, but limiter clips can be installed to limit travel to just 86°. Perfect for cabinets up against a wall.

A quick note about Blum. I’m not a spokesperson for Blum; I just happen to like their hardware. More importantly, I’m used to it. Learning and understanding these systems takes some time. If you’re going to dive in, plan on reading through a catalog or two. After having learned and understood the Blum system, I have stuck with it. There are plenty of other hardware manufacturers who make great stuff. Look around and pick one.

Here is a video link to a piece of furniture I made a while back where I used modern hardware.

Here is a video link to a cabinet I made without modern hardware. 

Simple layout and a dedicated jig make it easy to hang a cabinet door and fine-tune the fit

Learn how to mortise and mount tricky knife hinges into a curved cabinet

how to make wood drawer slides, full extension sliders

Telescoping dovetails support a fully opened drawer with style

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