How to Install Drawer Pulls Evenly

Remember when you were in high school math class, and it came time to study geometry?  Geometry?  What for?  How is that going to help me in life?  Bisecting an angle?  Jeepers!

Well, here we are now, a few years later, and woodworking is our hobby.  We’ve decided to build a workbench with drawers below, and we want to be able to install pull handles properly on those drawers.  Come to find out, we need a basic understanding of geometry to do this well.  Maybe there was a good reason to study this in school after all.

As a general rule of thumb on where to position drawer handles, drawer pulls will be centered on the drawer panel both horizontally and vertically.  While some store-bought drawer panels do come with pre-drilled holes, you’ve decided to make your own, so you’ll need to find the center of the panel somehow and drill your own holes.

This is where your high school geometry class comes in.  You’ll make some measurements, draw some lines, find their intersections, and drill some holes.  The process may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy.

Follow these steps

Chest of Drawers
  1. Put some tape on the drawer panel in each of the four corners and one piece of tape wider than the handle you’re installing in the center of the panel.
  2. Open the drawer a little.  Put your handle in the upper right corner of the drawer panel and butt the inner right side of the handle against the outer edge of the panel.  Mark the tape with your pencil below the outer edge of the handle.
  3. Repeat this process on the other upper corner of the panel and on the two lower corners.
  4. With a straight edge from one upper corner diagonally to the mark you made in the lower opposite corner, draw a line in the tape you placed in the middle of the panel. 
  5. Then, with the straight edge from the mark you made in that same upper corner to the opposite lower corner, draw another line in the tape in the middle of the panel.
  6. Repeat these same two steps from the other upper corner and upper corner mark.
  7. The results are two intersecting lines on the tape in the middle of the panel.  The points where these lines intersect are where your holes will be drilled to center your handle vertically and horizontally on the panel.

Once you have followed these steps and your intersecting lines are drawn, all of your high school geometry class lessons will come back to you.  While there are all sorts of cabinet hardware, like U-shaped handles, to install on your drawers, this process will work no matter what you choose.  The handles will align straight on the panel, and if you have two sets of drawers, the handles will line up with each other on both sides.

What Is Center To Center Measurement?

The term center to center measurement refers to the distance from the center of one drawer handle screw hole to the center of the other handle.  This measurement must be the same as the distance from the center of one screw hole on the panel to the other screw hole.

This will ensure the handle is installed level or straight (horizontally or vertically) on the panel and that the handle will fit neatly into each hole you drill.

Double Drawer Pulls

Double Drawer Pulls

If you have a double column of drawers, but the lowest drawer is a double wide and needs double drawer pulls, the theory and the math are still the same. 

In this case, put a strip of tape down the center of the double-wide drawer (just eyeball it, no measurement is necessary), using the line of the side-by-side drawers as your guide.  Mark the tape at the top and bottom center of the panel.  This has just made the double-wide panel into two panels the same size as the panels above.

Treat that double-wide as two single panels and follow the same procedure outlined above.  When finished, you will have a straight alignment of drawer handles vertically, each centered in the panels.

There is one other consideration in the placement of drawer handles if the bottom draw panel is taller than the panels above it.  It asks the question of whether the handle should be middle or top installed on the taller panel.

Another very general rule of thumb is that the handle on the taller panel should be placed nearer the top of the panel where the drawer rail begins so that the distance between all of the handles from the top drawer to the bottom drawer is the same.  This is more visually appealing and is the customary practice.

It’s all geometry, and if you measure accurately, the results will always be the same.  In case these steps need a little further explanation, we found a very helpful video to walk you through this process.  It will help everything come together clearly, and you’ll see its results.

Fixing An Uneven Handle

If your project is simply fixing an unevenly installed drawer handle, it’s not the end of the world.  Maybe the drill work was crooked, or the geometry was off slightly.  No worries.  A little wood filler, a little sanding, a little spray painting, correct measurements, and holes drilled properly, and you’re all set.

We’ve written about wood filler in the past, and you’ll find a helpful article here.

Remove the handle, and use your chosen wood filler to fill the holes.  Allow the filler to dry completely, and then sand it smooth.  We recommend spray painting instead of brush painting both for a smooth finish and to avoid the paint running down the panel.

Follow the steps we outlined above to install the drawer handle properly, and the fix-it job is done. 

A DIY Template/Jig

If you expect to be working with drawers often and this work will be a regular part of your projects, you could always make a template for drilling holes in the right places.  A template will require a great deal of anticipation and planning, though, as there are many types of cabinet hardware, including handles and knobs, to include in your template. 

If you are ambitious and insist on making your own, keep in mind you’ll want to have a variety of jigs to accommodate a variety of handle dimensions.  We found a helpful video for you that shows how easily and quickly a jig can be made.  The jig in the video is for a 4” handle, but you’ll want to have a few jigs of varying handle sizes.

Commercial Cabinet and Drawer Hardware Jig

But, if you choose instead to go the commercial jig route, and while there are many to choose from, one Obsessed Woodworking has heard a lot of good buzz about comes from True Position Tools.  They offer a variety of options, from the basic to the Max, and although we don’t have one yet in our shop, we’ve looked at them and see what the buzz has been about.

The basic model enables fast and accurate cabinet and drawer hardware installation and will work on any door and drawer and hardware up to 12” in length.  Most of the work we would anticipate doing would be with hardware in the 3” to 4” length so that basic model would fit our projects well.  And, one of the nice things about them is they take the geometry out of the task for us – it’s already been done in their jigs.

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Still, there is something to be said about the old school way in all senses – remembering our old high school geometry classes and doing the projects the old school way.

Last update on 2024-07-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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