It's not ME. It's the DRAWERS!
August 17, 2009 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Extraordinarily lame: My desk and dresser drawers won't open all the way. Is there some sort of anti-slide mechanism that I'm unaware of? If not, can I fix this problem somehow?

Background info: It's a set of fairly substantial (i.e., not cheap and/or Ikea-esque) wooden furniture: a vanity table/dresser, a desk set, and a nightstand. The furniture was purchased in the early 1990s (92-94) from Ethan Allen, most likely.

The faulty (or poorly-designed?) drawers will only open up about halfway. In order to get anything in and out of the back half of these drawers, I have to basically angle my hands/arms and reach back. I'd write it off as poorly-designed (and therefore extremely overpriced) furniture, except that 1) some of the drawers don't suffer from this problem, and 2) at one point in the furniture's life, some of the now-jammed drawers DID open all the way. I'm aware that sometimes things fall behind and get in the way of the track, but this is happening for a total of about 8 drawers. I highly doubt I'm getting things stuck behind 8 drawers. If it makes a difference, this Stuck Drawer Syndrome mostly occur in the lower drawers.

Furthermore, I recently found out that another dresser in the house suffers from the same problem. I don't know where the dresser was purchased from, but it's exactly the same: the top two drawers work quite well; the bottom drawers will only open about halfway.

Is there some sort of locking mechanism that the furniture makers might have implemented for the sake of easier transportation? If not, is there any hope of fixing these drawers? I'm tired of using my desk drawers as storage for things like bars of soap. (It's really THAT DIFFICULT to get in and out of).

I'd gladly take pictures to demonstrate the problem, but I'm afraid you'd have to be specific about what I should be photographing.
posted by mittenedsex to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a person who grew up almost exclusively with antiques as regular furniture, I'll offer the following:

Try to take each drawer out and examine the underside, as well as the slides on the one above, if there are slides.
If there are slides, take a candle and rub it onto the slide, (and on the surface where the slide fits into the underside of the drawer) making sure the wax coats all sides, then put the drawer back in.
If there are not slides, remove the drawers carefully, but make sure there is nothing shoved up against the front of the inside of the dresser or the drawer, preventing the drawer from opening all the way.
Lastly, check the bottoms of the drawers themselves - if they're bowed, it will make sliding them very difficult.

Good luck!
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 11:56 AM on August 17, 2009

My first thought would be to remove the drawers that are working correctly (top drawers).
This might enable you to actually see what is obstructing/locking the bottom drawers.
posted by artdrectr at 11:56 AM on August 17, 2009

Also, look for fabric "tabs" on the backs of the drawers - they may be anchored to the back of the dresser to prevent the drawers from falling out.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 11:57 AM on August 17, 2009

Furniture made in Nebraska, brought to Seattle: sticky drawers! The increased humidity was to blame. We ended up wrestling the drawers out and planing them down to fit. Try the candle (or hard soap) idea first.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2009

If it's a dead-simple wood box drawer with no side mechanism, a drawer stop will rarely differ significantly from this. The design, of course, really is for opening the drawer all the way, and such drawers were known to slump if they weren't supported by a large enough surface or prevented from tipping up by rails.

I suspect a newer dresser, though, has some sort of cabinet rail mechanism. Usually this is a metal rail with a plastic wheel that rolls inside.

It is just possible that there is some kind of insert, probably a bit of styrofoam, that will prevent the wheel from traveling the entire length of the rail. This will be easily removed by hand, but not easily dislodged by use. Smaller drawers will have one slide underneath; larger ones, two, on each side.

If the wood of the drawer box itself is sticking, you should see a change in your drawer's range of motion depending on humidity.
posted by dhartung at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2009

Just like the candle thing - except I use cedar oil. Makes them slide like silk!
(But any fine grade oil will do the trick - machine oil, ect.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:54 PM on August 17, 2009

I had a similar problem with our dresser (had a metal rail on the underside to allow full extension of the drawer.)

The answer: Just pull harder.

After removing one drawer, the problem was that the ball bearings had somehow slipped with repeated use. You basically have to drag the bearings back in place by pulling firmly on the drawer until it reaches the fully open position. Then it will operate smoothly. You might have to repeat this procedure once or twice a year.
posted by huckit at 9:22 PM on August 17, 2009

Re: Humidity & wax/oiling
It's definitely not an issue of humidity or that the drawers won't slide well. They open and close quite easily. Thanks for the suggestions though. Forgot that could be a cause.

Re: Seeing how the mechanisms work
I'm going to see if I can take out the working drawers tomorrow. I thought maybe I could just pull out or lift it out of its tracks, but that's definitely not working.

Re: pulling harder
I pulled the defective drawers as hard as I could, and it's definitely not budging so I don't think it's an issue of pulling harder.
posted by mittenedsex at 11:37 PM on August 17, 2009

You can use an Ivory soap bar to lubricate the slides. Be generous. Olde trick.
posted by Muirwylde at 2:28 AM on August 18, 2009

I'm not sure if humidity is to blame here in southern California, but all the drawers needed was a hard pull. The trick is that I had to reach my arm back and pull VERY hard. It works now though, so hurray! Thanks so much askmefi!
posted by mittenedsex at 6:14 PM on August 26, 2009

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