Absolutely you can get a kitchen built and installed during the holidays.  Every year around October 1st the calls flood in wanting a kitchen remodel before Thanksgiving or Christmas so that they can impress the family coming over and not interfere with the holiday by having a torn up house. 

Generally a medium size kitchen takes ten days to build once the deposit is paid, assuming all the decisions are made and the appliances ordered and ON HAND!  The days are gone of trusting they will have an appliance in stock and you can get it delivered without worry.  Some items like dishwashers or fridges aren’t as critical, they are generic sizes, not so much on ovens or microwaves, you need to design the cabinet around the appliance.  

Once built, you will come by to do a pre finishing inspection of the unfinished cabinets and pay the balance on the unfinished cabinets.  Finishing takes a week usually for a painted set, a little less for a stained set of cabinets and that includes installing the end panels, backs in the cabinets, and hanging the doors and drawers.  Then another post finishing inspection before delivery and the finishing costs are paid.  At that point the cabinets are ready for installation. 

Installation usually takes between three and five days unless something unusual is going on. Things happen, walls are leaning and that requires a cabinet to be taking back to the shop and resized and rebuilt.  Or if the cabinets are going to the ceiling the plith needs cut to fit and then finished.  Usually though a week is the extent of the time needed and that includes several half days or quarter days coming back to finish something up.

By then three to three and a half weeks have gone by so you still have the countertop build and install, another half week.  Four weeks should do it and the flooring guys can install while the countertops are being made.  Plumbers can come in the day of the countertop install and electricians are usually the last man to do their work. 

The key for being out of the house before Christmas is starting on or by the middle of November or Thanksgiving for a smaller kitchen job.  That will have the kitchen up and functioning by Christmas.  Of course Thanksgiving week is really three days so a few days earlier will ensure the materials are delivered before the Thanksgiving shut down. 

After Christmas, that week between it and New Years is generally shot for getting materials or hardware.  Lots of companies take off that week or do inventory for the end of the year and by the 3rd of January things are going again.  Generally the end of the year means price increases coming as companies do an annual increase, however this year that has been the case month by month. 

The time between January and March can lead to severe weather impacts when cold fronts blow in and drop well below freezing and the shop generally will stay 20 degrees above outside temperature, never dropping below freezing thank goodness due to the concrete construction, but anything below 45 degrees means waiting for a warmer day before gluing up panels or spraying finishing materials or working on countertops.  The first storm of winter can hit right before or around Thanksgiving as well but they are usually short duration and the shop doesn’t cool down that fast and work can continue.  So if you are interested in a remodel during the holiday season now is the time to move and with the inflation and supply shortages it is even more important to do that work before the next round of inflation hits.  Usually quotes are good for months, these days they are good for a week and prices have to be rechecked and the availability for materials has to be rechecked and any needed materials quickly paid for before they are gone or prices jump again.

Well, define a small job

How things are done series

This would be considered a small job for a cabinet shop.  The unfinished cabinets cost $3200.00, the finishing $960.00, and the delivery & Install another $575.00

Total price, was $4738.00 plus the countertop.

This was a complex job, the old cabinets were an odd 26″ depth, requiring us to hit the old foot print to avoid the floor being redone.  Then that darned beam overhead right over the stove.  This was a 1930’s era home, tiny kitchens, lots of non standard things going on, usually lath and plaster walls that are crooked as an Oklahoma State Senator.

This job had a deep dark hunter green finish, a color coat first, then a top coat of pre cat laquer so the cabinets would hold up for years.  The lower picture is the pre delivery inspection picture, the lowers sitting on foam blocks to keep them off the floor in the approximate height and the uppers just sitting on top the lower cabinets.

So the lower limit for a job is at least a thousand dollars.  A small countertop, a few vanities, or a small kitchen which gets you way above a thousand dollars.  Below that, a broken drawer, an appliance hole filled in, call a handyman, not a cabinetmaker.  That is bread and butter to those guys.

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Cabinet shops have high overhead

  • We need a lot of space where we can make a lot of noise and dust
  • We need three phase power and lots of it
  • We need wide doors and very tall buildings to flip lumber during processing and to handle the dust collection piping
  • We need large distances between the sawdust producing area and the finishing areas

 

All of that adds up to thousands of dollars per month in overhead before a dime is paid for materials and labor.  And all the cool toys to play with needed for making quality cabinets and keeping them maintained and working to tight tolerances.

That eliminates the small work like a couple of doors or the odd broken drawer that needs fixed, a big shop has to focus on projects worth several thousand dollars for their to be enough gross profit to pay the overhead.

When you get to a large shop ran by one person, the time spent talking to customers means no one is actually making any money so taking a job for a few hundred actually costs the shop more than they can possibly charge.

 


Supply Disruptions

Early on in March of 2020 we loaded up on things that we figured would be in short supply, things like nails for the nail guns, screws, glue, and basic solvents.  Even a few spare nail guns just in case supply disruptions hit.

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What is nearly impossible to stock up on are the very expensive hardware items such as drawer slides which would run between $20.00 and $30.00 per set, or the specialty hardware like pull out trash cans or spice racks.

  These items can cost almost as much as the sheet goods used in making the cabinets so investing in a large quantity and guessing what might sell in the coming year is risky.  Plus you are heading into a pandemic that is unprecedented in modern history.  Better to keep that cash in the bank in case no one is buying cabinets so you can keep the doors open and survive.

  Things didn’t get that bad as business did slow down so there was plenty of supply for the most part until the beginning of 2021 when businesses started re opening and people were breathing a sigh of relief and investing in their homes again.  Tires for the car though, second hand tires shops were all there was other than the big tire chains raping their customers as the Walmart and Sams Club option wasn’t there.

 

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And we had plenty of MDF carcass parts in stock plus parts for hundreds of linear feet of the Okie cabinets in the pallet racks.  Prices on veneered plywood shot up and became in short supply and still are as of late October of 2021.

Some woods went up dramatically like soft maple, red oak seemed to stay reasonably priced at first, the market and cost see sawed back and forth and still does today.

As of October of 2021 we have ran through a lot of the MDF carcass parts that are commonly used like lower cabinet decks and shelves so lately we have to make some parts out of new MDF sheets to go with the existing stock.  Despite this we are in a lot better shape than most shops that don’t have pallet racks of parts made up and our prices have risen but they are still competitive with the other shops.

And as it always does, the downturn weeded out a lot of competition that was poorly ran or highly leveraged with big mortgage payments for equipment or start up cash.  We picked up quite a bit of additional equipment during the downturn as competing shops went to the auction block.

Cabinet prices have risen around 20% over 2019 prices, the same on drawers as the slides and/or material for the drawer boxes has doubled in some cases.  Then there is the shipping on the drawer slides, no longer in stock locally in a wide variety of sizes and styles, they have to be shipped in at sometimes more cost than the cost of the slides.  One particular slide needed had only 50 in stock in the entire U.S., and I bought 20% of them that were shipped in for over $300.00 in shipping fees.  Ouch…. but it was that or give the customer a shorter drawer in a tall drawer faced drawer.

Things will settle down as inflation on almost everything is hitting hard.  The massive printing of dollars and giving them away has caused massive inflation plus the effect of the election of an incompetent and weak president.  But we will survive and we will do our best to keep prices as low as possible.

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Skinny hanging strips on cheap cabinets

Suspension Blocks and Steel Hang Rail

Almost all of our competitors depend upon a skinny  strip of scrap wood running along the top of the cabinet to hang the cabinet. As you can imagine, this isn’t the best way to hang a cabinet.  I have seen homes with the slender wood strip still attached to the wall, with the rest of the cabinet laying on the floor in pieces.

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A better way is to use suspension blocks and a steel hanging rail, the suspension blocks have fittings that hammer into two 10 mm holes in the side of the cabinet.  You are  actually hanging the side of the cabinet  which supports the rest of the cabinet. Then the steel hanging rail is screwed to the studs and  large molly bolts used if the rail ends before the next stud.  The suspension block protrudes past  the back of the cabinet and hooks onto the steel hanging rail. Two screws handle any minor adjustments needed for the height and leveling of the cabinet..

  In addition to having the cabinets hung much more strongly the rails makes installing and removal fast and secure.  After the cabinets are leveled and lined up fasteners are installed so that the cabinet’s weight is spread all across the line of cabinets.  After a wet spring or dry summer your

 

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Suspension Block on one of our Okie cabinets.

home might sink or  the swelling soil might raise your home walls, with our cabinets removing the crown molding is easy and then the cabinets are unbolted and either adjusted back level or removed by pulling them p and out for repairs. d after unscrewing the cabinet from the others, you just lift it up and away for repair.

Using these suspension blocks and steel rail  costs a quite bit more than using up table saw scrap but the end result is cabinets that are much easier to install and much more sturdy cabinets.

This is just one example of how we just do things better when we build cabinets.It is a lot cheaper to just make things right than come back later to fix the cabinets or lose a customer over poor quality work.

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Heavy glaze on a very grainy wood  prior to wiping

Glaze for Cabinet Finishing
Once you get tired of looking at plain old paint finishes you might want to think about adding glaze to your next painted cabinet job. Glaze is a mineral spirits based paint, a very thick paint at that, that is basically smeared around exterior parts of a cabinet and then wiped off to provide some color accents.

It is a bit more complicated than that. First you paint, sand , paint a 2nd coat, sand again to knock down any raised fibers, then add a coat of clear sanding sealer. The sealer does just what its name suggests; it seals off the paint so you can manipulate the glaze without contaminating the paint. Then scuff sand the sealer coat and add your glaze.

You can add the glaze sparingly or you can paint the entire part in glaze. Usually it does little good to put the glaze anywhere other than the cracks and crevices areas of the part, usually profiled edges and where the center panel meets the stiles and rails.

 

Glazing Provides Contrast

Why? Because most of the glaze has to be wiped off, leaving a thick layer will just cause problems because the top coat of finish cannot reach the sealer surface under the glaze, your finish will just peel off eventually. You can have a light haze, you can have quite heavy glazed areas that are in protected areas or deep in the grain.

Or you can allow the glaze to heavily coat the part, let it dry a few days, then start sanding with sanding sponges for a heavier look. Expensive....

And it looks expensive so there is value there if a project has that kind of budget.   Most of the things that look expensive do so because it indicates a lot of time and trouble went into the work, complicated, rich, with obvious quality and the best materials used.

Expect to spend around 5% extra on a finish with glaze.  So if you purchase $100 worth of cabinets, expect the finish to cost an extra 5% or $5.00 to add the glaze.  Generally a simple stain, seal, and pre cat lacquer job will cost 25% or $25.00 per $100 of cabinets.  Adding glaze ups that to 30% or $30.00 per $100 of cabinets.

But the heavy glaze that is literally painted on and left to dry and sand off?  Expect your finishing to start at $5000.00 for a medium sized kitchen as you are doubling, sometimes tripling  the time and materials to do the finishing. 

Next you need a coat of pre cat lacquer to lock down the glaze and provide a durable surface.

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One victim’s record of Thumbtack robbing them blind

Are we on Thumbtack or Homeadvisor?
That is a bit old NO! These referral companies like Thumbtack, Yelp, Houzz, Angieslist.com, and Home Advisor are nothing more than scam artists forcing their way between consumers and tradesmen. Their ads sound great, the tradesmen are pre approved and background checked, the reality is that they will allow anyone that will give them access to their bank account to advertise and become one of their “trusted” tradespeople.

Read the horror stories from both consumers and tradespeople on Thumbtack on a site like consumeraffairs.com.   The scam works by the referral company setting up a website claiming to have a stable of tradesmen and vendors pre approved and waiting to come solve problems for you. Sometimes they did at one point, in the early days of organization they had low or even no fees to the tradesmen, some like Angieslist.com even charged the consumer. I was one of those consumers in the early days of Angieslist.com paying $20.00 a year to have a place with dependable reviews and it worked. Soon I saw my customers putting reviews on Angieslist and I had and still have an A rating. Then the bean counters take the company public, the consumer charge goes away and they start selling advertising and next your A rating as a business becomes only visible, in fact your company becomes visible, only if you pay thousands of dollars a year to Angieslist.com.

 

Money Corrupts Reviews and Ratings

Thumbtack walked the same road, vendors and tradespeople said it was great in the beginning and it slowly got worse. A “customer” would fill out a request for quotes and supposedly it would go out to the exact kind of tradesmen in the exact area the customer lived in or the business covered. The business would look at the request, if it was something they did and something they had the time to do they would contact the customer and be charged $20.00 to $50.00 usually as a finders fee. Say it was a cabinet job, well that is a bargain if it is a real customer wanting a bid. Thumbtack would call my business on a regular basis asking if we were interested in joining or claiming they had a customer that needed some work. In reality they were trolling for new tradespeople to handle work that they either made up or requests coming in for work that they had no one to bid on. I always told them not to call ever again and if a customer wanted a bid they could just call me.

It didn’t take too long for Thumbtack to learn or for human nature to take over. Soon those quotes were going to any vendor with a pulse that did anything remotely associated with the request. You want a drawer fixed on that $60.00 IKEA dresser that uncle Bob gave you? Surely this high end Kitchen Design company would love to bid on that. Along with the floor re finisher and the framing carpenter. Now Thumbtack is charging for the lead even if the vendor doesn’t contact the customer or even if they reply back saying they do not do that sort of work. And that one $20.00 repair job just generated $300 in lead costs to vendors in a 150 mile radius of the consumer that made the request. Many of the negative reviews from tradespeople claim that the majority of the “leads” on Thumbtack are fake, that the customer accounts will disappear or change erratically,

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and that few of the leads ever respond back if contacted. Tradespeople find their bank accounts drained of hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars with zero actual jobs actually being bid much less completed.

As you can imagine vendors start dropping like flies and getting out of the program. Worse, there are dozens of customer reviews stating that once you post a “job” you cannot modify or delete the job, it might be in the system for years so the “lead” can be sold to the next set of sucker businesses that sign up for Thumbtack. A single lead, even one that might be two years old, will be sold to fifteen or even twenty vendors.

Home Advisor also has a horrible review rating history  . Now think about that, a company that offers reviews on contractors and vendors itself has horrible reviews. Some of the over 7,000 negative reviews on reseller ratings shows that competitors actually turn in leads on their competition in order to drain their bank accounts and drive them off the program! And the same complaints from both consumer and tradespeople that have signed up, fake leads, out of state leads, leads that have nothing to do with what a company does, all charged out for as much as $90.00 per lead and each lead might be sold dozens of times.

 

Houzz has similar ratings on the independent rating sites . They tend to have a mix of angry tradespeople that got sucked into a year long contract for thousands of dollars with no leads to show for the marketing expense and angry customers complaining about poor work or poor customer service. It kind of stands to reason that if the company scams the businesses providing the service then the businesses need to scam the customers to make back what was scammed from them.

Houzz seems to depend upon a long contract that locks new businesses in for one year for thousands of dollars per year and as soon as the business realizes the leads are worthless they try to cancel and cannot. There are tons of angry consumers that have bought something off Houzz, the company itself, not an advertiser.

The bottom line is that these referral services are just not a good idea for either the consumer or the tradesman advertising on the service.  Google the services that you need, paying close attention to the suggested searches at the bottom of the search result and contact a local service or contractor, then leave a Google review as Google seems to be the only honest review site and it has its own problems.

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System holes are the basis of 32 mm European cabinets

 System Holes?
The European cabinet is built around a series of 5 mm holes that are placed 32 mm apart, or 1.25″ apart, set in so that these holes serve as the attachment points for hardware like hinges and drawer slides as well as adjustable shelves.

The front holes are set back for the hinge screws, the back screws handle the back drawer slide screws, usually a 5 mm diameter screw.  That is around 3/16″, much larger than what is used to secure a hinge in a face frame cabinet, normally a #6 x 5/8″, less than half the diameter.  Now with thickness of almost anything you compute the strength as if it was a beam.   A screw twice the diameter is four times stronger.  Plus the pre bored system holes are put in very precisely. This requires specialized equipment that few Oklahoma cabinet shops possess which is why most make the old fashioned and outdated face frame cabinets..

 

Precision, precision, precision

The system holes are set equal distance from the ends of the end panels which allows an end panel to be flipped over to use on the other end of the cabinet, no left or right hand end panels. 

The parts must be cut to the precise size and in return for all of this careful work you get a cabinet that has doors and drawers made to standard heights that can be produced and installed with no fitting, a huge time saver when assembling cabinets.

 The other benefit of system holes is that they make it easy to change out a cabinet from just a door and drawer to a bank of drawers or vice versa.  System holes are designed to hold up in cheap particle board so in good MDF or plywood they are much stronger.  

The other huge advantage of euro or frameless cabinets is that the cool pullouts and gizmos available are much easier to install and there is zero wasted space  taken up by face frames.  That will pick up an additional 4″ in most drawer widths.

There is one negative about using system holes and the 32 mm construction system, you save a lot of time but you are also limited to certain height cabinets and certain height doors and drawers.  Each is some multiple of 32 mm or 1.25″ plus a constant which allows for the reveal, the amount of space that a drawer or door sets back from the top, bottom, and sides of the cabinet.  That standardization does help in the speed of making the parts at the cost of requiring cabinets be certain heights.  The use of a different height toe kick helps bring the cabinet to the needed height.

If you are looking for European or frameless cabinets you are in the right place.

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“Can you Touch up the Finish on that Door…”

How things are done series

Such a small request, right?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

The reality is that all finishes are different, some are easy to touch up, others are nearly impossible so at times you are best off living with imperfection.

Some finishes are like paint, easy to touch up, the fixed door matches perfectly.  You have an impervious base like MDF or veneer, no grain showing through, so you just scrub the door down a bit with sandpaper and re shoot the color coat, allow it to dry, sand, then shoot it with sealer, a bit of glaze if needed, and a top coat of pre cat lacquer.  But this needs done fairly quickly after the set of cabinets has been painted because paint settles out a bit after a few weeks. 

Other finishes such as a simple stain, sealer, and top coat on natural wood is also easy to touch up.  Especially if it is an oil based stain that doesn’t dissolve the sealer and top coat when you touch up the defect or damage.  The down side is that oil based stains aren’t used much because they create fire hazards in finishing shops, the rags can self combust, the overspray requires a lot of clean up and resulting wasted solvents and cleaning rags.  Lacquer based stains hit the floor as powder and can be swept up with the other overspray and recycled into low quality paint.

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Finishes are either Simple or Complex

  • Simple finishes have a small number of layers
  • Complex finishes have many layers and are harder to replicate or repair
  • Glazes depend upon grain, cracks, or crevices
  • Sometimes that slight imperfection will require a new door to fix

 

The toughest touch ups are the glazed natural wood jobs where the grain has been filled with several layers of paint or sealers, filling them in and making it harder for the glaze to catch hold.  Repairing some finishes requires stripping the old finish but even after stripping much of the grain is going to be plugged so the glaze coat is likely to not catch like the original finish.

One thing that I am sure of after decades of cabinet building, God hates perfection. It is not uncommon to have that one door that just refuses to finish perfectly and there is a limit as to how many coats can be sprayed on most cabinet parts before problems come up.

In the end sometimes it is better to live with that one door that isn’t quite perfect rather than attempt to touch it up and make it more noticeable.   But if you are picky be sure and point out these small things during the post finishing inspection when the spray guns are still set up and the materials are fresh to make touch up easier.

 

What are you giving up with Okies compared to custom cabinets ?

Hardwood doors machine very smooth on profiled edges

MDF does have limitations

 The carcass on an Okie cabinet is as good as the carcasses on our custom made cabinets.  Same 3/4″ mdf carcass material, same 3/16″ thick back, same hardwood rails, nearly the same hardware holds the doors and drawers in place. Same legs, same hanging rail system, same shelf pins, same construction methods, same fasteners are used in the Okies as are used in the custom cabinet jobs.

 

Hardwood door rails and drawer fronts are the biggest difference between the Okies and our custom cabinets

The one largest difference on cost is using MDF for the door stiles, rails, and drawer fronts.  Not only is hardwood much more expensive, it is unavailable at a reasonable cost at our overseas shop, it takes a lot more work to cut, machine, and sand the finished doors, and with the natural defects there is about a 35% waste factor using hardwood.

The MDF stiles and rails and drawer fronts will have a bit more “fuzz” to the finished product in the areas that were machined with a detail.  That can be mitigated by doing your own finishing and doing extra sanding and extra coats of paint.  The MDF holds paint really well, even in our most expensive styles we will use an MDF panel for the painted raised panels simply because it is superior over a solid wood raised panel for painting.

Durability does suffer, even with European hinges that are designed to work with particle board an MDF door isn’t going to last 40 or 50 years like a hardwood door, but who keeps a kitchen that long without doing a makeover anyway?  The MDF is more prone to denting or crushing if you dropped a door but again the hardwood door is going to have enough crushing from a drop to require some bondo and repainting too.  Once installed there is little to damage the door other than forgetting the doors only open 110 degrees and some ape ripping the hinges out.   Once again bondo and paint will fix it like new.  We expect to see MDF doors last 15 to 20 years if used with normal care.  Then you replace the doors,  drawer fronts, and end panels for a brand new looking kitchen for a fraction of the cost of tear out and replacing the cabinets.

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You are giving up on custom widths, heights, and depths

MDF is a bit “fuzzy” where it is profiled
Camera is five or six inches from the door

Standard sizes only in Okies

 The Okies come in 24″ and 12″ depths, with 34.5″ lowers and 31.75″ uppers.  There are some odd ones like a cabinet that goes over an oven or broom closet, or an oven drawer base designed to make a single or double oven work out.  Widths start at 6″, then jump to 10″, then to 12″, and on up to 36″ wide.  There are specialty cabinets like go over cooktops or fridges and a few common sized vanity cabinets.

 

 

Drawer bank widths are limited

Drawer bank cabinets are limited to three drawer and four drawer stacks, with standard widths like 16″ and 24″.

The Okies will work in the average home for the most part for a basic kitchen.  We do not customize the sizes as all the parts are pre cut to width and length, ready to assemble.  That saves about three days of shop time versus building custom kitchen cabinets out of our raw MDF components we stock.

The door styles are limited as well, we have slab fronts, five part fronts, and a shaker front where the door is turned around and the inside perimeter profile (cope and stick) is facing inside the cabinet.  The standard shaper edge is used at all times, no exceptions.  Making true shaker doors is time consuming and expensive in labor and overhead as they are either perfect or they look bad.  Plus the simple act of lining up the edges of the doors and drawer fronts is a major time eater on the job site.  The shaper edge prevents this from being an issue with reasonable installation time.

You can still use the neat organizational items like trash can pullouts, lazy susans, and pot storage racks.  The average visitor will not know that you paid $3000 or $5000 for your kitchen instead of  $10,000 to $20,000 for a fully custom cabinet job.

The warranty is the standard one year warranty instead of our lifetime warranty on our custom cabinet jobs.  Yet it is rare that something fails, more common that someone abuses the cabinets or has an accident, something outside any warranty coverage. But we will still be here to help fix any damage and keep your cabinets looking like new.

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How About Drawers?

Drawer boxes need good slides, not dovetail joints

 What About Drawers?
Dovetailed drawers are pushed as the ultimate drawer for a kitchen when the reality is that they are as useful and needed as screen doors on a submarine.
There was a time a hundred years ago that a dovetail drawer made sense as there were no proper drawer slides, merely waxed wood rails that would swell up just like the drawer box in damp weather and you could pull the drawer front off a drawer in time

 

Good Slides Make Good Drawers

These days we have epoxy coated or powder coated slides with ball bearing mechanisms or nylon rollers coupled with sufficient clearance that a drawer simply isn’t going to stick. Or metal side drawer systems that stay flat and square with zero warpage and zero problems for the life of the home.
Many of the dovetail drawers being sold on the less expensive pre made cabinets are dovetail indeed, on a veneered MDF or particle board panel. Something that no decent cabinetmaker would consider using as a drawer side. MDF coupled with a metal drawer side is a much different animal, with steel ledges under and behind the MDF panel. One tough drawer, impossible to rack out of square when pulling the drawer open.

I can make dovetail drawers but dovetail drawers are notorious for being difficult to size accurately in width, something that is not good for a modern drawer slide. In fact, the old factories kept a half dozen huge sanders that could sand the sides of the drawers to hand fit each drawer.
Dovetail drawers are a waste of time and money!  What does work well is a hardwood box, either popular or soft maple, planned down to 5/8″, with a 1/4″ plywood bottom dadoed into all four sides, with glued and nailed joints.  These need undermount slides which are a little more forgiving than the old KV side mount ball bearing slides that also tend to drop ball bearings over the years and require replacing in five to ten years with constant use.  Or stick with the metal side drawer box system with the 3/4″ thick bottom that has steel wrapped around three sides of the drawer.

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