this is how we build simple drawer fronts with rounded corners and routed handles

We love to combine drawer fronts made out of natural oak wood with MDF furniture (and most of all when it is painted white). The combination of white paint and wood changes a lot the way a piece of furniture looks, regardless of the style.

Now, I will show you the steps we follow to build oak drawer fronts with rounded corners and routed finger pulls. We did these ones for a set of white mid-century nightstands.

The process is part of a video on our YouTube channel:

How to make drawer fronts with rounded corners and routed finger pulls

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Preparing the wood for the drawer fronts

1. We first had to calculate the size of the drawer fronts. The nightstands were 50 cm wide by 37 cm high (on the inside, since they were going to have inset drawers). So we calculated the length and the width of the fronts by keeping a 1 mm margin from each sidewall of the nightstands and 1 mm between the two fronts. That means 49. 8 cm in length and 18.35 cm in width. We decided that the thickness of the drawer fronts should be 2 cm.

For this project, we used 2.5 cm thick oak boards, wide enough, without any cracks and with nice grain pattern. We wanted to make the fronts out of one piece, not out of glued panels.

the 2,5 cm oak wood board for making drawer fronts with routed drawer pulls and rounded corners
2,5 cm oak wood boards

2. We cut four smaller pieces, of a length equal to the length of the fronts plus a few centimeters margin. We checked each end of the 4 boards to make sure there were no less visible cracks.

we cut small pieces of oak wood to make 4 drawer fronts with routed finger pulls for a set of white mid century nightstands
Cutting small pieces of oak to build the drawer fronts

3. I planed the four planks on one face and one edge taking care to get a 90 degrees angle between them. Then I got them 2cm thick with the thicknesser machine.

we planed and squared the oak wood boards before getting them to the final thickness needed for the drawer fronts
Planing and squaring the oak boards

4. We set the distance between the band saw blade and the fence to cut the boards to the needed width for our project. Then we cut them to length.

we cut the boards to the right width to build the simple drawer fronts
Cutting the boards to the needed width

5. We arranged the boards – two by two – in front of the nightstands. We made several combinations of the boards (taking into account the grain, the patterns and the colors), until we get the best layout.

we combined the oak boards taking into account the wood grain pattern so we get the most beautiful drawer fronts
Combining the oak boards

The rounded corners and the routed finger pulls

1. After we decided what combinations to make and what the positions of the fronts were, we drew the circles on each corner we needed to round (two for each front).

The fastest way to round the corners was to use the belt sander with 80 grit sandpaper. Because it was easier to handle the front than the sander, we secured the sander to the workbench. We secured a piece of plywood in front of the sander to raise the surface of the workbench on which we will handle the front. In this way, the board will be positioned perpendicular to the middle of the sandpaper and the sanding will be done on the entire height of the edge.

we round the corners of the wooden drawer fronts with the band sander secured on the workbench
Rounding the corners of the fronts

We rotated the boards continuously, so that the rounded corners came out evenly, with a smooth and natural curve. At the same time, we had to be very careful not to over round them.

the two rounded corners of the oak wood drawer fronts match the rounded inner corners of the white floating nightstands
The oak wood drawer fronts with rounded corners

2. For the routed finger pulls, we first set their length. Then, we built a jig to help us route the handles equally. We used an MDF board longer than the length of the pulls. On its ends, we screwed two small strips of MDF to help us not to exceed the needed length of the handles.

we used a simple routing jig in order to route quickly the pulls of the white floating nightstands
The simple routing jig

This is the finger pull router bit we used for these drawer fronts:

the finger pull router bit we used for routing the pulls of the wood and MDF drawer fronts or furniture doors
The finger pull router bit

Sanding the wooden drawer fronts

1. We started the finishing by sanding the faces of the fronts with the belt sander, using 80 grit sandpaper. When all the router traces were gone, we sanded again with 150 grit sandpaper to get a finer surface. Before actually starting the sanding, we secured a piece of plywood to the work table. This way we didn’t have to make the effort to keep the drawer front in its position while sanding: it rested on the plywood piece by itself.

We did the same thing when sanding the edges of the fronts.

we sanded the faces of the wooden drawer fronts with the belt sander
Sanding the faces of the fronts

In the end, we made a few passes manually with a piece of 120 grit sandpaper. At the same time, we sanded the corners of the edges, so that they were no longer sharp.

we sanded by hand the edges of the fronts, so they will become smoother
Manual sanding

2. We continued with sanding the routed handles. First, we sanded the surface with a narrow belt sander, until we removed all the routing traces. Our sander brand is not the best (actually it’s close to no name), but, for certain jobs, it is the best tool.

we sanded the routed finger pulls with a thin belt sand
Sanding the routed handles

After straightening these surfaces, we continued sanding the routed handles manually, with 120 grit sandpaper. It is a tiring and long process. The channel made after routing the handles is hard to reach with power tools. So, manual sanding is the only alternative left.

we sanded by hand the routed finger pulls
Manual sanding of the routed finger pulls

We tried to sand the ends of the channels with a dremel tool, but it was quite complicated because we didn’t have tapered sanding drums to fit. In the end, we sanded by hand all the edges of the handles for a better look.

we used a dremel to sand the ends of the routed handles
Sanding the ends of the routed handles

After sanding, we filled the knots, the small cracks and other imperfections with two-part putty. We use two-part putty because the drying time is very short compared to the usual wood putty. After the putty dried (it depends a lot on the amount of hardener), we sanded the surfaces again to remove the excess and to smooth them.

we used two components filler to fill the knots and other imperfections of the oak wood
The two parts filler

Finishing the fronts with water-based primer and varnish

The last step was finishing with primer and varnish. Depending on the project, we choose polyurethane-based or water-based primers and varnishes. Here we used the second option. We applied a coat of primer. After the primer dried, we sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper. We wiped the dust with a dry cloth and we applied a layer of varnish.

We usually apply the primer first on the back and on the edges. After it dries, we apply another layer on the face and on the edges (again). This way, the edges (especially on the end grain, where the surface is more like a sponge) will always have two layers of primer. We do in the same way with the varnish, just that there is no need for sanding.

we used water based primer and varnish for the finish of the oak wood fronts
Applying the water based primer and varnish

Here are the fronts installed on the drawers of our White floating nightstands with oak drawer fronts

this is how we build simple drawer fronts with rounded corners and routed handles
The simple and modern oak drawer fronts

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