Box joint drawer boxes vs dovetail drawer boxes

Both dovetail drawer boxes and box joint drawer boxes are high-quality options. Learn more about how they compare to each other.

An image of scales on a grey table with text reading box joint drawer boxes and dovetail drawer boxes on the left side.

When it comes to kitchen renovations and projects, there are a lot of details for you to consider. Which appliances do you want? What will your floors look like? What cabinet doors are you going with? Something you may have also just realized you need to consider however, is slightly less visible – your drawer boxes!

There are many types of drawer boxes available; in this article, we will compare box joint drawer boxes to dovetail drawer boxes.

At Cutting Edge, we make and sell both drawer box options. Thus, we understand where one is better than another.

In this article, you will learn how box joint drawers compare to dovetail drawers in four categories:

  1. Appearance
  2. Durability
  3. Customizations
  4. Price

What is the difference between box joint and dovetail drawer boxes?

Both box joint and dovetail drawers serve one purpose: to provide an easily accessible storage area behind a drawer front.

So what’s the difference? The joinery.

Box joint drawer boxes have box joints

Box joint drawer boxes have box-shaped interlocking joints. The interlocking pieces can be rectangular or square, and you can see the joint from both the front and sides of the drawer box.

Dovetail drawer boxes have dovetail joints

Shocking, right? Carpenters call them dovetail joints because they look somewhat like a dove’s tail. Typically, you can only see a dovetail joint from the side of the drawer box.

Category 1: Appearance

So which drawer box looks cooler? It’s a matter of opinion, but here’s the facts:

Box joint drawer boxes

The box joint is more modern and simple. Because it’s visible from both the front and sides, they are more eye-catching than dovetail drawers, particularly in open cabinet designs.

You can use box joint drawer boxes in open cabinets, like the one shown in this picture.
Image provided by Chris Murray Custom Cabinets, customer

Dovetail drawer boxes

Dovetail joints have a more detailed and traditional appearance than box joints. The interlocking angled joints make the drawer box appear to require more craftsmanship. However, dovetail drawers are more common than box joint drawers, which makes them less unique.

In addition, because you can’t see most dovetail joints from the front of the drawer box, they aren’t as immediately attention-drawing as box joints.

Two natural birch dovetail drawer boxes in a light grey cabinet.

Category 2: Durability

The durability of box joint and dovetail drawer boxes is highly contested between people within the woodworking industry. Some factions consider box joint drawer boxes more durable, while others support dovetail drawers to their dying breath.

At Cutting Edge, we believe dovetail drawer boxes to be the more durable option; here’s why.

Box joint drawer boxes

Typically, box joint drawer boxes have more interlocking pieces per joint, which means the joint has more gluing surface. As long as you use strong-adhering glue, box joint drawer boxes are very durable.

However, the box joints are simply rectangular pieces. Before you glue the joint together, you can easily slide the pieces apart. Thus, without glue, box joints are much weaker than dovetail joints. And, even with glue reinforcing the joint, box joints still don’t resist horizontal forces (like opening and closing a drawer) as well as dovetail joints. They rely on the glue to withstand those forces.

Dovetail drawer boxes

Here’s our champion!

Dovetail drawers have an angled, interlocking joint – the dovetail joint. Dovetail joints have fewer interlocking pieces per joint, which means the joint has less gluing surface than a box joint.

However, due to the construction of dovetail drawer boxes, the gluing surface is a moot point. 

Done right, you can’t even put the angled interlocking pieces together without force. Although you can line up and start putting the joints together, they require a few forceful hits to lock fully into place.

And they are equally difficult to take apart. Indeed, the only way you can pull an unglued dovetail drawer box apart is by pulling on the sides first. If you try yanking a dovetail drawer box apart front to back, you will break the interlocking pieces (and that requires significant force, much more than average use).

That’s before you even add any glue to the dovetail joint. Quality dovetail drawer boxes can easily last the lifetime of a kitchen, between 10 and 25 years. 

Category 3: Customizations

This one’s pretty simple. What you can do to a solid wood box joint drawer, you can also do to a solid wood dovetail drawer.

Customizations include adjusting the size and shape of the interlocking pieces, combining wood types, adding hand scoops, and more!

A box joint drawer box with Walnut sides and a Maple front and back.

Category 4: Price

While we can’t speak for other drawer box manufacturers, Cutting Edge charges the same price for box joint and dovetail drawers. Neither option is trickier to produce than the other if you have the right machinery.

So, as long as you make the same choices of wood type, base thickness, finish type and other details, your price is the same for both options.

Who are box joint drawer boxes right for?

Box joint drawer boxes are an excellent choice for people wanting a unique kitchen. They aren’t as common as dovetail drawers, making them more eye-catching. However, ensure you have the budget to allow for the initial purchase and understand that you may need to replace box joint drawer boxes sooner than other drawer box options.

Who are dovetail drawer boxes right for?

Dovetail drawer boxes are ideal if you want an extremely durable or a more traditional drawer box option.

Dovetail drawers might be the best option if you use your kitchen frequently and need the drawer boxes to last a long time.

Learn more about box joint and dovetail drawer boxes

When it comes to kitchen projects, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of options, especially if it’s your first time. How can you make sure you choose the right product each time?

The key is to learn about and understand each product. 

So, now that you understand the basics of box joint and dovetail drawers, it’s time for you to dive deeper with our help. Next, learn more about box joint drawer boxes or dig into dovetail drawer boxes!

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