W&WP November 2001

One Slide Does Not Fit All

Drawer slide manufacturers continually reinvent their product line to adapt to diverse consumer needs.

By Joseph Maffia

Consumers want drawer slides to be stable, sturdy, easy to install and most importantly out of sight.

Cabinet manufacturers must sort through all of the options available and find the right product to fit each of its customer's needs.

"The one-size-fits-all mentality of a 100-pound side mount ball bearing slide for every application no longer meets the high-craftsman performance standards of our customer base," says Calvin Luce, director of distribution and sales at Accuride Inc.

In today's cabinet component market there are more drawer slide options than ever for cabinet manufacturers to sift through. With cabinet component manufacturers continually reinventing and modifying their products, woodworkers must be aware of what is available to them.

Quick Installation
The most frequent demand on drawer slide manufacturers is a fast and easy method of installation. According to Michael Gambill, director of marketing of Hettich America, suppliers have attempted to standardize the installation assembly hole pattern to accommodate the 32 system.

"The furniture hardware industry continually works to make the product offering GÇÿuser-friendly,'" Gambill says. "Standardization of installation hole patterns certainly assists this goal."

Marte Yerkins, marketing manager of Julius Blum Inc., says, "We recently rolled out a program of plug-in rear mounting sockets for our concealed drawer runners so that makers of face frame cabinets can speed their runner installation." The sockets are interchangeable with the runner series as well, allowing the cabinetmaker to only develop one boring pattern for his cabinets, Yerkins says.

Larry Greenwood, product manager of Hafele America Co., says he believes that quick installation should also be available at an affordable price. "By offering a system of brackets that allows the customer to pre bore the rear mounting holes, slides may now be installed in a price operation with a minimum of effort and time."

Mepla-Alfit product manager Matthias Bulla says, "We offer special rear sockets for face frame applications, which can be modified to the customers real hole pattern. The customer simply plugs the sockets into the back."

In an effort to make installation easier, Grass America uses rear sockets to integrate slides into existing plug-in technologies. By pre-drilling locations in the cabinet back before assembly of the cabinet, the slides come out of the box from Grass with pre-assembled rear brackets.

"They can then be simply plugged into the back, and with one screw are attached to the front frame," says Tom Reinbold, director of marketing at Grass America. "The ease of installation of both the bottom mount and undermount onto conventionally constructed drawers has really taken the application issues to customer preference."

Aesthetically Pleasing
Drawer slide manufacturers created concealed undermount slides in an effort to keep the same level of functional quality, while also not detracting from the overall look of the drawer itself. Since their introduction to the cabinet component market, concealed slides have become more and more popular.

According to Bulla, several large original equipment manufacturers are switching to them. "Concealed runners are a substantial upgrade to the cabinet, and hardware manufacturers are able to supply them at a very competitive price. We believe that they are the standard of the near future," he says.

"Concealed undermount runner systems offer a nonintrusive, elegant option over the ball bearing slide," Gambill says. "No slide is visible to detract from the beauty of the furniture or cabinets."

According to Yerkins, Julius Blum's line of concealed runners is interchangeable, so they can upgrade or downgrade the function and pricepoint of the cabinet by runner selection. "Cabinetmakers like the fact that the workmanship of their drawers is unobstructed since the runner is concealed and mounts underneath."

Unfortunately there are still some drawbacks to concealed slides. According to Luce, undermount slides do not offer as high of a load rating as side-mounted ball bearing slides and can experience a GÇÿdiving board' flex in the fully extended position," Luce says. Gambill adds that the slides cannot support drawers that have a high vertical size.

Ability to Adapt
With the several different styles and sizes of cabinets that are available on the market, drawer slide manufacturers must also keep their products flexible so that they can be easily adapted to several different types of drawer and cabinet construction, including both face-frame and frameless cabinets.

"We offer a wide range of sizes in both the cabinet members as well as the drawer members to fit different construction," Reinbold says. "We also offer a variety of rear mounting brackets for application into different cabinet back construction."

According to Yerkins, Blum's standard full extension slide and its Metabox and Tandembox drawer box lines can be used in frameless cabinets and face-frame cabinets, but only if the sides are blocked out. Blum also offers several other lines that can be used in either cabinet style with the use of rear mounting sockets.

According to Greenwood, Hettich offers attachments that allow its drawer slides to be used in either frameless or face-frame cabinets on every slide design offering.

Product Development
Research and development has become a staple in the drawer slide market. Cabinet component manufacturers continually alter their product lines in an effort to provide solutions to consumer problems.

"To insure that we understand the needs of this market, we have a dedicated focus team who have more than 25 years of hands-on, in-shop woodworking experience," Luce says. "This team actively seeks out ideas and trends from our distributors and customers."

One problem that cabinet component manufacturers found was that consumers have an increasing demand for mobile drawer and work surfaces. They desire the ability to quickly reconfigure workspaces or hide home office work space.

"We see a growing trend of mounting drawers in applications that are mobile, such as mobile pedestals and mobile desks," Luce says. Accuride has developed a new slide that provides a stable work surface for writing or typing pull out applications.

Kna

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