Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ball-Bearing Drawer Slides

5:53 AM Comments 3

In the early years of my business, we focused mainly on custom furniture, so I didn’t know much about the world of drawer slides. We used the Accuride 3832 ball bearing slide on higher-end projects, and the 21″ Blum white epoxy slides on budget projects. After a few years, we began focusing more on custom cabinetry and entertainment centers and were using slides a lot more often. As a result, I took the time to educate myself about what was available, and that was when we began offering undermount slides along with the ball-bearing and epoxy slides. It wasn’t long after that I made the decision to stop offering epoxy slides altogether. They were almost half the price of a good-quality budget ball-bearing slide, had no adjustability, and to me, just felt cheap. So, I made ball-bearing slides our intro slide.

Early on, the only brand I knew about was Accuride, which is pretty much the cadillac of BB slides. They functioned well, but were on the upper end of the price scale, and as BB slides became a commodity item in my shop, price played a much more important role in my decision making process. As time progressed, I was introduced to different slide brands and made the rounds through several of them before finally settling on one that fulfilled both the pricing and functionality requirements.

The first slide we switched to was Knape & Voght BB slide, sold by one of my local suppliers. It was a good slide and we were happy with its performance and price point. KV has three different lines of BB slides, a US manufactured premium slide (8400), an identical premium slide (PBB) made overseas, and a budget slide (Tru-Trac), also made overseas. We used entry level Tru-Trac and were not impressed with the slide action, so we switched up to the PBB, and all was good.

At some point down the road, another hardware supplier of mine began offering a new brand of slides and I gave them a shot. I don’t even know what brand they were, but their Pro100 line was similar to the PBB, and their Pro 80 was similar to the Tru-Trac. We switched to the Pro100 slides for a while, I think because the price point was a bit lower and the slide action seemed a bit better.

Finally, we arrive at the brand we are currently using, which is the King MML ball-bearing slide, sold by my lumber supplier, Rugby Architectural Supply. We tested these slides out about a year ago when my rep brought us a sample, and were immediately impressed. The price point is pretty much the same as the Pro100 slides, but the slides more robust and more rigid than the PBB’s or the Pro 100’s, and the slide action is smooth, quiet, and pretty much flawless.

Ball-Bearing Slide Options

The only ball-bearing slides we offer are the plain-jane slides, pull-to-open and push-to-close. In the past I offered the soft-close ball-bearing slides, in order to offer a budget soft-close drawer slide, but was never able to find a slide that worked flawlessly, without several rounds of tweaking and cajoling. I have used the KV 8450FM, the Pro 200, and the G-Slide over the years. The G-Slide was the best of the trio. The main issue is that these slides require an almost perfect 17/32″ gap on each side of the drawer box. If that gap is a bit to large, then the soft-close mechanism will not engage when the drawer is opened. If the gap is to small, then drawer box will be to tight for the pistons to work effectively during the closing stage. I have also used the ball-bearing slides with the spring-close and push-to-open feature. These were plagued with the same issues mentioned above, so I left them by the wayside.

In the end, simple is better. Ball-bearing slides are a no-nonsense drawer slide, offered in almost limitless lengths and weight capacities. If the client wants a soft-close or a push-to-open function, or a cleaner appearance, we will use a concealed undermount slide, which we will look at next time.