Cutting and fitting dovetail joinery for drawer sides and backs. All except the lowest drawer (#6 in the Buhl system). I messed that up in so many ways. Mixed up front and back. Did not allow proper spacing for bottom groove. Which itself was cut wrong. Matched my notes, but not my intent. Had to repair those, which will not show. Gonna finish the upper five drawers, then determine if I can salvage #6, or go back to milling fresh stock.
Working with Sugar Pine was interesting. Easy to cut, easy to scratch and dent. Pleasant smell when working. A very soft wood, so it was easy to work with chisels (and saws), but surprisingly, the cut quality was improved with the chisels freshened up [Shapton stones]. Lesson learned.
Next up will be milling the drawer fronts and cutting half-blind dovetails. Challenges aplenty as the drawer openings are not proper rectangles. Stay tuned for that thrilling adventure.
With the case mostly completed, it is time to begin drawer construction. I milled the Sugar Pine to a thin 9/16 inch thick for sides and backs. This was done incrementally over a few days in hopes that any wood stability issues would be solvable without too much pain.The old-growth Mahogany fronts will be milled to about 7/8 inch thick. The material was too wide for my 6-inch jointer so I used my LN #7 on one surface to create a stable platform for using the power planer to flatten the opposite side and then the other. This lovely figured material proved too gnarly and tear out prone for that tool, so I used the drum sander instead. Five of the six pieces seemed to go fine, but one has nasty twist. Not sure if my initial work was inadequate or movement since then created the issue. At any rate, I decided to halt that process well-shy of my target thickness and will evaluate options tomorrow.
Sides and backs were cut to final dimensions and a groove routed in the sides at the router table. Grooves are 1/4 inch wide and 1/4 inch deep. Next up, mark and cut tails (for blind dovetailed fronts and full for backs).
The case is glued up and ready for a few detailing tasks as the mood strikes. Which means I can now take “final” drawer measurements with confidence.
I am using a new-to-me material for drawer sides and backs, Sugar Pine. I cut to rough size and took it down to about 11/16 inch thick on the power planer. All seems stable, but I’ll leave it for a few days then take it down to about 1/2 inch final thickness (for sides and backs). Eighteen pieces.
I had ordered two boards for the drawer fronts and a thicker board for the show top from Rich Petty of Greener Lumber, LLC. Somehow I miscalculated material required. So last week I ordered one more 9 inch x 6 foot 4×4 board. It is not from the same log, but hopefully the color will match. Figure looks like a reasonable fit. The additional board arrived today, so I marked material for the fronts, rough cut about 1/4 inch over on height and 2-3 inches longer than final. These boards will require a fair amount of work to achieve flat and square. Will let them sit for several days before going further.
I have begun the gradual process of gluing up the dresser case. Did side assemblies yesterday and several more stages today. I am doing this in small increments where possible to keep things relatively sane. First (today) the front web frame elements and apron (lower) were glued and clamped to case side assemblies.
After a bit of time to set up, the web frame sides (runners) tenons were glued into front element mortises. Also did the top row vertical divider at this time. Was able to glue and clamp one piece at a time. Nice.
Then came the rear web frame pieces. Their sliding dovetails were glued into sockets at rear of case. Side runner tenons fit into mortises, but are not glued and are positioned with a gap for wood movement. Initially, I pushed the rear pieces into the sockets flush with the rabbets cut in side assemblies. Opppps! Not appropriate. Have to go in further to fit into the upcoming grooves in the middle (rear) support. If my panic decision (glue is setting up) is appropriate, using the middle support groove gave me proper inset. See image below.
Six ship-lapped slats of vertical grain cedar make up the dresser’s back (along with a fixed center support). These slats will be held in place with brass-plated screws placed to allow for lateral wood movement.
Ship laps were milled at the router table to fit the dry assembled dresser. Counter sunk pilot holes were drilled into the slats. I will wait to drill pilot holes in horizontal elements until after glue up in case there is some shifting or adjustments required.
I am creating centered drawer guides for this project. The objective is to lessen racking potential with the (mostly) wide drawers, as well use the opportunity to try a new approach.
There are two types of one-inch wide guides: for two full-shelves (fixed horizontal shelf and case bottom) and for three web frames. The upper web frame will support two narrower upper drawers. Guides for fixed shelves will be 1/4 inch proud set in 1/8 dadoes. These guides will be glued into the front portion of the dado and allowed to float beyond that allowing for wood movement.
The web frame guides (4 of these) are fixed into the front frame member and allowed to float at the rear.
Material was milled for the drawer web frames. Mahogany for the front frame rails. They have tenons into mortises on side assemblies. Rear rails and side runners are poplar. They use sliding dovetails into sockets in the side assemblies. The side pieces have tenons to fit into front and rear rails. They will be glued to front pieces and left to float in rear rails. Side runners also have stopped “tongues” that ride in side dadoes for a bit of support. No glue on these.
The top web frame also has a middle runner that is used for the two side-by-side top drawers. This uses the same mortise and tenon joinery, but without the tongues.
Mortises were cut at the router table and the tenons at the table saw using a dado stack. These were intentionally left slightly oversized in thickness, then were fine tuned using a shoulder plane for a snug fit.
Once the joinery was completed the frame components were placed into the side assemblies to verify fit. In the images you can see a small gap intentionally left at the rear mortise and tenon for wood movement.
The top row vertical divider will be cut after a dry assembly is made to verify location and dimensions. That divider will use a sliding dovetail.
Jumping ahead with this post. Primary case components have been created so it is time to see how things fit together. Going through this process made it very clear that I will have multiple opportunities to mess up when using glue. I am marking the pieces as clearly as I can and will continually remind myself to look at those marks.
I have not cut the Back Vertical Support (middle) and Vertical Divider (top row of drawers) yet. I wanted to take measurements from the case rather than count on my cut list (as if I had one). Then I will cut to size and create the joinery. Mortise and tenons for Back Support and short sliding dovetails for the Vertical Divider.
I’ve posted some images of the case coming together. I only used clamps for specific places required to take the measurements mentioned above. Once Back Support is in place I will finalize my strategy for the back panels. I feel more confident working from this trial assembly than sketches or plans.
I still have not decided on shaping for front apron and bottom of sides. Had thought of a subtle curve running full length. Also have to decide on any leg treatments.
Side assemblies are dry assembled to create mortises for drawer web frames. Front stiles will have mortise and tenons. I had planned to use exposed sliding dovetails, but along the way I decided to have a small reveal between the legs and set back for frames and drawer fronts. So mortise and tenons it will be. Back stiles will use sliding dovetails which will be hidden by the back element. Sides drawer runners (rails) will M&T into front (glued) and to rear stiles (no glue to allow case to expand/contract). These have stopped shallow dadoes (1/4 inch) into the side assemblies.
The upper web frame also has a center runner to provide support for the two side by side narrow drawers. This will be similarly use mortise and tenon into front and back stiles.
I created a taller auxiliary fence for the router table because of the tall panels that will run vertically past the dovetail bit. Making it out of one piece also helps to keep the panels flush during the routing operation. Feather boards are also used before and after the bit.
These cuts were done in small increments until I had a sufficiently tight fit. The micro-fence adjustment feature of the Woodpecker’s router table was much appreciated this task.
Stop cuts (of the sliding dovetails) were made with back saw and chisel.
With the sliding dovetails ready we did a dry assembly of the sides, case top, bottom and horizontal divider. It is beginning to look like a case.
A driveway designer and woodworker sharing thoughts, experiences and impressions of the journey.