Building a Dr. White's Chest #10: Building Dovetailed Drawers

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Blog entry by DustyMark posted 06-05-2013 12:00 PM 3357 reads 2 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Turning Knobs Part 10 of Building a Dr. White's Chest series Part 11: Sanding and Fitting the Drawers »

Dovetailed Drawers
There are many functional means of building drawers that will stand the test of time. I believe a fine case piece, such as the Dr. White’s Chest, warrants drawers assembled with dovetail joints. Watch this video to see my detailed description of building drawers with half-blind dovetail joints using the Leigh dovetail jig.

This photo shows the drawers at the dry assembly stage. The joints are tight enough to handle the drawers prior to glue up. The end grain of the tails isn’t visible on the finished piece when using half-blind dovetails.

Work Flow
I follow a logical sequence of steps when building a bank of dovetailed drawers.

1. Build the case. (Get the case as square as possible.)
2. Determine exact measurements of each drawer. (Make the final depth about 1/8” shallow to ensure the drawer fronts don’t stick out of the case when the case sides contract during the winter. Make the drawers about 1/16” narrow in height and width so that it slides in the opening of the case side.)
3. Mill the drawer pieces. (Any cups, twists, or out-of-square cuts transmit to the final product.)
4. Drill holes for knobs.
5. Cut the tails.
6. Cut the pins. *NOTE: Leigh has upgraded their jig fingers to allow the pin and the tail pieces to be cut simultaneously. Older jig fingers can be modified by drilling precise holes and buying alignment pins or by buying a kit with factory modified fingers for about $100.
7. Cut drawer bottom grooves.
8. Make drawer guide.
9. Notch drawer face and back to receive drawer guide.
10. Cut drawer bottom. (I use a tight tolerance so that the drawer bottom squares up the drawer during assembly.)
11. Dry assemble each drawer.
12. Glue and clamp drawers.
13. Sand drawers.
14. Apply shellac finish to the inside portions of the drawers. (Oil finishes smell for a long time in a closed drawer filled with clothes.)
15. Apply oil finish to the exterior face of the drawers.

Notice the slightly darker color of the half-width drawers. I planed wood off the face of the full-width drawers. This highlights the darkening process cherry goes through with exposure to sunlight.

What’s Next?
In the next blog entry, we’ll explore some drawer fitting considerations.

-- Mark, Minnesota

2 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5321 posts in 3939 days

#1 posted 06-05-2013 11:29 PM

These blogs have been great Mark. Thanks for doing it.
Someday, someday…..

Really well done,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View DustyMark's profile


346 posts in 2127 days

#2 posted 06-06-2013 12:42 AM

You’re welcome and thanks. I enjoy sharing how to woodwork via the blog format. I focused on videos to document this project and that forced me to learn the basics of my video editing software.

My pace in the shop slowed recently. My daughter graduated from college on the 11th and got married on the 18th. Both of those life events were three states away. A medical procedure restricted me for a week after that. It was good to complete the drawers before being laid up another week starting today. I’ll start sanding and finishing in about a week.

-- Mark, Minnesota

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