Roubo Cabinet #14: Gang of Four Drawers - Sides

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Blog entry by Smitty_Cabinetshop posted 07-19-2011 06:48 PM 3455 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: Drawers Sides, The Big Drawer Part 14 of Roubo Cabinet series Part 15: Hardware »

The Roubo Cabinet has been in work now since March. Weather is incredibly oppressive this month, with temps in Southern Illinois routinely in the mid-90s. And the humidity? As I’m fond of saying, “At least it’s a wet heat…” My shop is not climate controlled so going inside to work lately means sweat to the point of dripping within the first 5 minutes. I wipe down tools a lot, and myself too. Yuck. But this project is still in OPEN status, so turn on the squirrel fan, turn up the radio and let’s get cranking.

This Cabinet consists of five drawers: a Small Pair of drawers at the top; two Wide drawers under the Small Pair; and a single Big Drawer at the right side of the other four. Here’s the original sketch as a reminder:

Lucky Part 13 of this series left off with the completion of sides to the Big Drawer, no back or bottom or glue up. The process I’m using to complete drawer backs and bottoms has been consistent across three of the drawers so far; I’m using half blind dovetails to join all sides to drawer fronts and simple dados in the sides hold the drawer backs in place. The drawer bottoms slide into 1/8” dados and surrounded on all four sides because the bottoms (so far) have been salvaged Masonite / hardboard.

The drawer sides are all made from reclaimed pine built-ins along an entire wall in a house getting renovated in a town nearby. I was fortunate to be able to pull these cabinets out before the owner took a crowbar to the works and make it all dumpster material. Here’s a pic of the built-ins (the Roubo Cabinet drawer sides all come from the sides of the three very-high-up drawers in the center of the picture):

The simple way to set the height of the drawer sides was to set the rip fence of the table saw per the drawer fronts. I cut four sides and two backs for the Wide Drawers, then reset the fence and cut the same numbers for the Small Pair of drawers. The saw is turned off – just setting the fence!

All drawer side and drawer front pieces were marked for work.

Each piece got bottom markings as well as location marks to tell me which pieces went to which opening in the cabinet, then I clamped up matching pairs of sides and marked / cut the dovetails. Because the pine was quite splintery when I worked up the Big Drawer, I went to my modern Stanley Gent’s Dovetail Saw to make the cuts for the Gang of Four.

Once the tails were transferred to the drawer fronts, I made those cuts then chopped out the waste.

With a little bit of paring on the pin boards (my baselines typically need a little bit of work from front to back to get them nice and flat, but the tails are ‘straight off the saw’), I was able to get everything looking pretty good. And note in these pictures that the Wide Pair feature half-tails while the Small Pair get half-pins. Why? Just because I saw an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop where Roy recreated a toolbox with half-tails; he had a great time trying to figure out why the original builder would do it that way and I wanted to put some variation in my build so that someday, someone might try to ‘figure out’ why I did it that way, too… Silly, right?

With the sides-to-fronts joinery complete, time to get groovy (for the bottoms). For the sides I was able to use the #45 with 1/8” cutter:

For the fronts, I used my shaper because of the need for stopped cuts (plow planes don’t do that very well…)

All of the drawer side pieces ran long, meaning a ‘final’ cut to length was needed. A necessary first step was to plane each of them to fit height-wise with a #4 Smoother (recall that the carcase is solid wood, front to back, and the inside surfaces aren’t finished surfaces). I then marked each and used a combination square to transfer the cutline to the back of each board. Did the cuts on the bench hook with a 14” sash saw.

I say ‘final’ in quotes because I expect to do one more cut to set each drawer just so when I get to final finish work.

So at this point I’d typically end the post with a nice pic of the work as it it sits… Well, this ain’t gonna be a typical post. Right now, as I’m typing this, the Cabinet is at a mixed level of completion and I want to clean up my write-up to match up with all the process pics. So there are more updates coming as I wrap this up. Next updates will include ‘how I do it’ details on placing backs to these drawers, as well as a presentation of drawer bottom materials used. Then there’s handle selection and placement, final drawer fitting, smoothing the entire carcase, and applying finish. Whew! Why does it seem that I have so much further to go when we’ve gotten so much done already??? As always, Thanks for Reading!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

8 comments so far

View canadianchips's profile


2616 posts in 3237 days

#1 posted 07-19-2011 08:05 PM

It is HOT and HUMID on this side of St. Claire river as well. I thought there was something wrong with me, pick up my hammer and I am sweating all day ?, My wife just kept saying its the humidity. I grew up in WEST, we had DRY heat.
Well at least you take photo’s as you are building. I get wrapped up in the building and always FORGET the pictures till it is completed.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 4063 days

#2 posted 07-19-2011 09:36 PM

Hey Smitty it as hot if not hotter up in Northern Illinois as well but I’m not complaining I keep reminding myself whats ahead after fall…lol Nice use of reclaim lumber enjoy the tunes and the great weather stay hydrated your friend in woodworking….Wilson aka Blkcherry

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15822 posts in 2858 days

#3 posted 07-19-2011 10:07 PM

@Chips – If it weren’t for it being so easy to take pictures with my phone, I certainly wouldn’t do it. There is something to be said for capturing progress, though. Pretty neat to be able to review the steps of a project.

@Cherry – Decent reclaimed wood is just so much better in quality than what I otherwise could use, it just makes sense. Hardest part is getting enough of the same stuff to do a whole project. The built-ins sure did get me lots of 3/4” and 1/2” pine. The 1/2” stuff is clear, with the others being ‘construction grade’ from 40+ years ago (better than construction grade by today’s standards…)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2894 days

#4 posted 07-20-2011 03:33 AM

I liked seeing some of the tarnished tools. I love it when they get some miles on them, that’s when you know they are gems.

The half tail was a fun choice and you will mess with someones mind in the future. Keep up the good work and I hope to see a tour a few months from now on how the drawers fill up.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View lysdexic's profile (online now)


5268 posts in 2862 days

#5 posted 07-20-2011 03:43 AM

Thanks for taking the time to share this.

Do the corrugated sole on your plane bother you? I have read some here on lumberjocks poo-poo corrugated bottoms because they collect shavings and saw dust. Just don’t know if a really should be avoiding those on my ebay searches.

Your use of reclaimed wood is honorable.

Your weather is the same as I have here in the Carolinas—since May.


-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2894 days

#6 posted 07-20-2011 03:55 AM

I mix and match in my shop. I have never had a problem with the corrugation clogging. The claims that they reduce friction are bogus though.

Here is the benefit, they are easier to lap if they go out of true, and they are resistant to getting scratches in them from particulate, (a consideration if you work with salvage wood at all).

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15822 posts in 2858 days

#7 posted 07-20-2011 04:00 AM

@RG – The tools, as we both know, are over half the fun when making stuff like this. No feeling quite matches running these antiques through their paces. As for the tarnish, I’m simply too lazy and unskilled to remove it, so I decided long ago to love them as they are. I’m so looking forward to stocking this bad boy; think of this cabinet and the bench as a soon-to-be 300lb tool chest.

@Scott – RE: Corrugated soles and planes. I read once they were more sought after by collectors because there weren’t as many made. I’m not a collector, so that isn’t why I have them (I recall that there’s a 5C, 7C and 8C in the plane till at present). I have them because they were available in the right price range and of the Types I prefer (T13 or T14 SW). What I can say about the corrugations first-hand is they kind of make it more difficult to sight an emerging blade when fettling the planes in the upside-down position. More shadow lines, if that makes sense. But, it’s a really non-issue to me because, once set, the planes are fine / not noticed shavings and/or saw dust. And come to think of it, how would sawdust get under a handplane in use? :-) Bottom line, I wouldn’t avoid one on ebay for the perceived shortcomings you’ve run across because I haven’t experienced either of them.

OH, and as for what RG pointed out, I second the notion that the friction benefit claim is pretty much bogus. Occassionally applying wax to the bottom of an iron bench plane does wonders, though.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15822 posts in 2858 days

#8 posted 07-20-2011 05:11 AM

@3 – Thanks for reading and for the comments. Matching up those boards to do the cuts is something I’m always happy I ‘remember’ to do (it’s not habit just yet). Sure is a nice touch on matching drawer sides, and I agree it would have been a time saver on the top and bottom boards you were working. I hate measuring, too, and matching them would have killed half of that perhaps. Next time, right? :-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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