Liquidambar Styraciflua Chest of Drawers

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Project by vipond33 posted 04-20-2012 04:29 AM 5116 views 17 times favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m rather well into my long term project of making an even dozen or so games in wood and I guess you had to see this coming, a chest of drawers to store them in. This is also part of a further long term project, that of making furniture for my daughter’s eventual foray from the nest. Today and for another ten years or so it will hold mostly playthings; tomorrow and beyond perhaps socks, underwear and T-shirts. It will leave my hands then as will she.

For the form, ever since I can remember I have admired mid century Danish furniture and with this piece have incorporated some of my favourite elements, mixing traditional and modern construction. The legs and drawer handles are key.

The wood is Red Gum (American Sweetgum), an under appreciated rather soft hardwood that was used everywhere in houses some 60 to 100 years ago in Southern Ontario. Doors, baseboard, casing and all sorts of interior trim were fashioned in this warm lovely wood and years later, unfortunately, often painted over and finally going to the curb on endless renovations. Very sad.

I prefer to use veneer on larger pieces as it allows careful matching and harmony of grain and colour, giving you much more creative freedom while limiting you of course at the very same time. Laid up over solid edges, you may shape, protect and profile while giving nothing away if the colours are right. I had just six leaves from two different flitches to work with as well as one long plank of highly figured solid stock. In truth I would not normally be drawn to grain so dramatic, loud even, for it says “Look at me!” and that’s not my style, but this worked out fine.

The substrate is maple veneered particle board panels, allowing wood on wood gluing with a core that is superior to MDF or plywood in every respect IMO. These were vacuum pressed to begin with and then put in the hard press to cure. They’re even & flat, with great dimensional stability, combined with a double lamination of veneer over solids, modern adhesives and a thorough finish. With care, this will last.

The four drawers are qrtrsawn white oak riding on and between maple frames (side-railed) with simple rabbet joints, rounded undercut sides and false fronts. Two drawers have interchangeable and rotatable sliding trays, all have full leather bottoms over Baltic birch plywood.

One new thing I tried is using UHMW low friction tape on all bearing surfaces. Waxed hardwood on hardwood has been the norm for most traditional drawers I have built and you know how they work very well indeed if properly constructed and maintained. This material added a lack of sticking on the first pull, a uniform smoothness on no play fitting, and are easily renewable if worn.

The handles were a bear to make, involving equal amounts procrastination, router table setups and handwork. Probably four or five hours apiece.
The legs were half lapped into the frame then sculpted and discretely reinforced behind, with knock down bolts machine threaded into the bottoms to serve as levelers.
Finally, carcase construction is by doweling with a screwed on back panel and everywhere else with a bunch o tasteful brass screws.

The finish is Minwax Tung Oil (x2) followed by Tried and True with varnish (x6) with Watco liquid satin wax.

35” x 35” x 21” (Chest 26”) About 120 hrs.
Build on LJ’s.



the tree

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

36 comments so far

View kd7lze's profile


9 posts in 2495 days

#1 posted 04-20-2012 04:50 AM

Incredible work. Creations and thought like you have put into this allows my mind to wander in so many directions. Thank you for sharing.


View rance's profile


4266 posts in 3361 days

#2 posted 04-20-2012 04:51 AM

That is one nice piece of furniture(as always with you). The details are exquisite. Very nicely done.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3279 days

#3 posted 04-20-2012 04:58 AM

As I’ve only heard of sweetgum before, I never knew how beautiful it is. Thank U for sharing. I’m adding sweetgum to my list of wood to look for.

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View DocSavage45's profile


8724 posts in 3043 days

#4 posted 04-20-2012 07:10 AM

Damn! Wow! Says it all!

How thick are the veneered pieces?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View peteg's profile


4423 posts in 3024 days

#5 posted 04-20-2012 07:17 AM

beautiful work Gene, (as we expect of course) what an incredible timber to work with, how does it turn ? do you know?
love that shot of the “tree” what a beautie :: ))

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View TomTinkerSum's profile


226 posts in 4036 days

#6 posted 04-20-2012 07:29 AM


Thanks for sharing so many details including procrastination and tweaking those small details, such as the handles. Nice close-up pics on details like handles and leg joints. I think that really adds to a person’s post a lot. Thanks for sharing.


-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic.... :)

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 2609 days

#7 posted 04-20-2012 09:34 AM

Beautiful job….very very nice and the flow of the wood grain is breath-taking.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30058 posts in 2539 days

#8 posted 04-20-2012 10:41 AM

Very beautiful work

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2562 days

#9 posted 04-20-2012 11:48 AM

This piece captures the essence of mid century Danish design spectacularly in a most unique way. Thanks for sharing.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3067 days

#10 posted 04-20-2012 11:49 AM

Very nice work and unusual design.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2894 days

#11 posted 04-20-2012 11:49 AM

Gorgeous! I love the joinery on the feet. The grain matching is very nice. Excellent!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View SPalm's profile


5325 posts in 4083 days

#12 posted 04-20-2012 12:34 PM

Wow Gene. That is real furniture.
Love the design and the workmanship – jut top notch.

Oh to be able to build something like that someday.
Thanks for pressing me to do better.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21731 posts in 3306 days

#13 posted 04-20-2012 12:40 PM

Very beautiful chest- a family heirloom for sure. You do such great work, Gene. But, what does that name(Liquidambar Styraciflua) mean??????? Okay I found it- it the American Sweet gum tree


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Jim Sellers's profile

Jim Sellers

445 posts in 2536 days

#14 posted 04-20-2012 01:22 PM

Wow that’s beautiful. I’ve always wondered how sweetgum worked. never seen anyone who stocks it or anything built with it. My lot is full of them. A huge one (probably 60’) growing too close to the house that will have to come down before to long. Thanks for sharing that.

-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.

View shipwright's profile


8166 posts in 2999 days

#15 posted 04-20-2012 02:30 PM

This is just really nice Gene…..... and I don’t even much like “Danish modern” myself. I can however appreciate the beauty of this piece and the excellent work and thought that went into it.

There’s a difference between the builder saying “Hey look at me” and “Hey look at the bounty of nature’s beauty” as well. I think this is an example of the latter and that’s never inappropriate.

Is Maple veneered particleboard a manufactured product or are you veneering it yourself? I can see the advantages of the wood to wood glue joint but have always thought of particle board as poor because the stuff I’m thinking of swells dramatically if it ever gets wet.

Your work always inspires Gene, Thanks.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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