Chest of Drawers

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Project by mitchota posted 09-11-2013 09:11 PM 1949 views 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Moving along with making some furniture for my bedroom, a dresser was up next. I decided to make a chest of drawers for my fiancee’s Japanese dance clothes. I debated making a Japanese style tansu, but I wanted to use the joinery techniques that I already knew and I didn’t want to have to spring for all the metal hardware that it would have taken to properly make one.

I took a Shaker-styled design to this chest, and I built it out of birch plywood and solid #2 pine from the orange Borg. I didn’t want to make some edge-glued panels on this project and so I went with plywood for the main case parts, the bulk of the top, and the drawer boxes. My original plan was to make this with oak plywood and solid oak, but they didn’t have any oak ply when I went to buy the material, so I had to make an executive decision on the materials. The plus side of that decision is that I must have easily saved a fair bit of money.

Construction wasn’t too much of a challenge except for the drawer fronts, which stemmed from my lack of ability to select proper stock. The drawer fronts and all the trim parts are made of solid #2 pine. I liked the look of having some knots on the surface. I think it adds some nice character. Drawer joinery was done with locking rabbets—I don’t have a dovetail jig and I do not have the hand tool skills (or tools) to properly make hand-cut dovetails.

On this project, I got to work on my finishing skills more. Being that pine and birch ply can be notoriously blotchy when staining, I went the route of treating the wood, coloring with a water-based aniline dye, and then using wipe-on poly for the protective coats. I used glue sizing made from Elmer’s Glue-all diluted with water (1 part glue to 5 parts water) first. The dye was the Pilgrim Maple color of J.E. Moser’s Aniline Dye Stain. The wipe on poly was homemade using Ace Great Finishes semi-gloss polyurethane thinned with mineral spirits in a 50/50 mix. I used water-based Varathane satin poly for the insides of the drawer boxes. I’m hoping that will be durable enough. The final color really turned into a surprise because when I put the dye on, it was a sort of drab brown, but when I put the poly on top of it, it turned into a honey gold that looked great.

I glued up a panel from the drawer fronts I messed up along the way, and so the next thing I’m making for my room is my nightstand. I have to get a couple more pine boards to put that together. I think I’m going to follow the same plan I used for the poplar nightstand I made recently. But before that, I have to make a shop project. As a result of my complaining about the lack of quality of stock, I was in the market for a planer. I was looking at a fairly cheap planer while I saved up for something better. My fiancee had other ideas and got me a DeWalt 735 as a late birthday present. So now I need to make a mobile base for that.

I’ll probably need a little more plywood to put together the mobile cart for my planer, but that’s going to be the next thing I make. Have to clean up the garage a little first, though. My shop always turns into a disaster area during the course of projects…

11 comments so far

View nobuckle's profile


1120 posts in 2909 days

#1 posted 09-11-2013 09:51 PM

Nice work! I love Shaker style furniture.

-- Doug - Make an effort to live by the slogan "We try harder"

View Oldtool's profile


2723 posts in 2339 days

#2 posted 09-11-2013 11:44 PM

Looks authentic Shaker, well done.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View SirFatty's profile


545 posts in 2360 days

#3 posted 09-12-2013 12:54 AM

I like this a lot. Great work!

-- Visit my blog at

View hoss12992's profile


4068 posts in 2041 days

#4 posted 09-12-2013 03:30 AM

Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View robscastle's profile


5314 posts in 2352 days

#5 posted 09-12-2013 06:26 AM


Your post reminds me of a similar project I did many years ago to hold my little boys clothes in.
Many years have past since then and I am now no longer part of the family, however my “little boys” still have the
drawer unit, it now holds Turbo Chargers, electronic fuel management computers and other “boys” stuff in their garage!
Just goes to show simple wooden constructions last for almost forever, I took a close look at it recently and I was amazed it still existed let alone now carry contents never considered in its initial design.

The Dad was pleased!!

You have done well!!

-- Regards Rob

View joseph000's profile


346 posts in 2175 days

#6 posted 09-12-2013 11:58 AM

Beautiful work.Chests of drawers are one of the most common pieces of household furniture and can add style to a bedroom.With so much quality and variety a chest of drawers can offer an amazing level of style and variety to your bedroom furniture.

View MadeinMT's profile


258 posts in 2309 days

#7 posted 09-12-2013 01:28 PM

If you can, post a picture or two of your drawer runners/guides.

-- Ron, Montana

View Randy Sharp's profile

Randy Sharp

363 posts in 3821 days

#8 posted 09-12-2013 01:52 PM

Thanks for sharing your great project. The construction looks solid and well thought out. Your nice variety of photos make this posting very appealing.

I really appreciate you adding the blog to go with your project, sharing the techniques you used. These are the kind of project postings that make Lumberjocks a successful site.

Please keep up the fine work! You may not realize it, but you’re helping a lot of woodworkers gain knowledge and confidence in creating their own projects!

-- Randy, Tupelo, MS ~ A man who honors his wife will have children who honor their father.

View mitchota's profile


48 posts in 2218 days

#9 posted 09-13-2013 05:49 AM

Thanks everyone for the comments. I really appreciate the positive response I’ve been getting with my projects. It makes me want to build more things, and I’m glad that the information I put in my blog is helpful to those who come across it.

Ron – the drawers actually aren’t guided by anything other than the dust frames and the sides of the case. I made plywood dust frames that fit into dadoes that tie the sides together and create the drawer openings. The plywood is edged out with solid pine. When I cut the drawer boxes, I made them about 1/8” smaller than the opening itself. There’s just enough clearance on the sides so that it doesn’t get cocked in the drawer opening and it runs true. Just had to wax up the drawer bottom and dust frames, and they work easily.

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2324 days

#10 posted 09-16-2013 04:49 PM

Great looking furniture! Like the great design and joinery, beautiful wood and awesome finish. Great job!

View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 3047 days

#11 posted 09-16-2013 05:02 PM

nice work.

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