Quartersawn drawer faces dovetailed to flat sawn

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Forum topic by ppg677 posted 04-07-2016 04:36 PM 1051 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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169 posts in 820 days

04-07-2016 04:36 PM

Is quartersawn (oak) drawer faces dovetailed to standard sawn Maple drawer sides going to cause a problem?

I’m concerned that the maple will want to move in a direction that the quartersawn oak is not moving.

14 replies so far

View splintergroup's profile


1979 posts in 1186 days

#1 posted 04-08-2016 02:57 PM

Assuming the grain from the two woods are running the same direction, both species (assuming white oak?) expand/contract about the same amount with moisture content changes.

View SawyerRob's profile


33 posts in 802 days

#2 posted 04-08-2016 03:12 PM

How wide are we talking about, they would have to be extremely wide for quarter sawn to flat sawn to be a problem! I’m talking waaaaay wide! lol

AND I’m also assuming both species are starting out at, or close to the same RH…


View ppg677's profile


169 posts in 820 days

#3 posted 04-08-2016 04:46 PM

We’re talking 7 inches and since Flat-Sawn (F/S) drawer sides will dove-tail into Quarter-Sawn (Q/S) drawer fronts, the grain is not in the same direction.

So, the Maple (F/S) has a dimensional change coefficient of 0.00353. The Q/S Red Oak has a coefficient of 0.00158.

In my annual change in moisture is 3 percentage points (??), then the movement over 7 inches is:

F/S Maple, 7” > 0.00353 * 3 * 7 > 0.074 or just over a 1/16”

Q/S Oak, 7” > 0.00158 * 3 * 7 > 0.033 or just over 1/32”

So the drawer sides will expand 1/32” more than the dove-tailed drawer front. And yes, that’s what I’m asking is whether I should switch to F/S Oak fronts instead of Q/S Oak fronts….

View MNgary's profile


298 posts in 2381 days

#4 posted 04-08-2016 05:20 PM

However, if you cut and assemble when the humidity is between the winter low and summer high (Spring or Fall), expansion movement will be half the total you calculated and contraction will also be half of your calculations. I.e., qs oak will move plus/minus only 1/64 vs the maple’s 1/32.

Recognizing movment goes across the entire board, this means in summer top of the sides will be grow 1/64 inch more than top of the drawer fronts and same with bottom of the drawers. Spring and fall the heights will again as the were iriginally. Come winter, same measurement but as shrinkage instead of expansion.

While this addresses total drawer height, you will likely have dovetails that are approximately an inch so movement within each of the doves is about 1/7 of the 1/64 plus/minus difference in movement between the two woods. Shouldn’t stress the joints to failure.

Note, if you went to plywood sides, difference in movement would be the same, just that the drawer fronts would move more than the sides rather than the maple sides moving more than the qs.

I can live with this amount of movement and would design my fitting to allow for it.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5620 posts in 2777 days

#5 posted 04-08-2016 05:28 PM

It will be fine. If I had an extremely deep drawer it would give me pause, but anything less than 12-14” will be fine.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View splintergroup's profile


1979 posts in 1186 days

#6 posted 04-08-2016 09:12 PM

What MNgary says! 8^)

I was referring to the sides and front sharing the same grain direction (horizontal), not QS versus flat, sorry for the confusion.

The big issue with board expansion is if the board is confined or trapped, like a flat panel trapped in a mitered frame.
The panel will shrink/expand, but the frame members will not stretch. Consider a tenon (table apron into a leg).
The tenon needs to be fastened (glued/pinned) and the leg will not stretch. Unless the mortice is wide enough and the fastener allows the word to move laterally, failure may occur with an apron width exceeding 5 or more inches (based upon experience). One solution in this case is to only glue the first few inches of the tenon.

Your drawers with have both the front and sides moving at nearly the same rate, they are not confined so until the difference exceeds the point at which the oak will split, you will have no issues.

Where you do need to be concerned (maybe) is the drawer openings. A 1/32 reveal (1/32 on top, 1/32 on bottom) around the edge of a drawer is common and your calculation says you may reach 1/2 this value. Still no problem. The sides expand a tad more, but they may be made slightly shorter without affecting the drawer appearance. I wouldn’t worry about this either.

View ppg677's profile


169 posts in 820 days

#7 posted 04-10-2016 11:21 PM

Thanks. I don’t quite follow the “dovetail only being 1-inch long and thus is only 1/7 of 1/64”” reasoning. What if I had 1” dovetails going across 70” ? I can’t just multiply 1/70 times the movement over 70 inches.

It comes down to whether the joints can handle 1/64” movement or not. I have no idea. Seems like they should.

View Loren's profile


10253 posts in 3612 days

#8 posted 04-11-2016 01:19 AM

Measure out from the center of the width and that’s
the general area of expansion you’ll need to consider.

Assuming the moisture content in the woods is the
same, there’s some flexibility with the danger
being the quartered wood might split. Split
dovetail drawers are easy enough to observe in
antiques…. they generally hold together.

View ppg677's profile


169 posts in 820 days

#9 posted 04-11-2016 10:28 PM

Another interesting point to potentially consider is “mini-atmosphere” (??). Drawer sides are normally enclosed and the end-grain of the dovetail joints are embedded in wood and sealed by glue. Whereas end-grain of the drawer fronts are exposed. I’ve got to believe this would make an impact.

Anyhow, my best guess is that the joints will hold up and am inclined to try the mixed joint of flat/quarter sawn.

View SawyerRob's profile


33 posts in 802 days

#10 posted 04-11-2016 10:53 PM

All the years I ran my furniture/cabinet shop, I mixed/matched dove tails with all kinds of different woods, I NEVER had even one problem, not even one!

Some things just don’t need to be over thought…


View ppg677's profile


169 posts in 820 days

#11 posted 04-12-2016 01:17 AM

My local woodworking instructor thinks it’s a bad idea :-/. I’ve already done two of my 6 drawers. Then again my dovetails are not perfect so maybe my slop will save me…

View rwe2156's profile


2881 posts in 1445 days

#12 posted 04-12-2016 12:05 PM

What Pinto and SR said^^.

You won’t have a problem.

Wood movement is definitely a consideration, but IMO it is often overthought.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View geekwoodworker's profile


373 posts in 1424 days

#13 posted 04-12-2016 01:07 PM

I would try to sort the maple so I get as much as possible to QS or rift sawn from them. Try to eliminate the flat sawn as much as possible. Then no worries.

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3095 days

#14 posted 04-12-2016 01:38 PM

You’re way overthinking this.
Just build the drawers, they’ll be fine.

I milled up about 4 different species of wood 5” wide to make sample dovetails and box joints for the CNC dovetail software I sell. I noticed the leftover stock throughout the year varies in width by up to to 1/16” of an inch, but the joints don’t show any movement.

-- Gerry,

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