Dresser: Dovetails

The moment had arrived to test the skill that I designed a whole other project to practice. Dovetails!

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I used the same technique as practied witht he box. There are already great step-by-steps covering how to make dovetail joinery, so I’ll skip the process here, and just show you my happy result.

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I chose the staggered pattern to reduce the number of tail and pins I’d have to cut, while also increasing the visual interest compared to simply larger, even components.

A small detail I added was to offset the seams between the planks in the top and bottom, from the seams on the sides. I then arranged the tails and pins so that they hold the seams in the opposite board together. It may never make any difference, but why not reinforce a pontential weak point?

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The four corners fit snugly. A test fit proved the case to be square. This was also the first time I got a live feeling for the size. It felt huge in my small shop. I think it will feel large compared to my current dresser, but once I can get more than one step away from it, it won’t feel overwhelming.

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Dresser: Plank Joining

After the wood had adjusted to the conditions of my shop, I began on the casework. Step one was to cut the ten-foot planks to length. I aimed just a little on the long side, because the tools I have to handle these large pieces aren’t the finest. I needed to have room to re-square the edges afterward.

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This cherry already had one surfaced side, so I was able to move directly to thicknessing next. I brought everything down to just 1/32 over an inch. That should leave me a full inch after finishing, which will be the sort of visual weight I’m looking for.

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With the faces smooth and parallel, I moved to squaring the edges to them. I don’t have a jointing fence for my planes, and I recently learned that the sole of my longer plane isn’t flat, so this was a bit of a slow process, requiring frequent pauses to check progress. Luckily, my No. 4 is in good condition, so making small adjustments went well.

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Once everything was flat and square, I could finally tackle the first bit of assembly work I mentioned in the previous post. I used dowels and glue to join pairs of planks together, finally arriving at four boards eighteen inches wide, the full depth of the dresser.

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Glue-up took several days, because I only had enough clamps and space to do one board at a time. But once it was done, I could finally square the ends, and match the exact lengths of the sides to each other, and the top to the bottom. For this work, I first attempted to use my router to run a pattern bit along a square jig. Unfortunately, my clamping wasn’t good enough, and the jig shifted.

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This isn’t the first trouble I’ve had with router jigs, so instead of trying again, I cleared off the bulk of the error with a saw, and turned to a more laborious, but safer solution. I quickly assembled a shooting board, sharpened my plane, and set to shaving the end grain.

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Now I could finally get to the part I had practiced for…

Dresser: Planning & Purchasing

Over fifteen years ago, friends lent my wife a dresser that their children had once used. When we moved into our first apartment, and she recovered her own dresser from her parents, the lent dresser became mine (our friends were adamant that they did not want it back). It has functioned well. The case is solid, the drawers open and close just fine, the drawer bottoms hold. Being a children’s dresser, though, it has never quite been able to hold all of my clothing. So, my next big project is to replace my child-size dresser with a gentleman’s chest.

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The dimensions are also relatively huge: approximately a foot wider and six inches taller than what I’ve been working with. That, in itself, should solve my space issues. I’ve chosen the chest style, because I think the cabinet to one side will work well for stacking sweaters, which are my main overflow item today.

I hadn’t yet settled on which species of wood to use when I visited the lumberyard. The bed in the same room is maple. The mahogany in my coffee table was nice to work with. Alder is a nice, slightly less mainstream choice. After picking through the stacks at Aura Hardwoords, I settled on cherry. They had a few pieces with some very nice looking figure, and also a large selection of relatively clear 10 inch+ by 10-foot planks in 5/4.

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One hundred board-feet of cherry planks for the drawer and cabinet fronts. Three sheets of 4×8-foot cherry plywood, for the back of the cabinet and the bottoms of the drawers. A stack of 9×48-inch baltic birch plywood for drawer construction. Not only did I have to borrow a trailer and towing vehicle, but I also had to rearrange my shop to fit it all.

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The chest will be eighteen inches deep. Two sections of ten-inch plank need to be joined to fit that width. Sorting the planks to find untwisted, unchecked sections of the right lengths, and ranking the figuring for top versus front versus side was a physically tiring edition of the Towers of Hanoi game, as I stacked and restacked the pieces.

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After some time acclimating to the shop conditions, cutting began…