Dresser: Glue-up

Published Friday, January 24, 2020 by Bryan

The feet were the start of the avalanche. It was time to make the rest of this project three-dimensional. Six pieces would be glued to each other, and two would float in captured grooves.

I had thought through the process at every stage of planning and construction to this point. Then I drew a diagram, and redrew it, and then briefly considered other methods as I started. In the end, the right answer was to borrow an extra pair of hands, so that multiple joints could be managed at once.

That is, referring to the diagram above, 1-3 got me to this point:

The rest of the plan might have worked if I had a large enough space to lay the dresser down on its face. Instead, I had to prepare 4-6 together:

And then fit 1-3 with it:

This is where my choice of glue became important. In previous projects, I've stuck with standard PVA wood glue. This has generally been a good choice, but it has a relatively short time between application and setting. With so many joints going together at once, I needed lots of extra time to apply the glue to each surface and then to get all the surfaces into their final position. So for this portion of the project, I switched to liquid hide glue. In addition to a basic long open time, hide glue can also be readjusted by warming it to temperature, so even if I got stuck (sorry!) I would have a second chance.

I warmed the bottle to about 130°F in a water bath, and then applied it to the joint surfaces, using a paint brush to ensure an even spread without too much mess. Fortunately, mess is another benefit of hide glue - in an experiment, it blended into the finish much better than the PVA I would have used otherwise:

Four wood clamps, each holding two small blocks of wood together. In front of each clamp is a different kind of glue.
Sample blocks glued up. Left to right: Titebond with new cherry dust, Titebond with old cherry dust, plain Titebond, Old Brown Glue.
For blocks of wood, each made of two smaller blocks glued together. The seams are face-up, and some are more visible than others.
Sanded to 220. Titebond is looking good because Old Brown Glue ran everywhere and darkened the endgrain.
Four blocks of wood, more richly colored. Some seams have vanished, while others have become more visible.
Light coat of mineral oil and beeswax applied. Old Brown Glue the clear winner because it vanished in the finish, instead of blocking the oil from the wood like Titebond.

With my wife's assistance, we got everything lined up and pushed together. The dovetails slid together nice and tightly with just a bit of clamping pressure. One more round of glue application, and the top followed.

It turned out that the square clamps were not truly necessary. The case stood square on its own. I attached them anyway, in case the glue created uneven pressure while curing.

Except for shaving the overhanging edges of the dovetails flush, the case is now complete. On to drawers!

Categories: Woodworking