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Chest of draws basics

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LuptonM

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Basically I am wondering if anyone can tell me how a chest of draws is made traditionally

ie.

-How do the sides join to the back?
-How do you get the large panels square without a table saw- a massive shooting board?????
- How are the runners and guides attached to the panels?

Is there a step by step guide somewhere on how to make a generic chest of draws?
 

woodbloke

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Sorry, I don't know of any manual in existence that will tell you how to make a 'chest of draws'. If, however, I think you meant a 'chest of drawers' then I'd dip into Joyce's 'Techniques of Furniture Making' - Rob
 

Richard T

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I think the frames are dovetail mortice and tenon.
Building the frame of a chest seems to be a lot like a timber frame building in miniature.
Cutting a large panel square by hand just means more measuring and squaring than if relying on a TS bed with fence. Big squares are handy for big panels.
 

drillbit

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LuptonM

There are various different ways to make any item, which is why they come in all sorts of shapes and styles.

Rob's suggestion of getting a manual is spot on. You really should read up on the different joints and techniques, and look at some project plans to see various ways to do this. Ultimately, the answer is going to be - whatever works for you.

However, in simple terms, a chest of drawers is a big box. And there are two main methods of construction for anything like that. Slab, and rail-and-stile.

Slab means that you directly join the 'slabs' of wood together. For that, the simplest way would be to drill holes in both pieces and glue in dowels. Altneratively, you could cut mortices in one piece and tenons in the other, or you could even decide to use box or dovetails joints. Even simpler - you could just glue the pieces together and use plastic doo-das to strengthen the joint inside...that would be the 70's prefab method which I would not recommend. But you get the point. There are different ways.

Rail-and-stile is also called frame and panel, which probably describes it better. With this style, you would be making a frame out of square-section wood - eg.32x32mm to create a decent, solid framework which forms the edges. The panels would then usually fit into grooves (rebates) you cut into the edge pieces, which also allows for movement. Or they could be dowelled in.

If you look at the sort of things you get from 'Pineworld' type places , most of it is slab, which is cheaper and quicker to make. Personally I would say slightly less attractive as well.

The chances are that you would mix various methods. You might use rail and style to make the main section, but dowels to secure the lid, for example.

For the runners, there are probably hundreds of possibilities. Personally I would just glue and screw, but for a stronger joint you could also cut a rebate into the side frame. There are also runners you can buy and screw on. It would depend on whether you are making something to house a rock collection or lace underwear.

The back is often just made of a cheaper option - like tongue and groove, thin ply or even hardboard. So the main strength comes from the sides, top and front rails.

To get the panels straight, I assume you mean you are planning to use MDF or ply. In that case, you just need a method of sawing - a panel saw, or a circular saw or even a table saw - and a method of ensuring your line is at 90 degrees. For that you will need a thing called a try square. You could also buy planed boards and glue them together to make the panels. In that case, the edges should already be square.

Finally, if you google free plans, you should be able to find something to help.

I'm fairly new to this myself, so apologies to anyone if I got any of my terms wrong or left stuff out - but I know how confusing it can be when you start trying to understand how stuff is made.
 

Alf

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For a pretty good step-by-step using hand tools, The Joiner and Cabinet Maker has a whole section devoted to making a basic chest of drawers, fwiw.
 

Woodwould

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I may be mistaken, but asking "... how a chest of draws is made traditionally" the OP may well have been using two or three hundred year old nomenclature – 'draw' was the term used for what we now call a drawer.

So, if I'm on the right track and you do want to know how a chest of draws is made traditionally, then you might find this page and this page of some interest.
 

Jacob

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Various books mentioned and Woodwould's links are excellent.
But if you can, have a very close look at a chest of drawers of your choice. Go over it with tape measure and vernier calipers. Take photos. Even better if it's a wreck and you can pull it apart, to mend or burn.
 

LuptonM

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I found this article that seems to be very helpful

http://images.taunton.com/downloads/fre ... g-plan.pdf

However this brings me onto another question. How exactly does he route the dados and sliding dovetail slots in the same place on both sides (or marking anything in general in the same place on two pieces)? If he was out 1mm wouldn't it be skewed and the fit poor?
 

Jacob

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LuptonM":s82ibyr8 said:
I found this article that seems to be very helpful

http://images.taunton.com/downloads/fre ... g-plan.pdf

However this brings me onto another question. How exactly does he route the dados and sliding dovetail slots in the same place on both sides? If he was out 1mm wouldn't it be skewed and the fit poor?
For a one-off you'd mark everything up but you still might have to do some fitting and fiddling, such that 1mm or bigger errors would be corrected.
For a run you might work out some jigs or other repeatable systems.
That shaker chest looks a pretty good starting point. Many details would be the same in other typical chests. One particular exception would be the feet which in Britain would more often be turned.
The drawer dovetails are odd though, a bit oversize (usually single kerf pins) and the end pins are too thin. Seems to be a modern fashion. The end pins need to be chunkier for strength and also to allow for wear, or fitting the drawer if necessary - i.e. have enough thickness to allow for planing off.
A slightly extravagant detail is the solid sub top and solid bottom which are quite often framed instead.

It'd be an interesting exercise to compare that chest with the nearest similar one you can find, and spot the differences.

Re "marking anything in general in the same place on two pieces" - draw everything on a rod and take your marks directly from the rod to work pieces paired up or stacked so that the marks can't go anywhere but in the same place.
 

LuptonM

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Seems that Woodwould has some mad skills. I actually might have a go at making that particular chest of draws (in my own little way) as the carcass is essentially a box and then I can add the details on afterwards.

Just wondering Woodwould if u have some rough dimensions for the carcass and the draws of that particular piece?

Looking at my mums chest of draws it looks like they added the base/legs onto the carcass and the dovetails are much thinner than the fine woodworking shaker chest of draws. I might cheat and get a simple dovetail jig as it'll let me create something above my skill level (plus I don't really want to have to mod my cheap workbench ie. replace the top and vice since it can't clamp squat)
 

Woodwould

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I'm just off to bed now (it's ironic, Australia is nine hours 'ahead' of you), but I'll get the dimensions of that chest for you in the morning.
 

Woodwould

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The actual 'box' measures 36" wide x 28-1/2" high x 21" deep. Overall height is 34-3/4". The drawers are 4-3/4", 5-3/4", 7" and 8".
 

Benchwayze

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Try Fine Woodworking' Magazine. They recently did a series on woodwork basics for construction of various items of furniture including chests of drawers.

And for the pick-nits, drawers refers to wooden drawers in a chest of drawers and also the cotton/woolen/ silk items worn around the 'loins'!

'Draws' is a verb for an artist who .. well... draws with a pencil etc.; as a verb for one who draws the curtains, or who draws water from a well, and also as a noun for a list of results on the Football Pools.' Oh yes and for one who draws attention to him/herself.. Like me? :mrgreen:

There are probably other uses for the word 'draws', but offhand...

Carry on folks ,

Regards
The Professional Pedant.

John 8)
 

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