Drawer Construction

As far as the construction of these drawers is concerned, I built them using 4/4 mahogany for the drawer fronts and V2" sycamore for the sides and backs.

Using two different woods like this is a common practice. The drawer front is made with the same wood used for the rest of the cabinet (mahogany in this case of the projects in this issue). Then the sides and back are made of inexpensive stock. (We usually use V2" sycamore or poplar for the sides and back because these woods are downright cheap around here, and they're also easy to work with.)

height of opening. To build the drawers for the chest, I started with the sides and back. The first step here is to rip W stock to width so it fits the height of the opening in the cabinet. That sounds simple enough, but the most important thing about building drawers is the planning that precedes this measurement.

The height of the opening should actually be determined when the cabinet is in the design and planning stage.

The chest of drawers is designed with openings that are 6W high, which ac counts for drawer sides that are 6Ve" high and W for clearance. These are not arbitrary dimensions.

dovetail spacing. The 6'/b" height for the drawer sides produces proper spacing for the dovetail joint when it's cut with a router and dovetail jig. This "proper spacing" means that the dovetails are evenly spaced on the drawer side with a half pin on the top edge and a half pin on the hottom edge, as shown in Fig. I.

Shop Note: The smallest width for a drawer side when the dovetail jig is used is 1%". From here the width of the sides can increase in increments of and still have proper spacing for the routed dovetails. One of these increments is 6'/s". Another is 4%" — the dimension used for the drawer in the night stand.

clearance. Also included in the height of the drawer opening is a clearance of Ys". This allows Vis" for clearance between the top edge of the drawer and the web frame above it, plus Vie" for the head of the nylon glide that the bottom edge of the drawer side rides on, see Fig. 1.

These two allowances demonstrate the importance of planning ahead — you have to know how the drawer is going to be built and how it's to be mounted. By using a nylon glide, you have to plan ahead for the Vie" space that it requires. So, we're dealing with rather small tolerances for the cabinet openings.

If there's much more than Vie" clearance above the drawer, it will tend to drop down too much when it's opened. (You know the feeling when you open a drawer and the front drops — there's that sudden fear and quick move to catch it. That's what you want to avoid.)

cut side to width, Hopefully the cabinet has been built as planned — with openings 6W high. If it is, rip the stock for the drawer sides and backs to a width of 6W.

If the opening is larger or smaller than planned, the drawers can still be made, but the dovetails won't have the proper spacing. And, because of the way the dovetail jig works, the dovetail on the bottom edge will be affected the most. It may be only partially cut, and thus it will look a little odd and will be a little weak, but the drawers will hold together.

cut sides to length. After the drawer sides arc cut to width, they can be cut to length. This is basically a "cut to fit" operation. That is, the drawer sides must be cut to length so the assembled drawer fits the depth of the cabinet. , . with a little clearance between the back of the drawer and the back of the cabinet.

To do this, first measure the depth of the cabinet. Then subtract the thickness of the drawer front ('%«") and drawer back (¥>"), add on the length of the dovetails (they overlap 011 the front and back a total of %"), and finally subtract the amount of clearance needed at the back (usually Wis sufficient). Then cut the drawer sides to length.

cut back to length. Next, the drawer back can be cut to length. This is relatively easy to determine on the drawers in the chest and night stand because the length of the back is equal to the length of the drawer's front.

The length of the front is determined by measuring the width of the cabinet opening and subtracting an amount for clear-

anee. Some people allow as much as V» on each side Cor a total of W) for clearance. 1 think this is too much and makes for a sloppy drawer. 1 usually make the total clearance no more than Va" (or !/ia" on each side).

cut front to width. The only thing left is to cut the drawer front to width (height). As shown in Fig. 1, the drawer front overlaps the web frames above and below it. Measure the opening between these frames and add Vs" overlap for the top web frame, and a total of E/s" for the bottom frame (this is Ye" for the overlap and '//for the cove).

Mark for assembly. When all the pieces for the drawers are cut to final size, it helps to mark them to keep things straight — especially when the joints are going to be routed on dovetail jig.

Basically, you have to mark both ends of each piece to indicate which drawer it's for and which joint on that drawer it is. One system to use is to mark each piece as shown in Fig. 2.

These marks should be on the face that will be on the inside of the drawer, because this is the face that will be visible when the piece is placed on the dovetail jig.

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