Fine Woodworking

Photos: Kelly J. Dunton

Measure the drawer parts straight off the case. Cut the sides about Vm in. shy of the height of the drawer opening (left). Trim the drawer front for an even reveal at the top, bottom, and sides (below).

sides. This can be done with a dado set on the tablesaw or with straight bits on the router table. Once the grooves have been cut, you can start marking the parts.

The shoulder lines of the dovetails are based on the thickness of each part, which changes slightly in final preparation. Be sure to plane, scrape, or sand (to P220 grit) the drawer parts before laying out and cutting any dovetails. Once you've removed the machine mill marks, organize and label all the drawer parts. Mark the inside face and adjacent drawer-bottom edge of the front, sides, and backs. Mock up or explode the box and mark adjacent corners to be dovetailed. You will be checking for this orientation and the reference marks as you lay out and cut the dovetails.

Cut the pins first

Because half-blind dovetails are slightly more difficult to cut than through-dovetails, I'll focus on cutting the half-blind dovetails at the front of the drawer. But the same

I'll walk you through cutting the half-blind and through-dovetail joints typical in traditional drawers. I'll focus mainly on cutting half-blind dovetails, because once you learn to cut those, through-dovetails become a piece of cake.

I teach a three-day workshop on cutting half-blind and through-dovetails. In that class, students not only learn how to lay out and cut these two joints, but also how to build a traditional dovetailed drawer. The first order of business is to tune up your tools: two chisels, a dovetail saw, and a marking gauge. Using properly tuned tools makes your woodworking life much easier.

As you're working, remember to cut pins on the drawer front and back and tails on the drawer sides. Dovetails go together and come apart only one way, and this orientation works with the movement of the drawer being opened—you won't loosen the joint as you open and close the drawer

Build drawers to fit the case

Before you start building drawers, your table or case piece should be constaicted and glued up, and the drawer parts should be milled to finished thickness. Drawer fronts should be 3A in. to 7/s in. thick; sides and back should be 3/s in. to V2 in. thick.

Now cut drawer parts to length and width based on the opening in the case piece or table. For a flush drawer, rip the fronts and sides approximately V64 in. smaller than the height of the opening. To accommodate the bottom, cut the drawer back V2 in. narrower than the sides. Then mark the lengths directly off the case piece and crosscut them to size at the tablesaw. The length of the sides should be approximately V2 in. shorter than the depth of the drawer opening in the case.

Now you need to decide which will be the inside and outside faces of each drawer part. If you place the heart side of the board facing out, the drawer parts will cup toward the inside. The mechanics of the joint will help control this cupping. However, aesthetics rule—especially on the drawer front. If the bark side is more attractive, place that side out.

With all of the pieces marked, cut grooves along the lower edge of the front and sides. The M-in.-wide by M-in.-deep grooves should be Vi in. up from the bottom on the inside of the drawer front and

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