Raise The Center Section

No matter how you change the design, the rules of construction are simple—dovetail joinery is used at all corners, and multiple through-tenons are used where a board joins another along its length.

long at the bottom. This creates a large lap for the dovetails, which, as before, are cut flush on the inner layer of the end. The outer layer hangs down and can be sawn to shape. To add an apron across the front, the bottom can be cut back and an apron piece glued onto the edge of the bottom. If the apron is wide at the center, it can be braced from behind. If it is wide at the leg, it should be tenoned into the leg to prevent racking and twisting.

The most common change to the case is to have the bottom step up in the middle. This introduces movement, breaks up the strongly horizontal case, and allows different ways of arranging the doors and drawers. This type of case constaiction is more complex, but it uses the same joints as before (see top drawing, right). Just remember how this system works: If a case part joins another at a corner, dovetail it; if a part meets along another's length, use multiple tenons. When you add a step up in the center of the case, only the fitting sequence changes.

First, cut and fit the multiple stub-tenon joints between the inner verticals and center bottom panel. All of the stub tenons can be cut at the same time, but put off dadoing the top until the center panel is in place. The important thing here is to keep the inner verticals parallel. If the center panel clamps up shorter than planned, it's easier to move the dadoes in the top board (and make the center section smaller) than

Finding the right proportions

With a sideboard, as the case gets larger and the negative space between the legs grows smaller, the piece begins to look more massive. But take a look and compare cases 1 and 2. Case 1 is far more delicate in size, but the case divisions give a static effect because they are based on squares and rectangles. Although case 2 is much bigger, both the vertical rectangles of the doors and the graduated drawer sizes help relieve any sense of heaviness. What if the drawers were the same size and the doors more square?

Putting the doors on the outer parts of case 3 leaves the drawer compartment overpowered, at least to my eye. Even though the initial placement of the partition gives equal divisions, once the central space is divided, it looks small.

Case 4 uses proportions that I often rely on. Making drawers in the middle wider than the doors gives the facade a strong impression but is not as obvious to the eye as dividing the facade elements evenly. Dividing the total sideboard height in half is also satisfying but remarkably subtle because it takes a moment to see the relationship of the positive space to the negative. Overall, I like the interplay of vertical and horizontal rectangular spaces. But I would still be willing to adjust things by eye to get a more pleasant drawer spacing, for instance. For me, it's less important that the height be exactly divided in half than it is for the divisions of space to produce an impression of these proportions.

it is to live with verticals that aren't perpendicular to the case.

Now, fit the dovetails of the ends to the top. While cutting the outer bottom panels, you can make any necessary adjustments. The most important thing is to keep the verticals parallel. Many things can creep in to change the exact locations of the verticals, but the top now tells you the actual distance between the inside faces of the verticals, a measurement that is more important than the overall length of the bottom pieces. So if the bottom location changed or you cut the bottom a bit short, adjust the gauge line for the dovetails until the distance between them is the amount required. The slight change of length in the tails is absorbed in the lap of the pin piece. As before, the space below the raised center section can be filled with decorative apron pieces.

Proportions and style

In designing a sideboard, it's important to consider the visual effect that the proportions and construction methods will have, then choose ones that help express the intent of the design. Before considering any decorative effects, sketch a few cases of different sizes and proportions (see the story above). Then use tracing paper to tiy out a variety of partition locations and to vary the door and drawer sizes. This exercise gives you a sense of how changes in proportion alter the effect. You may find yourself discarding all of these sketches, preferring to develop a second set using your eye to judge correctness.

The methods used on the mocked-up sideboard should provide the basics of construction. More complex cases are possible, but they are all offshoots of this basic method. You can choose details to design a sideboard with a refined period look, or opt for something more contemporary. Most alternative designs don't really change the constaiction methods much. They are additions to the basic case that either save wood or provide surfaces for design options. □

Will Neptune is a furniture maker in Acton, Mass., and a former woodworking instructor at North Bennet Street School in Boston.


Illustrated Guide to


The ideal drawer

As you can see, there are a number of great ways to build a drawer. A utility or light-duty drawer (top) might be a simple combination of a pinned rabbet joint at the front, a back that's dadoed into the sides, and a plywood bottom. A high-end drawer (bottom) could have hand-cut half-blind dovetails at the front, through-dovetails at the back, and an elegant raised-panel, solid-wood bottom. And sliding dovetail joints (middle) fall somewhere in between. Read on to learn how to balance elegance and efficiency for the job at hand.

From simple to refined, drawer options for the furniture maker

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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