1. Doublers are glued to the inside face of the side apron. 2. Square-dimensioned runners and kickers are glued and nailed to the doublers. 3. The runners and kickers house the drawer while the doublers guide the drawer side in and out of its opening.
I like to tell my woodworking students that there's a Shaker nightstand hidden in every table with drawers. I may be overstating my case, but only by a bit. At North Bennet Street School, we teach strategy. Our largely traditional approach to building tables with drawers isn't the only approach, but it's almost endlessly adaptable; once you understand it, you can apply it to Chippendale writing desks, Pembroke tables, contemporary tables, whatever you like. A single, sound approach is liberating: It leaves room for good design and good workmanship while eliminating the need for mock-ups, prototypes, and reinventing the wheel.
There's nothing new about this attitude. Thomas Chippendale's Chippendale Director contains page after page of chairs and chair backs. No joints. No dimensions. Nothing about how to build a
Chippendale chair. Chippendale assumes his readers know how to build a chair and that chairs are all built the same way.
When our students build a table with drawers, they learn a system. I recall a student who started a veneered Pembroke table after having made a simpler table. "Remember when you built the Shaker nightstand?" I said to him. "Now here's what you're gonna do different." His eyes lit up and he said, "Ah, and you just make this longer, and curve that and, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah." He knew how to build a Pembroke table—he just didn't realize it.
The single-drawer demonstration table I built (above and facing page) reveals the basic components of a simple table-with-drawer system: dividers, which replace the front apron to make room for the drawer; doublers, which fill out the side aprons and serve as drawer guides; runners, which support the weight of the drawer;
Photos, except where noted: Boyd Hagen; facing page (furniture): Lance Patterson
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