Graduated Drawers
Till; SHAKERS WERE AMONG the primary proponents (and practitioners) ofgraduated drawers, although there are lots of cases—Chippendale. Federal and Queen Anne — that have graduated drawers. Under the dictum "a place for everything and everything in its place." the Shakers built drawers to house specific items.There is no reason for a drawer that will hold cassette tapes to be as deep as one that holds CDs. or for your underwear drawer to be as high as your sweater drawer.
Also. 1 never build solid wood drawers much more than 9 in. high. Because ofseasonal wood movement, anything higher will leave too wide a gap in midwinter (even with overlay drawers), and the drawer could bind in summer.
A not h er considérât ion is overall proportion. Small drawers in desks or in a collector's cabinet may graduate in oidy 'Ain. to %in. increments. In bureaus used for clothing. on the other hand, the drawers can be graduated in Xin. or 1 in. increments. If
A Case with an liven Number of Drawers
The formulas for the example here—a fourdrawer chest with 1 in. graduations—can be used for any chest with an even number of drawers.
To get the usable drawer height, subtract the dimensions of the top (1 'A In.), base {5% in.), and drawer dividers (3 x % in. = TA in.) from the chest's total height (36 in.):
To find the average drawer height, divide the usable drawer height (27 In.) by the number of drawers (4):
To find the height of the drawer below the middle divider, add onehalf the graduation increment1/2 in.to the average drawer height 16% In.):
Add 1 in. to the drawer height below and subtract 1 in. from the two above.
36 la
A Case with an Odd , Number of Drawers
A case with an odd number of drawers has a middle drawerwith an equal number of drawers above and below it. The method of determining the average drawer height is the same as for a case with an even number of drawers. The formulas for the example here—a sevendrawer chest with 1 in. graduationscan be used for any chest with an odd number of drawers.
To get the usable drawer height, subtract the dimensions of the top 15% in.), base <6% in.) and drawer dividers (6x% in. =4% in.) from the chest's total height (59% in.): 59 %  (57+ 6'A +47,) = 42% To find the average drawer height, divide the usable drawer height 142% in.) by the number of drawers (7): 42% + 7 = 6%
For the drawers below the middle drawer, increase the drawer heights in 1 in. increments. Forthe drawers above the middle drawer, decrease the drawer heights in 1 in. increments.
you are a stickler for detail, you may also want to consider graduating the size of the knobs or drawer pulls as well.
Find the Usable Drawer Height, then Figure the Average Drawer Height
Once you know the height oflhe case and the number ofdrawers in the case, laying out graduated drawers is straightforward. To get the available drawer space, subtract from tire total height the dimensions oflhe top, bottom and ah oflhe dividers. The number of dividers in a case will always be one less than the number ofdrawers: e.g., a fivedrawer case will have four dividers. Dividing the available drawer space by the number of drawers will give you the average drawer height. Regardless of whether you're building a case with an odd number or even number ofdrawers, the average drawer height is the most important dimension.
ex in. 
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6% in. 
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_/ Six drawer dividers at % in. V/. in. 1 
If you have an odd number ofdrawers, the middle drawer will be equal to the average drawer height. For the drawers above, simply subtract the amount by which you want the drawers to get smaller—the graduation interval — and add this amount to the drawers below the middle one.
When figuring drawer graduations for a case with an even number of drawers, y ou still need to find the amount ofavailable drawer space and calculate the average drawer height. However, there will be no averageheight drawer in the case when you are through; the average drawer height is just the starting point in your calculations. Determine an average drawer height, then add or subtract one half the graduation increment to or from that average height to get started. Then proceed by full graduations.
Always remember that you have some flexibility. Ifneeded, you can add a fraction of an inch to the top molding or remove a fraction ofan inch from the base to make the numbers work in a simple way (making your life a lot easier) without compromising the chest.You probably can't change the dimensions of your dividers, though, which have to be a specific size if they are to fit into dovetails or dadoes cut with a standard router bit.
The illustrations shown are examples of how to graduate the drawers for a case with an even number ofdrawers and for one with an odd number ofdrawers. Here's an important tiring to keep in mind:You can graduate drawers by any increment — ] in., 2 in., 3 in., even fractional inches—as long as you subtract the increment from the drawers above the averageheight drawer and add the increment to the same number ofdrawers below the averageheight drawer. The formulas can be used for any number ofdrawers, from the smallest case with three drawers to a floortoceiling builtin with I 6
CHRISTIAN BECKSVOORT is a contributing editor to Fine Woodworking magazine.
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