Laying out and machining drawers

The drawer front is first cut roughly to size with the long edges parallel, and cut fractionally bevelled on all four edges so that it fits the opening half-way (238:11). The drawer sides, which must be of constant thickness, are also cut to the opening, fractionally sloping in the length so that they slide in half-way (238:12). This is the ideal to work for in hand-fitted work, and assumes that the worker is prepared to spend the time necessary to secure a perfect fit. The sides are then cut to length, allowing for the front dovetail lap and the necessary clearance at the back of the carcass, and the ends are cut truly square. The back is cut correspondingly narrower to allow for the plywood bottom to pass under, with a set down from the top of about 3/16 in (5 mm) for clearance; the drawer front is placed on it and the length marked with a knife. The ends are then cut square, leaving the knife-marks on the wood to give just that fractional fullness in the length. All the parts are clearly marked in pencil as they are fitted, the front with face and edge marks and left and right, the back with a triangle on the outside, and each side with a quadrant (238:13). The grooving for the bottom in the front and sides is gauged in before the dovetails are set out, or part of a pin may be lost, showing an unsightly gap. Dovetails are at the discretion of the maker, very fine (1 in 8) as in the best traditional work, or the firm 1 in 6 for modern work. Purists may insist that they should be as fine as possible. but drawers are not left open for the dovetails to be admired, and the first consideration must surely be the strength of the joint. If the front is slip dovetailed (238:6) or rebated/rabbeted (238:3), setting out for the carcass opening will have to be done by measurement; although with the latter it is possible to through dovetail and apply a false front after to form a rebate, but the practice is not to be recommended if it can be avoided for the false front could be thrown off in time under repeated impacts.

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