It has been known, very occasionally for ‘yours truly’ to saunter out into the workshop, waft a few tools around and create a bit of sawdust. Just to illustrate that I can practice (more or less) what I preach, I finished this chest of drawers the other day. It’s made using 2mm bandsawn American cherry veneers over 15mm mdf and sits on a small plinth. There are six drawers and from the top, each is wider by 10mm to give the visual appearance of ‘weight’ at the bottom.

The main carcase is constructed entirely with Dominos and the plinth uses 8mm dowels as well. The applied finish is a couple of thin coats of Osmo PolyX with some wax over the top and finally polished with a soft duster. I’ve used the Osmo for several years now and it’s very good stuff, with one proviso. Never, ever apply thick gloopy coats…two very thin, brush applied coats are all that’s needed, with a light de-nib between each with some worn 320g paper.

Front and back of finished chest, showing cherry panels
Front and back of finished chest, showing cherry panels

I try and build cabinet backs with the same attention to detail as the fronts, even though nobody will ever see them. A sheet of veneered plywood would be just as effective and much quicker, but not nearly as attractive. At the end of the day, it would always irritate me to know that it’s not quite as good as it could be, which is why I always make them like this. On this cabinet, the back consists of a pair of book matched cherry panels set into a frame, which in turn is fitted into a rebate in the carcase.

Drawer cavities showing single centre, hard maple runners
Drawer cavities showing single centre, hard maple runners

The drawers are the interesting bit, because they’re a little unconventional in that they slide on a single centre, hard maple runner. I wanted to try and make some drawers like this after reading Robert Ingham’s excellent book (and it’s thoroughly recommended, by the way) “Cutting Edge Cabinetmaking” (not stocked!!). There were one or two points that weren’t quite clear to me in his text, which were soon sorted out by a phone call and a couple of emails, for which I’m extremely grateful.

The drawers are much more convoluted to make, but one of the advantages is that they don’t need to be fitted to the sides of the cabinet, where there can be a gap of around a millimetre if needed…it’s not crucial. What is required, though, is a separate, planted drawer front, which can then be fitted very snugly.

Feeler gauge is around 0.03mm
Feeler gauge is around 0.03mm
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Drawer bottoms were made from cedar of Lebanon and are really too chunky. The next time I make some of these drawers, I’ll have to have a little play to see if they can’t be made a bit thinner.

Handles and drawer pulls cause me a lot of angst and sleepless nights. So many times I’ve seen a great piece of furniture completely wrecked by the choice of unsuitable handles. They are the most important part of any piece and can make or break it, so they need to be chosen or made with a lot of care. They’re the first thing that someone will see when they want to touch the piece and as such, they need to be ‘right’.

Drawer pulls in Indian ebony
Drawer pulls in Indian ebony

I don’t know if I got these ‘right’ but I decided that, as with most things in this life, ‘simple’ usually works best, so I made some 10mm thick rectangular drawer pulls in Indian ebony that were morticed into the drawer fronts.

To lighten the overall effect, the undersides were sculpted with rasps, files and a rotary sanding bit in my Proxxon mini drill which is a very useful bit of kit to have in the workshop. Including and from the third drawer down, each corresponding handle is set above the drawer centre line by 2mm each time; thus the handle on the sixth or bottom drawer is 8mm above the centre line. This is done so that when looking down on them from normal standing height, the drawer pulls appear to be in the middle…cunning or what?

I haven’t gone into a great deal of detail on how the drawers and fronts were made, but if any of the Blog readership would like to see how it’s done (or at least how I did it) I’m more than happy to do a few entries…just leave a comment below.

  • Kim Spence-Jones

    I’m wondering how you located and attached the drawer fronts.

    • Rob Stoakley

      Thanks for your enquiry Kim and it’s a valid point. In essence, they’re screwed on with 16mm Torx Woodspur screws, but first you have to fit them. I recommend Rob Ingham’s book ‘Cutting Edge Cabinetmaking’ for a more detailed explanation, but briefly, this is the process.

      The fronts are 10mm thick solid stuff are are initially stuck to the drawer box with d/s tape, then fitted to the opening as shown in the pic. However, there are two 4mm pins inserted into the rear of the fronts as well so that when it’s removed, it’s then very easy to relocate the front onto the drawer box (by using the pins)…cunning or what?

      Once it’s been polished, the front locates back onto the pins and is then simply screwed in place with around eight screws; the pins are then removed. The process sounds complicated and it is until you understand how it works.

      I’m building another large project in elm which will have burr elm drawer fronts and I’m making them at the moment so I’ll document the process in a few AxBlogs in due course.

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