Making Drawers, Part 1

October 31, 2012

I have put off making drawers for the Hope Chest until near the end because I was not confident in my dovetailing skills. I have not had time to hone my skills with many real projects. Actually, this project is only my third with hand cut dovetails. One was a hanging cabinet I made for my mom about eight years ago, one was a gift box for a dear friend and now there is this one. Starting a toolmaking business has slowed down my woodworking aspirations! I made some practice joints before I dove in, but I was still rather nervous. I knew I had only one chance; I did not have any material in reserve. There have been many, many tutorials on dovetailing both in blogs and on videos by experts much more qualified than I am. Therefore, I will just offer up some pictures to show how I went about it. Feel free to ask questions or offer useful suggestions for myself as well as the other readers.

Practice cuts help tune your eye-hand coordination; more is better.

Practice Joints

Planning the drawer details

Scribe baseline with marking gauge and layout initial saw cuts with a pencil

Use a chisel to establish shoulder cuts to help get a crisp joint.

Use rip and cross cut saws to make the initial cuts. Nice finish from Wenzloff Saws!

Cut out waste using a coping saw. I need some more practice (or a better saw!)

Remove waste to baseline with a chisel. Only half way through then flip over.

Sawing the front tails

Front tails

A little trick I learned from somewhere to help when removing waste for small pin sockets is to add another saw cut in the middle.

Establishing a shoulder using a butt chisel

I used a board to help keep all my chisel work straight and vertical.

A 1/8 inch dovetail chisel excels here. You need crisp, precise work. A marking knife can be handy at times also.

Use a marking knife to transfer the tails to the pinboard.

Sawing the pins

Chop the waste and then pare to the baseline. Here I am using a butt chisel.

I seemed to have lost some images from the drawer making session so we will skip ahead.  Here you can see the front pin board for the half-blind dovetails. These take some careful chisel work as you cannot cut all the way to the back corners with a saw.  I did over-cut the baseline to make it a little easier to clean up the waste, though I am not sure that I like seeing the saw cuts inside the drawer..  These joints are a lot easier to clean up if you have skew chisels or fishtail chisels to help get into the back corners. I am using a moving fillister plane to cut the groove for the drawer bottom. I have the iron set pretty coarse here; I backed it off a bit after this picture.

That is it for Drawer Making Part 1.  All of the dovetails have been cut and grooves added for the drawer bottoms. I also gave all of the parts a quick cleanup with a handplane where needed and slightly chamfered the edges prior to assembly.

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