Curly Cherry Highboy, Part Two
Making the upper case, drawers and gooseneck molding
Synopsis: In the second of three articles on how to build a curly cherry highboy, Randall O’Donnell focuses on the dovetail joinery in the upper case. He explains how to build the basic box, install runners and rails, and rabbet and mortise the sides and back. A detailed project plan, with inset views, shows how all the pieces fit together. He recommends dry-fitting the case before gluing it. The article includes a scroll-board pattern and information on framing the bonnet. O-Donnell routs and carves the gooseneck molding and explains how to mount and install the hood. Then he tackles the drawers and backboards.
Earlier in my career, I built kitchen cabinets. At that time, dovetailing meant using a jig and router. I dovetailed more than a thousand drawers that way. But when I decided to become a period furnituremaker, I knew those days were over—only hand-cut dovetails would do. Abandoning the speed of a jig for tedious handwork seemed crazy at first, but with my first hand-cut joint, I learned it wasn’t as hard as I thought.
Dovetail joinery is a large part of what goes into constructing the upper case of this highboy. With its bonnet top and graceful moldings, this chest of drawers appears to be a formidable project. But stripped of embellishment, it’s simply a large dovetailed box containing smaller dovetailed boxes.
Finding high-quality, wide stock was my biggest challenge. I was fortunate to find outstanding curly cherry. I used poplar for all the secondary wood except the drawer bottoms, where I used aromatic cedar. Using cedar is more work because it involves joining narrow stock, but the wonderful smell that escapes as you open a drawer makes the effort worthwhile.
I described my approach for building the base unit in FWW #111,…