Cherry Chest of Drawers
Dovetail joinery decorates this Shaker-inspired case piece.
Synopsis: Build a classic chest of drawers that features a variety of dovetail joinery and Shaker-inspired elements using this article with fold-out project plans. Fine Woodworking’s art director, Michael Pekovich, also an avid woodworker, shares his methods for cutting dovetails with a combination of hand and power tools, cutting sliding dovetail slots accurately, and attaching molding with dovetailed keys, a method that allows the chest to shrink and expand with changes in humidity. Careful grain-matching and graduated drawers accentuate the piece.
From Fine Woodworking #170
My daughter Anna, going on 3 years old, loves to dress up. But picking out her own clothes means she has to deal with the cumbersome drawers of the flea-market dresser in her room. After she had an especially frustrating day wrestling with those drawers, I decided she needed a new place for her clothes. So I made her a simple dresser with seven drawers in four rows, with each row graduated in size and each drawer outlined with a thumbnail profile. The bracket base is decorated with dovetails at the corners, which echo the exposed dovetails at the top of the case. These small details, along with some carefully chosen lumber, complete the ornamentation. T
here’s a lot to consider when designing a chest of drawers, and the look you choose will affect your construction method (for various approaches, see “Anatomy of a Chest of Drawers” in FWW #163, pp. 36-43). In this case, my decision to expose the dovetails at the top of the case required a molding applied around the edges of the top, which in turn required an extra drawer stretcher attached behind that top molding. When it comes to design decisions, this domino effect is common, and it’s a big reason why I try to figure out the details on paper before I begin to build.
Like many woodworkers, I’ve made the mistake of trying to save money by choosing lesser-quality lumber, working around knots and sapwood and gluing up lots of narrow boards. I’ve come to realize that the investment in materials is small compared with the investment in labor. For this piece, I purchased lumber from Irion Lumber Co. (570-724-1895; www.iron lumber.com), a mail-order dealer in Pennsylvania. The supplier found multiple boards from the same tree, saving me the trouble of dyeing or staining mismatched boards. The total cost of the roughly 125 bd. ft. of lumber, including shipping, was $685, about $20 more than what my local lumberyard would have charged.
Things go wrong when I follow strict measurements. For this project, I started with the overall dimensions in the cut list and adjusted some of the measurements as I worked. To this end, you must be careful not to dimension all of the parts ahead of time, because some parts, such as the drawer stretchers, may change in dimension slightly as you go. When sizing the case, the important thing is that corresponding parts match. The pieces also must be cut square and glued up square. The foundation of the dresser is its carcase; as it goes, so goes the rest of the project.
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