Richard Jones' Chest of Drawers


Construction, Part IV:
Drawer Work
    The drawer material that was previously stored can be got out and worked. True up all the drawer fronts, and size them to width and thickness. For the Häfele slides used, the following are critical dimensions:
  • –Each pair of drawer sides is 16 mm narrower than their matching front.
  • –Every drawer side is 308 mm long, and this provides for an 8 mm sliding dovetail into the drawer front, and for through dovetails at the back,
  • –A 6 mm+ wide X 5.5 mm deep groove is worked with the bottom edge of the groove 13 mm up from the sides bottom edge. This groove carries the drawer bottom of veneered 6 mm MDF.
  • –Each drawer back is 39 mm narrower than its front.
  • –The length of every back is 13 mm less than the internal cabinet width (i.e., in this case 422 mm long to go into a 435 mm space.)
  • –All sides and backs are 12 mm thick.
  • –This information is a guide, and you should recalculate according to your circumstances.

         Once all the parts are dimensioned as above they can be used to position the drawers and slides inside the cabinet This can probably best be accomplished by making a rod or pattern of 12 mm MDF or Birch ply that conforms exactly to the interior side elevation of the cabinet side. Errors in layout are easily fixed with an eraser, and some re-measuring and drawing. If your cabinet is solid timber you should allow for expansion and contraction, and this is not provided for with this Häfele slide. Provide for it by joining two rear screwholes in the slide to form a slot. With sixteen to do as in this case, an engineering mill, if available, is convenient.
         With the internal rod (pattern) cut, start by positioning and marking all the drawer fronts on the rod's long front edge, and work back into the cabinet marking out and drawing in the position of the drawer sides, and the position of the drawer bottom grooves worked in these sides. Then position the bottom drawer slide on the rod so that the top of the slide matches the position of the groove where the underside of the drawer bottom fits. The slide should be perpendicular to the rods' front edge, i.e. parallel with the bottom edge.
        Mark the centre of the two screw holes, one front, one back. Use a marking gauge and scribe the inset distance of these screw holes from the rods long edges all along the length.
        Next, work upwards, one drawer at a time and plot the position of every slide by marking the centre of the appropriate screwholes. Use a 2 mm or 2.5 mm twist, or brad point, bit and bore the marked screw centres. A drill press is handy, but it can be done freehand. Once all this plotting is complete, the rod is offered up to each cabinet side and the screwholes marked through.
         With this pattern of drawer, there is no slip. The weight of the drawer and its contents is carried by the bottom which sits on the Häfele slides, and by the channel worked in the drawer sides.

        Drawer construction is fairly conventional, and stages are illustrated in photos 7-10 below. After the fronts are glued on the dovetail housing that runs out on the bottom edge of the drawer front can be plugged with a matched grained dovetail shaped piece of timber. Technically, this is unnecessary, but it's a neat touch. Flush off the top edges of the drawer box with a hand plane.
    Routing the Sliding Dovetail Clearing the Waste
    Completed Drawer Parts Clearing the Waste

         Fit the drawer bottoms and insert three screws up through them into the underside of the back. The drawer back has a hole cut to capture the hook at the end of the slide. This can be drilled, but a plunge router, 3 mm bit and side fence can also be used. If using this latter method, shim out the drawer bottom with a piece of 18 mm MDF to create a flat reference surface for the router's side fence. Holes for the pulls can be centred and drilled with a shop made MDF boring jig that locates positively to the drawer fronts.
         Final fitting of the drawers means boring the previously marked screw positions on the cabinet sides with pilot holes and fitting the slides. Then attach the slide locking devices to the underside of the drawer. (See photos 11 and 12 below.) They are attached to the back of the drawer front, 29 mm± away from the inner face of the drawer side. Cut a timber spacer this length, and attach a pair of the locking devices to a drawer with just one screw each. Test fit, and make an adjustment to the timber spacer if needed. Plug the original screw holes if the locking device position was found to be wrong first time, and rebore as required.
    Drawer Locking Devices Attached Installed Drawers from Back
         If the drawer racks a little at the back because it's a tad too wide to fit snugly over the slides, prepare timber shims about 50 mm long by 14 mm wide, and thicknessed to suit the gap. Rub joint them in place at the rear under the drawer bottom. Trim flush when dry. Attach all the locking devices, and number them to correspond with the drawer number. Install each drawer starting from the bottom. Use the locking devices to make small vertical and horizontal adjustments. Some drawers may need skimming with a hand plane here and there to space all the drawers evenly.

    Page 1: Design
    Page 2: Cutting Lists
    Page 3: Building the Carcase
    Page 4: Shaping the Legs
    Page 5: Completing the Carcase
    Page 6: Drawer Work
    Page 7: Finishing
    Drawing 1: Front Elevation
    Drawing 2: Side Elevation
    Drawing 3: Plan View
    Drawing 4: Plywood Construction

    © Richard Jones, 2001. No part of this article
    --text, photographs, slides, sketches, working drawings, etc.--
    may be reproduced in any form
    without the express written consent of the author.