Cockbeading a Drawer
Traditional Drawer Detailing Adds Protection and Visual Interest

by Bill Tindall

    A cockbead, or cockbeading, is a thin, beaded lip molding that is applied to traditional period drawer fronts primarily to protect the edges of the decorative face veneer. The cockbeading also masks slight variations in the fit between the drawer and the opening, and adds a shadow line and some visual interest to the aesthetic of the piece.

    Usually, the cockbead is between 1/8" and 3/16" thick and stands about 1/8" proud of the drawer face, typically with a half-round profile on the front edge. For a small drawer something less than 1/8" is preferred by most. The beads on my drawers are 0.110". The cockbead on the top of the drawer extends to the rear edge of the drawer front, while the cockbeads on the sides of the drawer only reach back to the tops of the half-lap dovetail pins. I make my bottom cockbead the full width of the drawer edge, although in other places and times the bottom bead was made to the width of the side beads. Either method may be considered typical.

Scratch beading the cock bead profile.

    To make the cockbeading, I rip strips on the table saw or band saw and sand them to thickness on a drum sander. I round one edge with a scratch beader -- a profile scraper mounted in a wooden gauge -- because it leaves some irregularities that give the beading a handmade look and feel.

    The top and bottom beads will be mounted on the drawer twice during the fitting process, so some means of exactly repositioning them are necessary. I accomplish this by driving three brads into the drawer edge and cutting the heads off to make a sharp points, which punch alignment holes into the cockbead strips that I am fitting.

    Next, I press each strip into position onto the alignment pins and clamp it securely. Then I plane the ends flush with the side of the drawer to establish the length. While the strip is still in position, mark the transition point between the narrower, side cockbead rabbet to establish the stopping point of the stopped miter on the top and/or bottom beads.

    Next, remove the bead strip and fasten it to a guide block to pare the stopped miter.

    This photo shows the stop-mitered bead strip ready to be glued to the drawer. The bead is flipped end for end to show the stop miter. The alignment pins will ensure that it is repositioned precisely on the drawer.

    Here is a completed drawer for a Federal "lite" bow-front chest of drawers I made last year. (See lead photo, top.)

    This sacrificial auxiliary fence makes sawing the rabbets for the cockbeading easy and reliable. When sawing on a finished and fitted drawer, reliability is important. The drawer, in proper orientation, is pushed tightly to the fence and then across the saw. Go slow and use a sharp rip blade to prevent chipping. Do make triple-sure the drawer is oriented correctly. (Once, I absent-mindedly sawed at 90 to the correct orientation.

    Here is a drawer with all four rabbets sawn, ready to receive the cockbeading.

    When installing the cockbead, I clamp a board to the drawer front that has a rabbet at a depth that I want the cockbead to stand proud of the front. I push the bead strip tightly into the rabbet and nail it on.

. . . Bill Tindall

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