Woodworking writers love to get to the end of the story where they can simply state: Build the drawers in the usual manner and apply your favorite finish. And enjoy!
This is, by the way, a bit of laziness or secretiveness. Some writers don’t want to reveal how they really finish a piece. Finishing is still a state secret for some professionals.
As to drawers, this morning I finished up work on the drawer for a Charleston table reproduction from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. And let me tell you this drawer was a lot of fun to construct because it is not built in the usual manner.
What’s the “usual” manner?
1. Through-dovetails at the rear of the drawer.
2. Half-blind dovetails at the front.
3. The drawer bottom slides into the drawer box from the back and rests in a groove in the sides and drawer front.
For this early 18th-century drawer, here’s what we’ve got:
1. Through-dovetails at the rear.
2. Half-blinds at the front.
3. A drawer front that is wider than the drawer sides.
4. A bottom that is nailed onto the drawer’s sides and back.
5. The bottom edge of the drawer front is rounded over, on both the inside and outside corners.
I have a theory. Wanna hear it?
The rounded-over drawer front is the same profile used on the stretchers at the bottom of the piece. Perhaps it was a conscious design decision. Or perhaps the drawer front was originally planned to be a stretcher.
In any case, I had to be wary of wood movement with this drawer. If I’d simply glued the bottom on the drawer frame the bottom would likely split or ruin the drawer frame. So here’s what I did: (Man what’s with all these lists? It’s like I work for USA Today.)
1. Glued the drawer bottom to the backside of the drawer front.
2. Glued the bottom to the drawer sides – but only for the first 4” or 5”.
3. Nailed the bottom on with 4d cut headless brads.
(Edit: Robert Lang, who measured the piece, had Megan Fitzpatrick call me to tell me I forgot a rabbet in the backside of the drawer front. And yup, I did. There is a rabbet behind the drawer front that the drawer bottom rests in. Below is Bob’s drawing of how it should look.)
The glue will keep the drawer bottom tight at the front. The nails will flex and allow the bottom to expand and contract.
Now I just have to apply my favorite finish (green or blue?) and turn a knob.
— Christopher Schwarz