he first step in drawer-making is to think the process through from beginning to end. The various stages of the operation are related; the finished dimensions of a drawer front, for example, can depend on the joinery method you choose. And drawer hanging methods can influence the way a drawer is built.
Once you have settled on the size of drawer, choose a joinery method (page 75), a method of hanging and the style of front you will use; then size your stock. Cut the front, back and sides to fit the opening, choosing the most visually appealing piece for the front. The grain of the drawer should run horizontally when it is installed. Make sure that the best side of each piece faces outward; mark it with an X as a reminder.
Not all the parts of a drawer undergo the same stresses. The front takes the hardest beating, the sides a little less, the back less still. Cabinetmakers take this into account when they build drawers. Many will plane the parts differently depending on how sturdy they need to
be. Thus, the front can be thicker than the sides and the sides thicker than the back.
Woodworkers often use different joints at different corners. The choice depends not merely on the desired visual effect, but also on the stresses the joint will face. A joint that might be adequate to connect the sides to the back of a drawer may not be strong enough to join the front to the sides.
The following pages present an assortment of joinery methods. Some are suitable for ffont-to-side joints, others are strictly for back-to-side joints, while still others can be used at any corner. You also need to keep in mind the type of wood you are using. Some joints, such as the dovetail and the double dado, can be used only with solid wood, while others—the rabbet and the dado, for example—work equally well with plywood or solid wood.
For the strongest and most attractive joint, choose the through dovetail, which can be cut quickly and accurately using a jig (page 80). You can also saw one by hand as you would to join carcase sides (page 27). Unless you will be
installing a false front (page 97), a halfblind dovetail (page 82) may be a better choice. Also called the lapped dovetail, the half-blind dovetail conceals the end grain of the sides.
Rabbet and lipped rabbet joints (page 77) are easy to cut and are strong enough to use at any corner of a drawer, particularly if reinforced with screws or nails. The main difference between the two joints is that the drawer front in a lipped rabbet joint overhangs the sides. As a result, the front must be cut larger than the opening.
Simple to construct, the dado and double dado joints (page 78) are ideal choices for small, light-duty drawers. The double dado conceals end grain, making it a visually appealing alternative to the dado.
Like other operations in cabinetmaking, drawer-building demands accuracy and patience. Make test joints to fine – tune your tools and measurements before cutting into stock, and periodically test-fit a drawer to ensure it will fit its opening perfectly.
On your table saw install a dado head slightly wider than the thickness of the drawer sides and crank it below the table. Attach an auxiliary fence and set the width of cut equal to the thickness of the sides. Turn on the saw and raise the blades to notch the auxiliary fence. Set the cutting height to no more than one-half the thickness of the drawer front. To cut the rabbets, butt the edge of the front against the fence. Holding the workpiece flush against the miter gauge, feed it face down into the dado head. Flip the board around and repeat the cut at the opposite end (right).
Cutting dadoes in a drawer front
Mark one end of the board to divide its thickness into thirds. Then, on your table saw attach a dado head whose width equals one-third the thickness of the drawer front. Next, install a commercial tenoning jig; the model shown slides in the miter slot. Protecting the stock with a wood pad, clamp the drawer front to the jig. Move the jig sideways to align the marks on the stock with the dado head to cut out the dado in the middle third of the board. Slide the jig along to feed the stock into the blades. Turn the drawer front over and clamp it to the jig to cut the dado at the other end (right).
2 Trimming the dado tongues
Install an auxiliary fence, then mark a cutting line on the edge of the drawer front to divide one of the tongues on its inside face in half. With the stock flush against the miter gauge, inside face down, align the marked line with the dado head. Butt the fence against the stock. Notch the fence (page 77), then set the cutting height to trim the half-tongue. Holding the drawer front firmly against the gauge, feed it into the dado head. Turn the board around and repeat the procedure at the other end (right).
1 Setting up the router jig
Set up a router jig for cutting dovetails following the manufacturer’s instructions. For the model shown, adjusting the tails on a finger assembly automatically sets the proper width for the pins on the opposite side of the same assembly. To begin, cut a piece of Winch plywood to fit across the top of the jig as a spacer board, then clamp the board between the jig body and the finger assembly. The spacer board serves as a solid base for the assembly and helps reduce tear-out. Make sure that the assembly lock screws face up; if they do not, loosen the scale thumbscrews, remove the finger assembly from its support arms and flip it over. Fit a router with a dovetail bit, then set the pin scale on both ends of the finger assembly to the bit diameter (inset). Tighten the thumbscrews. Clamp the tail board (one of the drawer’s sides) to the jig, outside-face out. Loosen the lock knobs on each side of the jig, then slightly raise the finger assembly and tighten the knobs. Lay out the fingers across the end of the tail board to set the size and spacing of the tails. Leave a few fingers on each side of the tail board to keep the router steady when it is cutting. There should be one finger at each edge of the board to make half-tails. Once you are satisfied with the spacing—symmetrical or asymmetrical, depending on your preference—tighten the lock screws (left).
Cutting the tails
With the tail board still clamped to the jig, loosen the scale thumbscrews. Turn over the finger assembly and slide it along the support arms until both scales indicate the ALL position. Loosen the lock knobs on the side of the jig, lower the finger assembly on the spacer board and tighten the knobs, making sure the assembly is sitting squarely on the spacer board. Use a pin board as a guide to scribe a line across the tail board marking the cutting depth. Then, position the router on the jig, its base plate resting on the finger assembly, and set the tip of the bit Vie inch below the marked line. Turn on the router and cut out the waste between the tails (right). Rout from right to left, keeping the tool flat against the finger assembly. Turn the board over, secure it to the jig and cut the tails at the other end the same way. Follow the same procedure to cut the tails of the other drawer side.
3 Cutting the pins
Remove the tail board and turn over the finger assembly. Set the pin scale to the diameter of the dovetail bit as in step 1. Then fit the router with a straightcutting bit and clamp the pin board—the drawer front—to the jig, outside-face out. Use a tail board butted against the pin board to mark a line for the cutting depth. Place the router on the jig and set the tip of the bit Уіб inch below the marked line. Cut out the waste between the pins the same way you routed out the tails (left). Then, remove the pin board and test-fit the joint. If the fit is too tight, loosen the scale thumbscrews and slide the finger assembly about Vs inch toward the back of the jig. Tighten the thumbscrews (below). Make another pass with the router to remove more waste between the fingers. Test-fit the joint again, and make any necessary adjustments. Once you are satisfied with the fit, turn the board over, secure it to the jig and cut the pins at the other end. Cut the pins at both ends of the drawer back the same way.
1 Marking the pin board
Mark the outside faces of the boards with an X. Then set a cutting gauge to about two-thirds the thickness of the pin board and mark a line across the end, closer to the outside than the inside face (above). Adjust the cutting gauge to the thickness of the stock and scribe a line around the ends of the pin boards to mark the shoulder line of the tails. Next, use a dovetail square to outline the pins on an end of the pin board; the wide part of the pins should be on the inside face of the stock. There are no strict guidelines for spacing dovetail pins, but for most drawers, starting with a half-pin at each edge and adding two evenly spaced pins in between makes for a strong and attractive joint. To complete the marking, secure the pin board in a vise and use a try square and a pencil to extend the lines on the board end to the shoulder line on its inside face (right). Mark the waste sections with an X as you go.
2 Cutting the pins
Secure one pin board in a vise with the outside face of the stock toward you, then cut along the edges of the pins with a dovetail saw, working your way from one board edge to the other. (Some woodworkers prefer to cut all the left-hand edges of the pins first, then all the right – hand edges.) Hold the board steady and align the saw blade just to the waste side of the cutting line; angle the saw toward the waste to avoid cutting into the pins. Use smooth, even strokes, allowing the saw to cut on the push stroke. Continue the cut just to the shoulder line, then repeat to cut the pins at the other end of the board.
Removing the bulk of the waste
Set the panel inside-face up on a work surface and clamp a guide block to it, aligning its edge with the waste side of the shoulder line. Starting at one edge of the stock, hold the flat side of a chisel about Vie inch from the guide block; the tool should be no wider than the narrowest part of the waste section. With the chisel square to the face of the board, use a wooden mallet to strike it, scoring a line about Vs-inch-deep into the waste section. Then hold the chisel flat side down and square to the end of the board about Vs inch below the top surface. Strike the chisel to remove a thin layer of waste. Continue until you reach the scribed line on the end of the board, then pare away any excess (step 4). Repeat the process with the remaining waste sections.
4 Final paring
Working on one waste section at a time, press the flat side of the chisel against the walls of the section with the thumb of your left hand; with your right hand, push the chisel toward the shoulder line, shaving away the last slivers of waste (left). If necessary, tap the chisel gently with a wooden mallet.