drawers

One of the parts we dealt with the other day in class was the drawer construction. In the chest we’re making, the sides join the drawer front just with a nailed rabbet. It’s stupid that I wrote “just” – as if I’m apologizing for some 2nd-class approach to drawer-making, because it’s not dovetailed. The fact is most English (including New England) drawers in this period are rabbeted and nailed. Even when the side-to-front joint is dovetailed (and nailed) the rear is rabbeted. And they work just fine. No more excuses and apologies. here’s some period drawer details.

Because I’m going to show some rough & tumble sort of drawers, I thought I’d compensate by showing some nicely-made ones too. We’ll start there. A drawer from a chest made south of Boston, c. 1660-1700. Half-blind dovetails join the side to the front. Nailed too, those aren’t added later, they’re the real thing. Bottom nailed up to the sides and rear, toe-nailed into a rabbet in the drawer front. Groove in side engages a runner let into the inside of the chest framing. “side-hung” is what this drawer construction is called. All of the drawers I’m showing you today are side-hung. 

dt drawer w nailsEven with dovetails at the front, the rear is rabbeted & nailed. Same drawer.

drawer back no DTs

 

A rabbeted side-to-front. Nailed. Bottom in a rabbet too.

 

SI table drawer detail 2

 

 

 

Now let’s get to where it’s at: these 2 drawers I photographed at Yale University’s Furniture Study. the cupboard they come from might be New Haven or Guilford, CT. Bottoms run parallel to the drawer front. Single board on one, multi-board on the other. Drawer sides were too thick for the nails, so were cut down where they rabbet into the front. Drawer front is thicker at its bottom edge than at its top edge, remnants from riving wedge-shaped pieces from the log. Turned pulls fit through the front and are wedged inside.

new haven drawers

 

New Haven drawer sides & front

These drawer backs are thin, really like a riven clapboard. Dressed (planed) on the inside, rough outside. Nailed & pegged in some cases.

drawer back (2)

 

for contrast, here’s the front of one of those drawers.

 

 

 

 

drawer front incl knob

These two are from a Boston chest of drawers. Showing the contrast between the front & back. Finished molded decoration on the deep drawer front, the back of the shallow, smaller drawer is almost just as it came out of the log.

 

drawer contrast

 

Here’s a chest with drawer from Ipswich Massachusetts, same time frame. No drawer pulls. No rail below drawer. No framing on the side of the chest covering the drawer. How’s that for simple?

 

mfa loan (2)

 

Usually the drawers are full-width of the case. Here’s two side-by-side drawers. With one removed, you can see the runner set in the muntin in this case. The other runner is set in the stiles at the other end of the drawer.

 

MFA chest drawer detail small

These runners are not anything special. Notches are cut with a saw & chisel, the runners set in. Often toe-nailed too. (this one is not)

runners

As I was picking out pictures, I saw this one & don’t remember seeing drawers done like this before. The drawer front/side is notched – you can just make it out in the top right in this photo. No drawer rail below. I’ll have to go look at this one again, it’s right down the street from my house. Make locally, same period, mid-to-late 17th century.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

drawers, pt 1

Finally got to working on the drawers for one of the Connecticut chest with drawers. Inside the chest are slats for the side-hung drawers to ride on. One’s installed here, and below it are the notches where the lower drawer will fit. (above the drawer runner is the groove for the chest floor. It’s easier to see what you’re doing if the floor is not yet installed.)

interior

 

 

the drawer sides are thick, nearly 1″. Even thickness makes them easier to handle too. Here, I’m plowing the 3/8″ groove that will ride on the drawer slat/runner. About 1/2″ deep. I’ve got the drawer sides stacked on top of one another, making sure the top piece’s edge is bumped out towards me, for the plow plane’s fence to run…

plowing drawer sides

 

 

Next, I scribe the thickness of the side on the rear face of the drawer front. scribing rabbet

Then saw & split a rabbet in the drawer front. Clean it up and test fit it.

splitting

needs nails

The drawer side is not as tall as the drawer front. This rabbet is for the drawer bottoms to tuck behind.

 

rabbet

 

Here is a test fit of the drawer side – the slat is in place, and I’ve hung the side on it & slide it in & out to see how it rides. It was at this point that I realized I’ve misplaced the handmade nails I’ll use to assemble this drawer. So I started making the 2nd drawer while I hope the nails miraculously re-appear .

 

test fit

Below is the “other one” – a dovetailed drawer. Similar time frame, late 17th century. Just another way of doing things.

the other one

 

2 birds; 1 stone – joined chest class at CVSWW 2015

Today I spent a good deal of time on my hands & knees. I was with Bob Van Dyke, Will Neptune and Christina Vida collecting information for the joined chest class we’re doing at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking this year. (to read the class description, follow this link,

http://schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html

 

chest w drawers

We’re building a version of this Connecticut chest with drawers. For the class, it will be “chest w drawer” – it’s a crazy enough undertaking as it is.

Here’s some of the materials, Michael Doherty took me to the wall of wood. These were maybe 12′ high, I’d say 10′ long logs, maybe longer.

wall of wood

Some of the larger oaks had been pulled out for us already. Michael had picked out more too. I’ve never ordered wood for so many full-sized chests before. But if we need more, it’s there. Below are some of the oaks (the red cedar top right is Michael’s):

 

 

logs

 

So if you want to see how to turn those logs into a chest, sign up to take the class. It’s a time commitment; one weekend a month for 5 months. But you’ll get to go through the whole process, and learn all the details of a chest like this. (our plan is to start with a field trip – we’ll go to the woodyard, and work the logs in the picture just above – the students will split the logs apart to begin gathering rough stock).

I taught a chest class at Roy Underhill’s last year, but it was a scaled-down simple frame & panel chest. This one is full-size, carvings and molding. All the bells & whistles. There will be at least one field trip to examine the original chest in detail. (Hopefully a 2nd trip to see other 17th-c chests at Windsor Historical Society…) I’m not going into detail on the whole chest now; but it has a lot of interesting features. Of course the carving is a big part of it – almost no blank space at all.

center panel

carving detail

 

The 2-birds-1-stone reference is the chest with drawers I’m going to make based on this 0ne. This repro will be part of the Strong-Howard house interpretive re-installation underway at the Windsor (CT) Historical Society. http://www.windsorhistoricalsociety.org/strong_house.html

Bob Van Dyke and Will Neptune, among others, have been involved in this project from its inception. Her’es a blurb Bob put on the CVSWW site about their work =  http://schoolofwoodworking.com/projects.html

Here’s the project Bob & Will were planning – http://schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes/29-speciality-weekend-classes/533-build-an-oval-tavern-table-with-will-neptune.html