the drawer

I found the nails. they were in the chest’s till; safely stored where I forgot them. After boring pilot holes, I nailed the sides to the front. In most cases, the nails go through the drawer side, into the end grain of the front. They sometimes go through the front, then to be covered by applied moldings. I could have done that, (these drawers will have applied moldings framing them), but the original is nailed this way.




But at the back, the nails go through the back into the end grain of the sides.

drawer assembly


Notice in this next photo, the drawer back closes the groove in the sides. So you have to open up a notch for the drawer to engage the runners.

drawer backstart with a saw, then a chisel.

notching the back

This one’s ready to drive the nails down.

back done



The bottoms run front-to-back. here’s one installed, fitting behind a rabbet in the drawer front, nailed up to the higher edges of the sides & back.



drawer bottom


Preliminary test drive of the drawer. Then I took it back out for the rest of the bottom boards.

test fit

There’s a false muntin glued onto the drawer front, then moldings surround the “two” drawer fronts. Here, the muntin is just placed there, when I glued it on, I made sure it was straight. Enough. (turned drawer pulls will fit into holes not-yet-bored in the drawer fronts. On to the next drawer.



I hope to post some spoons & boxes for sale tomorrow. we’ll see…

these drawers seem normal to me…

Today Chris Schwarz wrote about a drawer he made for a table he’s got underway.  Said it was somehow unusual. Seemed pretty normal to me, but I rarely make stuff with drawers. I have hopes of a new chest of drawers this winter; but we’ll see. Here’s the last full chest of drawers I made, for my wife the year before we got married.

chest of drawers, 2003

In 17th-century New England joined furniture, drawers are usually nailed together, rabbets front & back. Then the bottoms typically are nailed up to the sides & back, and fit in either a rabbet in the front, or in better versions, a groove in the front.

drawer side-to-front, rabbet w nails.

Here’s one with a half-blind dovetail where the front & sides are joined, then the bottom in a rabbet planed in the front. Nails secure the dovetail. belt & suspenders, this is. This drawer height is 6″, the full width of the drawer is about 45″.

dovetailed drawer, c. 1660s

Now a dovetailed one with a groove in the drawer front for the bottom boards.

Boston chest of drawers, detail


But the back? Those are almost ALWAYS rabbets w nails. Seen just one or two that were dovetailed there.

rabbeted back, nailed

Here’s another view:

rabbet, drawer back-to-side joint

17th-century drawers in this work are almost always side-hung; they have grooves plowed in the sides, that engage slats fitted into the interior of the framed carcass.

slats inside the case, for side-hung drawers

For drawers in chests with drawers, and chests of drawers, usually the bottoms are multi-board affairs, with the boards running front-to-back.

riven Atlantic white cedar drawer bottoms


These boards are fitted side-to-side with a tongue & groove between them:

tongue & groove boards, Savell chest

sometimes you find a drawer that has a single bottom board running along its width. This New Haven drawer is a freak; its multi-board bottom runs along the width of the drawer. These are riven oak clapboards that make up this drawer. Very thin.

oak clapboard drawer bottoms

There. Now you know how to make 17th-century New England drawers.