Bookcase-Progress 8

I made it out into the shop this afternoon and began working on the drawer components.  I needed six sides and three backs.

I began with the sides and managed to dig enough out of the off-cut bin to satisfy my needs.  The common practice with drawer sides seems to be that they are to be 1/2″(12mm) – 5/8″(15mm) thick.  Not exactly sure why, but I have followed along with this trend up to this point.  I decided to leave these drawer sides a full 3/4″(18mm) thick. Mostly just to see if I could stumble onto why the common practice is to thin them down.

I roughed out all of the sides and then began fitting them just as I do the drawer fronts.  I want them to just begin to slide into their intended openings, but remain just enough over-size that they will not slide all the way into the opening.  Once all of the sides were fitted to their intended openings I tackled the half-blind dovetails that joins the sides to the front of the drawer.  This is where the rest of my shop time was spent.

The oak that I’m using for the drawer fronts was salvaged from a long-ago shelf project.  I’ve worked with red oak before, but these pieces of oak were the hardest, stringiest pieces I have ever seen.  I swear that I saw the chisel bounce of the surface more than once without making a mark while chopping.  I even chipped a blade during the ordeal.  In the end, bull headed stubbornness and brute force won out.  It took all afternoon, but the dovetails are done!


I’ll work up some back boards, add grooves to hold the bottoms and start assembling these drawers over the course of the upcoming week.  Next weekend should see the finish going on.

Part 7 Greg Merritt Part 9

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14 Responses to Bookcase-Progress 8

  1. Pingback: Bookcase-Progress 7 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  2. Emilio says:

    Greg, your bookcase looks really great. Those three drawers – with their clean half-blind dovetails – are perfectly assembled. You’re really a talented woodworker! Bravo! I’m really looking forward to seeing the finish you’ve chosen.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks for that Emilio! They are far from perfect, but very servicable. I’m still struggling with the finish, but I think I have a front runner. I need to run a test piece before making any final decisions though.

  3. momist says:

    Hi Greg, I’ve made drawers with full thickness boards myself, and they work just fine. I suspect that the sides were originally made thin for one of two reasons:
    1. Economy, you could get two sides out of one piece of wood (who knows what size wood they were starting with back then?)
    2. There is lower friction with a narrow edge sliding on the drawer runner, making the drawer move more smoothly.
    Reason 2 is easily negated with the application of a candle.
    Subsequently, it became ‘normal’ and is therefore visually more acceptable, and also it makes more space inside the drawer. I would still thin them down now for that reason, but there is no compelling reason to.
    These are just my ideas, I don’t have any definite answers.

  4. Jeff Branch says:

    Your handsome drawer work has me thinking about finally attempting hand cut dovetails on my next project. 🙂 On the drawer sides; I once built a chest of drawers with 3/4″ drawer sides and they were too heavy. I am not sure weight would be noticeable with smaller drawers like yours, but for larger drawers like those I built, it was.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Hand cut is the only method I’ve ever used for dovetails. Years ago I used to watch Norm and dream of having a router and dovetail jig. Back then I didn’t have two nickles to rub together, so that dream never became reality. Fast forward to the present and I can’t imagin cutting dovetails with a router. I’m sure it’s much faster for a production shop though.
      Hand cut dovetails are not nearly as difficult as they are made out to be. In fact, half blind dovetails are easier than the through version. Do about 20-30 practice joints and you should be ready to go.

  5. Ben Eddy says:

    hi greg i showed your dad my vice my grandad used to hold wood to use a drawknife ill bet you would like a blueprint so you could make you one

    Date: Sun, 8 Nov 2015 23:58:19 +0000 To:

  6. Kinderhook88 says:

    It’s easier to cut dovetail joints in 1/2″ vs 3/4″. If I have to bang out a bank of drawers by hand, thinner boards cut down on joinery time.

  7. Pingback: Bookcase-Progress 9 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

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