I'm about to embark on building a dresser. I'd like to emulate this one:
Basically for those that don't go to the site to see it, it's a dresser with
multiple drawers and appears to have 4 square legs that run from the floor
to the underside of the top. Additionally, the sides and front are set back
slightly from the faces of the legs. Typical chest of drawers construction
would say to build a box, attach webs on the inside for the drawers, and
then put a base/feet on. What's throwing me a bit is the full length legs.
I'm thinking of two methods to incorporate them. Either a) mortise into the
legs for the front of the webs, build the sides as panels with rails
mortised into the legs adding a spacer to the back of the sides to hold the
webs or b) build as a traditional box with webs and then notch the legs to
set the box into. I suspect (a) is the best choice for strength but I'm
wondering if others have a better idea? I hope this makes sense....it's
difficult to describe via words sometimes! Thanks for the help!
like this. I make side panels with two legs, and then put attach the drawer
"shelves" (your "webs"?) and top to the side panels with pocket screws,
biscuits, or dowels.
Unless I am missing something, you are making too much out of this.
and extend to the back and hold the drawers. I'm planning on putting dust
guards in them as well (prolly just 1/4 ply). I'm not planning to use
pocket screws, biscuits, or dowels on this although dowels may be an option
if necessary. I much prefer to do a M&T for strength. Typically
dovetails are used to mount the front dividers to the front/back with the
webs set in a shallow dado along the sides but with the legs standing
slightly proud, that could be messy (or is it?). Thanks for the inputs.
much easier and perfectly adequate.
Naturally you could use m/t; I just see they are worth the extra work,
especially if they are blind as they presumably would be here.
At least I would do it all blind; seeing the tenons or dados would just be
out of place.
I made one that is slightly similar in design. I also used "full length
legs" and a frame and panel sides (plywood). I used mortise and tenon
construction to make the frame of the dresser, by mortising into the legs as
you mentioned. I also used drawer slides to attach drawers. Maybe mine
can guide you a little, maybe not. :)
If you really want to save yourself a big headache, rabbett the front drawer
dividers and half lap the drawer supports onto them. In the back of the
dresser run a dado left-right and tenon the back of the drawer support into
the dado. You can still either notch around the leg or glue a side piece
onto the drawer support.
Hope this makes sense.
Instead of nothing around the leg I glued a side piece on the drawer
support. You can see the dado in the back which holds the tenon of the
drawer support/guide. They are half-lapped and sit in a rabbet on the lower
Thanks Stout. That method would also make it easier to set the dust panels
vs. placing them into dado's. As well, it would facilitate easier
placement of the drawer supports vs. ensuring my mortise/tenons are in their
exact place. At this point, I've got enough of an idea to at least purchase
the materials and I'll start refining the design then. Thanks for all the
help. Thanks for the picture.....those definitely help! Hey, if it's
any consolation, my garage, er shop looks worse than yours!
FWIW, and besides "dresser", think "sideboard/hunt board/buffet" when doing
your research into structural methods, for basically this is what you are
building in a traditional sense (although without the usual cabinet doors in
There are a world of articles and plans using various methods available for
traditional "sideboards", which are traditionally wide, and which could shed
a lot of light on your questions and provide some good examples. FWW's site
is an excellent source. IMO, the construction of a large piece of this width
is not something to take lightly if it is to last.
Traditionally, this is done with "frame and panel" sides, with the 'web
frames' mortised into the legs and vertical panels. The problem is that you
don't often see many of these wide pieces as "antiques" that don't have some
problems due to the wood movement, particularly with sagging, racking,
cracks, and drawer fit problems.
On a piece of this width you most definitely want to use M&T joinery for it
to stand the "test of time", and even then, if what I've seen in doing my
own research is any indication, it will be a challenge.
If you're interested in building fine furniture, this method of using
"casework" with legs attached, often has an added advantage of fewer joints
and better dimensional stability if done properly.
Grain orientation in the casework can all be in the same direction, greatly
reducing problems with wood movement. Another benefit is that the casework
can be done with a secondary wood and therefore construction can be less
There is an article along this line in Sep/Oct 99 issue of FWW entitled
"Sideboard Strategies", which has some very interesting solutions to the
problems inherent with pieces of this width. The method is apparently taught
at a well respected woodworking school in Boston and was devised
specifically to address many of the problems you see with older pieces of
The method basically uses a dovetailed (dovetails in this situation are
hidden so don't need to be precise) case, with vertical panels dadoed into
the top and bottom (fortified with stub tenons for increased strength), and
the web frames are attached to vertical panels using the same method.
The legs are attached to the casework using a dovetail into the case top, a
stub tenon into the case bottom, and are additionally glued to the case
sides (again, a matching long grain to long grain situation) ... strength to
the max, which should resist racking for a long time to come.
The visible case sides are actually "veneered" (for want of a better term)
to the casework sides and can be adjusted in both thickness, to be flush
with the legs or inset a desired amount, or length, to create a stylistic
In addition, there are many advantages when making/fitting your drawers.
I've been intrigued with the idea enough to just recently start a similar
project using many of these ideas, which, while not a "dresser", is similar
in size and scope to the picture you posted:
If you're interested, I can e-mail you some of the particulars on the back
In event good luck with this ambitious project. You're on the right track
with getting as much input as possible. If done correctly it should offer a
lot of satisfaction in the making.
Thanks Swingman. Darn it, now you've got me thinking of another design :)
This is good! I like the ideas you presented from the FWW article. I
may have to go get that. I did
purchase the "Anatomy of a Chest of Drawers" article from them to give me
"inspiration" but I think I have to
go get this one now. Good luck with your project. I'll be watching it
with interest especially since it is very similar
to what I'm doing and you're a few weeks ahead of me.
I'm nearing the end of a project like this. I chose to make the sides
and the "webs" from mortise and tenon panels, with sliding dovetail
joints everywhere. While I like it, it has proved to be more work
than I expected.
On Jan 27, 10:25 pm, "James \"Cubby\" Culbertson"
Thanks Mike. This is very much along the ideas I've been throwing around
except the sliding dovetails for the vertical drawer supports. I was
planning to dovetail them in at the front but use a dado to put the
verticals in. I've done a little work with sliding dovetails and I always
end up with a huge headache so I have a lot of respect for you to have
pulled it off!
Lot's of ways to skin this cat.
My preference is to build the webs, sides, and back as separate assemblies
and then put them all together.
I've posted tow examples to ABPW
The first examble is done with a a stopped dado (1/8" deep) cut into the
side assemblies. I pocket holed from the underside.
In the second example I build the web with tennons sticking into the fron
legs. The rear of the we is supported by a dado cut in the intermediate
stiles of the rear panel assembly. It coulsdhave been done with mortises in
the rear, but it was a really wide piece and I wanted support in the middle.
Note that the top web is a special case. It's set in with a dovetail from
C & S,
Thanks much for the ideas. The pictures were great and really help me
shore up my plans. I have enough of an idea now to at least go buy the
wood (yeah, it'll probably cost more than if I just bought the darned thing
from Pottery Barn!). Appreciate the help! This will be my biggest piece
of "fine" furniture to date and I'm really looking forward to it!
Also meant to ask just how the cedar drawers hold up? I like the idea but
am worried as cedar is pretty soft. I figure I could put a thin runner of
maple on the bottoms of the sides but thought I'd ask how the cedar has held
I feel your pain! Before building a dresser for each of my two kids, I
got a copy of Bill Hylton's book "Chests of drawers". Seven plans plus a
couple of sections on case construction; still use it for reference from
time to time. One possibility for the webs is to M&T the front and back
rails into the legs with the interior edges of the rails flush to the edges
of the legs, M&T the front-to-back guides to the rails, but offset so that
the outside edge of the rail meets the panel on the inside of the case. Same
idea as notching the webs as previously suggested, but a different approach
to it. Option B, M&T the completed webs to the legs, front and back, and add
guides attached to the panel part of the frame and panel side to help align
the drawer as it opens and closes. Basically, the legs of the case support
the front and back rails of the webs, which in turn support the guides. One
caveat, though: if you use solid wood panels in your case, don't glue your
guides to them. Bad things can happen when the wood moves in response to
humidity. This would be ok with sheet good panels, though.
The first dresser was made when I was still learning about woodworking
(who am I kidding, I'm still learning :-) ). Frame and panel construction
using plywood panels and loose tenons, store bought slides for the drawers,
routed drawer lock joint for the drawers. The second dresser is the nicest
thing I've built to date. Solid cherry case joined together with hand cut
dovetails, traditional web frames attached to the sides with sliding
dovetails, drawers built with hand cut half blind DT's. And a lot of info I
got from the wreck archives on how to do it, so a big thank you to everyone
who takes the time to answer questions by newbies - I would wager I've
learned at least as much here as in any book I've read. And yes, dovetails
DO get easier the more you do them. (I'll post some pics on a.b.p.w in a
So, enough rambling for now, but I've been lurking for quite a while and
just wanted to say thanks to everyone and good luck with your dresser.
Thanks much Clint! I'm planning to do your first "possibility" I think.
I've got a good enough idea for amount of woods to get and now just need to
figure out a nice, long open time glue! Thanks for the help!
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