I'm relatively new on the woodworking scene. During this time, I've noticed
that I have started to examine some common everyday items more critically.
I have been considering upgrading my "chest of drawers" for a while. Having
dealt with troublesome ones for a while, one feature which I thought I might
seek is drawers that slide out on rails. I'm not even sure whether this
option is available in retail (but haven't looked that hard). Anyway, my
question to you folks is, what features comprise a really fine chest of
drawers (a list would be nice)? I know that much of this is subjective,
but I think an answer to this would be informative to me.
I'll try to start:
1. Solid wood.
2. Dovetail joints (somewhere)
3. Durable finish (I'm not even sure how to achieve this)
(not the cost, that's my name!).
While a well made, carefully constructed wooden drawer on wooden slides can
be a joy to use for a hundred years, they are rare on new furniture.
IME, your best bet on a 'chest of drawers' for a bedroom are well crafted,
stable drawers, on _two_ quality drawer slides.
Only two things on any list would ultimately matter ... the craftsmanship
and pride that goes into the piece, whether factory or custom made.
4. None of the above.
Because a case/drawer/part is "solid wood" does not guarantee "quality".
Plywood/laminated cases/drawers/parts can be better crafted, and provide
what laminate/plywood does best, offer dimensional stability through the
Be very careful with terminology when furniture shopping. In the furniture
business "solid wood" can be anything comprised of wood, including plywood
and "particle board" ... just ask any furniture salesman.
That said, shy away (if you can these days) from furniture that uses
"particle board" in place of plywood.
Dovetail joints are certainly not a guarantee of quality. Factory machined
dovetails of the worst sort are often seen on the cheapest furniture.
Most any factory finish on the better grade of furniture is sufficient.
As always, your best indication of "quality" in a piece of furniture is
still the reputation of the maker, and price.
1. Solid and Plywood. Plywood on the drawer bottoms and cabinet back.
2. DT joints that the builder cared enough about that he sanded them
3. A finish that reveals the actual wood, not a finish that hides the grain
and has black fly spots all over it.
4. No metal drawer slides but drawers that fit close enough to the opening
that they don't start to tip until they are 2 or 3 inches from being pulled
all the way out.
5. Drawers that actually go to the back of the cabinet and pull out almost
all the way. Basically drawers that fill the empty space inside the chest.
6. Drawers that pull straight out and not have a lot of slop left and
> No, I was agreeing with Leon's definition of quality.
> I build my own and pretty much follow Leon's "specs".
> Coincidentally, I'm starting on a chest of drawers tomorrow.
SFWIW, just finished one which included dust covers.
Added some weight and consumed 2 sheets of 1/4" Birch ply, but works for me.
I think dust covers are almost a thing of the past these days. I finished
up a chest of drawers complete with web frames and dust panels. Most
people that see it ask me what the covers are for....sad. As for
quality, well I'm one of these guys that prefers connecting the wood pieces
with joinery vs. screws (or worse, staples). I'm sure the screw route is
strong enough but a good mortise/tenon or sliding dovetail just feels more
sturdy to me (and nicer looking IMO).
And here are a few more:
4. Dovetail joints on drawers
5. At least 1/2" drawer sides
6. At least 1/4" drawer bottoms (more on large drawers)
7. Enclosed dust frames between drawers. Each drawer in its own
8. Design takes account of wood movement.
You can't go wrong with Stickley, but bring a big wallet. Their
drawers are dovetailed, oak sides and back, triple guided (you can
stand on them), mortise and tenon joints, hunky peices of quarter sawn
Why not practice on smaller stuff and then build your own?
Yes, making a chest of drawers sounds like a great project. My current
project is a minstrel-style banjo. It's starting to remind me of Lew
Hodgett's boat project that I just read about (in as much as I thought I'd
be making faster progress)! : )
Thanks for mentioning Stickley, their site seems like a great source of
Glad you like the site - that sort of furniture design is timeless in
my opinion, and I'm trying to build my stuff to look like that, but I
admit I'm a beginner. So far I made a reasonable looking double
bookcase that fairly matches our stickley bedroom furniture (their
stains are hard to match). Creating something like their dressers
however, would take some doing and skill, with the through dovetails
that have the decorative cuts on the end, the heavy tops, joinery,
drawer fitting, etc Honestly, I'm not there yet and it may take a
while to get there, but its great stuff. My bookcases it seems I find
some of the large parts are cut and some rips are off by 1/16 as it
got fed through the blade, so I have a ways to go as far as super
accuracy and joinery.
My wife and two little kids keep me out of the shop more than I'd like
from a project perspective, however they are only little for a short
I'm not there yet either--but I am sure that a willingness to try (and
without expecting perfection on every step), is alot more than half the
battle--or rather, the journey. One has to be realistic too. I'm not going
to attempt a chest of drawers for my next project. I'm a beginner too.
When my sister and I were very young, my dad, who was quite artistic, built
us a personalized (and cute) little "stair" to stand on so we could reach
the bathroom sink. He passed away 3 weeks ago. Celebrate life (it sounds
like you do); my dad did.
Peace and good luck,
Mission Oak Gel Stain ... I've built a ton of mission style furniture in the
past and wish I'd discovered this stuff long ago. Made by the
Lawrence-McFadden Company for Rockler, it appears from their website that
Rockler may have distribution rights.
Here are two articles by Jewitt on Stickley finish, one for
and one for a similar finish using spray equipment
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.
Wow, thanks for the finishing tips for Mission projects. I got pretty
close using a custom blended stain for a first pass, then I used a
darker stain to give it additional depth and applied a Rockler wipe on
poly / oil finish and used 2 coats. I'm very much a beginner but have
a stack of Wood magazines that have all kinds of hints on stuff and
getting tips from folks like you guys. Much appreciated.
Sort of OT, but I'm currently building 4 bookcase units (doing the
double I did earlier was sort of a PITA) and want the option to have
them appear as one wall unit, or if I want to move them around, have
them separately. What is a good way to connect them? I was thinking
of just putting a furring strip thing on the back of them with some
screws into the uprights, that wouldn't leave a scar.
I'm also thinking of having only flush side trim so they can be shoved
up next to each other and not have the bases in the way, maybe have
some side trim that can be screwed on and off from the back as
needed. Of course it will need support besides the trim to do that,
but I have plenty of plywood scraps.
FWIW, my next project may be either a coffee table or a thin drawer
tower to set on the end of the TV. Either way, I'll get a chance to
use a xmas present my PCable dovetail jig. I know a guy who does his
all by hand and thats great for him, no kids and a slack job, but I
just want to get the job done and having it custom can wait a little
while when I get bored with ones from the jig.
Sorry to hear about your Dad, Bill, it sounds like he was a good guy
and fellow woodworker.
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