July/August 2006
Volume 49
Issue 4
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Notes from the Shopsmith Woodworking Academy
Basic Drawer Construction

Like many woodworkers, you may be reluctant to attempt a furniture building project
because you consider drawer construction intimidating. But once the case is built, you can easily create attractive, smooth-working drawers every time by approaching drawer construction in an orderly, step-by-step fashion.

One of the most common types of drawer is the lip drawer. A Lip Drawer fits partially within the drawer opening, and has a lip around the edge that overlaps the face frame (see drawing).

TIP: A logical, accurate, time-saving way to make drawers is by “grouping” parts. For example, make all of the drawer fronts at the same time, all of the side pieces, and then the bottoms. Since all of the joints are cut to fit, this kind of stock preparation takes less time and reduces waste.

Use the following techniques to create lip drawers.

STEP ONE: Drawer fronts. Construction begins with the drawer fronts. Use 3/4” stock and determine the size by measuring the drawer opening and adding 1/2” to the length and width – this allows for all sides to overlap the frame by 1/4”.

The sides are joined to the drawer fronts with a dovetail dado. To prepare this joint, first cut 5/16” wide x 3/8” deep dadoes, 7/8” from each end of the drawer fronts (See Fig. 1). These dadoes allow for the safe and efficient use of the 1/2” dovetail cutter.

Next, use your Drill Press setup with the Shopsmith Router Chuck and 1/2” Dovetail Cutter adjusted to make a 3/8” depth-of-cut, centered in the dado. Use your Miter Gauge for control and your Rip Fence as a guide to rout out the dovetail in each dado (See Fig. 2).

Complete the drawer front by forming a 3/8” wide x 3/8” deep rabbet on each edge. This rabbet allows for 1/8” clearance (on all sides) between the drawer front and the drawer opening.

STEP TWO: Drawer sides. Use 3/4” stock for the sides and rip the stock so the width of the sides are equal to the drawer opening MINUS 1/4”. Cut the sides to length.

Using your MARK V’s Horizontal Boring mode, cut dovetail tenons to fit the dovetail dadoes on the front ends of the drawer sides (see Fig. 3). The front end of the drawer side should be even with the edge of the saw table…and the dovetail cutter should extend 3/8” over the table. Use the fixture shown in the drawings and make several test cuts from both sides to achieve the correct fit.

CAUTION: You must slowly pull the stock under the cutter from the back, thus feeding the stock against the rotation of the router bit.

Next, cut the rabbets for the back. The width of these rabbets must equal the thickness of the back…and the depth of the rabbet must equal one-half the thickness of the side (See Fig. 4).

STEP THREE: Drawer backs. For the back, you can use any thickness of stock. To find the length of the back, dry assemble the front and the sides, then measure the distance between the rabbets. Cut the back to fit.

STEP FOUR: Bottom grooves. To hold the bottom of the drawer in place, cut a 1/4” wide x 1/4” deep groove along the inside bottom of the front, the sides and the back (see drawing). Use your Drill Press or Shopsmith Overarm Pin Router with a 1/4” Straight Router Bit to cut these grooves. Groove the front between the two dovetail slots (See Fig. 5)…then groove the entire length of the sides and back (See Fig 6). Make at least two passes for each groove.

WARNING: Use feather boards when routing these grooves.

STEP FIVE: Drawer bottom. To determine the correct size for the drawer bottom, dry assemble the front, sides and back. Measure the inside length and width of the drawer, then add 3/8” to each dimension to get the length and width of the bottom. For best results, use 1/4” plywood for the bottom. Cut the bottom to size.

STEP SIX: Assembly. Sand all parts thoroughly. Then apply a very thin layer of slow-setting glue on the dovetail tenons and in the dovetail slots (See Fig. 7). Slide the dovetails together. Push the bottom into place and apply glue to the rabbets in the back. Position the back…and with wire brads or screws…secure the rabbet joint (See Fig. 8).

SUMMARY: Although the previous steps list specific dimensions and depths-of-cut, it’s important to remember that since all joints are cut to fit, you must compensate for any variations in actual measurements. By all means, if in doubt, measure what you’ve just done before you move on to the next step. ASSEMBLY...

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