June 7, 2014
In the last video post, the Gentleman’s Valet part three, I prepared and fit the drawer parts to the drawer box carcase.
I had a lot of viewers asking why I made the fit so tight, and if I was worried about wood movement issues.
These are great questions, and I wanted to address them here, as well as the sequence I use for preparing the parts.
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Wood movement, and the issues it presents in solid wood furniture is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all of furniture making.
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Yes, wood will always move a little, (maybe even more ‘than a little’ in certain situations)
but I don’t let this dictate the fit of a custom made drawer.
When I initially prepare the drawer parts, as I did in the last video, I’m looking for a fit that is snug.
I slowly sneak up on the parts so they -just- fit into the drawer box opening.
Inevitably, these parts will be planed and adjusted a little as I continue on through the making, but to begin, I want them tight!
I would always prefer having to adjust a tight fitting drawer later, than living with a sloppy fitting drawer forever.
THE ORDER OF APPEARANCE
Begin by sawing the drawer front stock ( in this case lacewood ) slightly over-sized in both height and width, to the opening.
Decide on a bottom edge and shoot it square and straight.
( this becomes the reference edge )
This reference edge is placed against the fence on the shooting board and one end is squared off.
The drawer front is offered up to the opening and the length and height of the face is noted.
I should also mention the obvious here– the drawer box carcase needs to be as square as possible or this is all for none;
if it isn’t perfectly square, you’ll need to scribe the drawer face off the un-square opening for a perfect fit.
With the second end square, I offer the drawer face up to the opening and start checking and adjusting it.
Slowly working, one shaving at a time until I’m just able to squeeze in into place.
A couple of extra shavings off the height is OK, making it a whisker shy of the opening.
But the width of the drawer front, from side to side should be perfect.
Once you have the drawer front fitting exactly as you want, clearly label the top front and use it as a template for the back.
**If you’re working on a project that has multiple drawers, and grain continuity is critical,
you can fit the drawer backs to the opening first, and use them as templates to make the fronts.
That way, if you mess up the fit, it won’t affect the aesthetic of the grain on the drawer face.
So back to this example, and the single drawer valet, scribe the drawer back directly off the perfectly fit front and shoot it to fit.
I should mention the back of the drawer will have through dovetails, so the height of the back will be adjusted later on.
With the front and back perfectly fit, move onto the sides.
Watch the video again and note how I slowly fit one side, a shaving at a time, until I get that piston fit.
** Here’s another tip before you decide on the orientation of the drawer sides-
make sure the grain is running towards the back of the drawers. That way, after the joinery is complete,
and you’re fitting them later on, you’ll be planing away from the half lap on the drawer fronts.
When you get one side fit- check it in the opening for the second side.
If it fits, use it as a template and scribe the other side of the drawer- if it doesn’t,
follow these same steps and refine the second side.
Working slowly and deliberately, leaving nothing to chance in this way,
will give you a much better chance at achieving that perfectly tuned, piston-fit drawer.
And yes, if you’re making this project during the winter, with a furnace running around the clock and the air as dry as dust,
then come next August or September, if the humidity skyrockets as it does here in Southern Ontario,
you may have to re-adjust the drawer as it could potentially swell up and become sticky in use.
This one never did, and the humidity here changes drastically through the seasons.
Maybe I was lucky?
Or maybe the wood was thin enough that any wood movement was unnoticeable or irrelevant?
Whatever the case, you can see how tight I made my parts and it worked out alright for me.
Shoot for a perfect fit but realize there’s always some give and take to solid wood furniture.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about fitting drawers.
Leave me some comments below and let me know how you go about this process.
Do you measure the height and width and just scribe the parts and cut them?
Or, do you slowly work up to those lines until the parts ‘just fit’ ?
Have you ever had to re-adjust a drawer because it swelled up through the seasons?
Join the conversation and thanks again for reading~
**For those who remember this post about the Maple Leaf Forever Project–
I’m off to the Don Valley today, to finally pick up my wood!
It’s been in a kiln for the past couple of months and I’ll fill you in on the details when I get back from Germany next week.
All the best~
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