February 2004 Meeting
At YourWorkShop, Rozelle
7 p.m. for 7:30 p.m.
Monday 2nd February 2004
The First Meeting in 2004

Construction of the Classic Dovetailed Drawer

At the regular Association meeting on 2nd February 2004, a well-received demonstration was delivered by Alan Perry, retired Head of Cabinetmaking, TAFE NSW.
The demonstration involved manufacture, assembly and fitting a hand dovetailed drawer.
Herewith an edited version of his notes.

Presentation by Alan Perry on drawer construction

I would have bought that table, but it had a drawer missing!

If you have a drawer, this will give you the sizes of materials etc. to copy.  Careful inspection of an old piece of furniture is a good way of understanding construction.

There are many portable router jigs to cut dovetails;  however most produce a machine dovetail where the pins and tails are the same size.  But  jigs are available where you can adjust the size of the pins and tails (e.g. Leigh and Gifkins).   Whatever jig you use, the preparation of the material and the fitting is similar to hand-cut dovetails.

Careful selection of timber is important, species and the cut of the timber, quarter cut the best.

The drawer front is usually of solid timber 16-18 mm thick;  sides of 6-12 mm solid timber;  and back of 5-8 mm solid timber.  The bottom can be of 4 mm  plywood or 6-8 mm solid timber.  The bottom can be fitted into grooves in the sides or drawer slips used with thinner sides.

Ensure front, sides and back timbers are straight and true, free of defects, and sanded to about 120 grit finish on the inside faces.

Mark each drawer part clearly (see suggested method of marking) with a pencil.

Cut and fit the front to fit firmly into the opening.

Cut and fit the sides to slide freely into opening, square at front.

Cut and fit the back (22 mm narrower than the sides) to fit into opening.

Don't forget to groove drawer front and slips for bottom as shown.

Using a cutting gauge, scribe thickness of the sides on front and back, and thickness of the sides on back.

Using a cutting gauge, scribe depth of lapped dovetail on fronts and scribe on sides.

Using a marking gauge, scribe height to top of drawer bottom on the back of sides.

Mark and cut dovetails on sides:  cut (two or more) sides together.

Remove pin sockets:  using a knife to deepen scribe marks, remove a small ‘v' of timber to prevent chisel from going past scribe line.  Make sure work is securely cramped when chiselling.

Lay sides on front and back and mark out pins with a knife and cut on the waste side of the line, remove tail sockets, and have a trial fitting of dovetails.  Sand inside of all parts and round the top edge of drawer back.

Assemble drawer, remove excess adhesive and check for square and wind.

Fit drawer slips and slide bottom into drawer and temporarily fit with panel pins.
Hold drawer in vice, sides supported on timber batten.  Plane sides to fit into opening with a smooth sliding fit.

Sand drawer and fix bottom securely so that it is square in the opening.  Fix drawer stops and apply front decoration.