Introduction: Chest of Drawers

This chest of drawers is to replace the cheap stand (with no storage) that was previously holding up our parrot's travel cage. She only lives with us a few months out of the year. Her larger cage is at her other home. We have a corner pretty much dedicated to her stuff, but the stand for the cage was lacking in stability, storage, and appearance. I suggested a dresser similar to the one in our closet, but finished much nicer. This was my first attempt at actually building drawer faces, and using a router table.

We also utilize a removable top, to help catch debris, approx 24x23". This time I used 3/4" plywood for a better outer structure. My goal was to have 3 lower drawers, and 1 shelf (for clean paper storage). Wife opted for 4 drawers, one being very short. I had considered installing feet at the bottom, to prevent it from sliding or indenting into carpet; but haven't found that necessary. It's currently sitting on some Italian walnut floor paneling (which needs something underneath as well… other than just carpet, so I added some hardboard until we redo the living room flooring).



  • 3/4" birch plywood
  • 1/2" birch plywood
  • 1/4" plywood (for drawer bottoms)
  • 1/8" hard board (or 1/4" plywood) (for back of cabinet)
  • 1" thick pine (used for the drawer fronts)
  • (4) 18" full extension drawer slides
  • (4) drawer pulls/handles
  • Pocket hole screws
    • (16) 1-1/4" coarse #8 pocket screws
    • 2" fine pocket hole screws (optional, used for making the drawer faces wider)
  • Birch edge tape
  • Stain and Polyurethane clear coat (or paint)


  • Table saw and/or circular saw
  • Dado blade (for table saw) or router and 1/4" straight bit - for cutting dado slots for bottom of drawers
  • Electric iron - for applying edge tape
  • Router, router table, and decorative router bit - for shaping the edges of the drawer faces
  • Staple gun and 3/8" staples (or a brad nailer) - for attaching back panel.
    • Nails or screws seem to work better for hardboard if it's any thicker than 1/8".
  • Electric sander, and sand paper
  • Level
  • Pocket hole jig
  • Screw driver

Step 1: Outer Box - Cut Plywood

You will cut the four pieces of the outer box from the 3/4" plywood. I had Home Depot cut the 4'x8' 3/4" panel down to (2) 2'x8' panels, so they would fit in my car.

I used a circular saw to cut the side panels from the 2'x8' 3/4" plywood. (or at least I should have, due to lack of sled for the table saw).

  • Sides (2) 18" x 32"

I used a table saw to cut the top and bottom panels from the remaining 3/4" plywood.

  • Top/Bottom (2) 18" x 18 9/16"

I used the pocket hole jig to cut pockets holes on two sides of each longer panel.

Attach the side, top, and bottom panels together with the pocket hole screws (use clamps to keep the panels from shifting). Optionally add glue, to make for a stronger bond than using pocket holes alone.

Step 2: Outerbox - Apply Edge Tape

Apply the birch edge tape to the visible plywood edges, using an iron. Don't worry about the back of the unit.

Trim the edge tape. I just use a carpenters knife. I saw later in another Instructable a promising method using an oscillating tool to trim the edge banding. I've since bought an inexpensive tool dedicated to this task, a Veneer Edge Trimmer (For the most part it works well).

Step 3: Drawer Boxes - Cut and Assemble

Cut the 1/2" plywood for the inner drawer boxes. I used the table saw.

With the front and backs out of of 1/2" plywood, and assuming 18 9/16" inner width (of the outer cabinet) minus 1" to accommodate the drawer slides; the drawer widths will need to be 17 9/16". If you alter the sizes be sure to account for the plywood's actual widths:

  • 3/4" = 23/32"
  • 1/2" = 15/32"

The four drawers sizes I'm building:

  • (1) 14" height x 17 9/16" width x 18" deep
  • (2) 5 7/8" height x 17 9/16" width x 18" deep
  • (1) 3 1/2" height x 17 9/16" width x 18" deep

Requiring the following pieces from the 1/2" plywood:

Front and backs out of 1/2" plywood:

  • (2) 17 9/16" x 14"
  • (4) 17 9/16" x 5 7/8"
  • (2) 17 9/16" x 3 1/2"

Sides out of 1/2" plywood:

  • (2) 17 1/16" x 14"
  • (4) 17 1/16" x 5 7/8"
  • (2) 17 1/16" x 3 1/2"

Cut the dado slots into the pieces. You'll want the dado to be 1/4" and approx 1/4" from the bottom edge of the drawer boxes, and approx 1/4" deep. You can use either the router with an appropriately sized straight bit, or use the table saw with a dado stack set for 1/4". (I used the table saw)

Use the pocket hole jig to drill pocket holes, sized for the 1/2" plywood. Do this on the left/right side panels, rather than the front/back panels. Because the 1/2" plywood is actually less than 1/2" thick, you'll need to adjust the depth collar slightly.

Doesn't hurt to double check the dimensions... now we need to cut the 1/4" plywood to fit inside the drawer box dados. This is the drawer bottom:

  • (4) 17 1/16" x 17 1/2" (need to verify this dimension. Might actually be 17 4/16" x 17 1/2")

For each drawer box, assemble three of the 1/2" sides to together with the pocket hole screws. Slide the 1/4" drawer bottom into the dado slot. Now attach the final 1/2" side, to complete the box.

Note: I did not bother applying edge tape to the top edges of the drawer boxes. Nor did I bother painting or staining the drawer boxes. I figured the fancy drawer faces would be sufficient.

Step 4: Install the Drawer Slides

Install the drawer slides to the inside of the cabinet, and the drawer boxes. I used full extension drawer slides, and (mostly) followed the included directions. You want the drawer boxes to close flush, so that when the drawer faces are installed they rest on the outside box. I found it helpful to install one drawer at a time starting at the bottom. Make sure each drawer is level and opens/closes correctly. I used some cardboard to ensure there was enough spacing between the drawers, about an 1/8".

Step 5: Measure and Cut the Drawer Faces

With the drawers installed, double check the width of the outer box. Measure the desired height for each drawer face, accounting for an 1/8" space between each drawer face.

Note: My original intent was to leave about an 1/8" between each drawer face. I messed something up and don't have that gap. But fortunately the drawers still open and close (though two of the drawer boxes 1/2" plywood needed some sanding during the final installation).

I used some pine left over from a another project. All the boards will be cut the same 20" lengths. For cross cutting the pine down, you should be using a table sled (which for some reason I haven't built or bought yet). All of the drawer faces are taller than the width of the pine I had. You can buy wider wood (at a greater cost), or combine the smaller widths to make a wider width board (taller drawer face); and than rip on the table saw to the correct board width (drawer face height).

Desired drawer face dimensions (or so I thought):

  • 20" wide x 14 1/2"
  • (2) 20" wide x 7"
  • 20" wide x 4"

But, these are the drawer face dimensions I actually needed/used:

  • 20" wide x 14 15/16"
  • 20" wide x 6 1/8"
  • 20" wide x 5 7/8"
  • 20" wide x 4 3/8"

Using the appropriate sized pocket hole settings (and 2" pocket hole screws), I made the larger drawer face panels. Apply glue before attached the pieces with the pocket hole screws. When the glue is dry, you could remove the pocket hole screws... and for some of the pieces you should. Because now you're going to shorten their height on the table saw. I didn't have the clearance I thought I had on one of the boards, the table saw blade was nicking part of the metal screw. Looking back I shouldn't have used pocket holes for this step at all, but rather relied on glue and clamping.

Sand the the drawer faces (the sides, the front, the back). I used a palm sander. Smooth out any edges between the joined boards.

Double check that the drawer faces line up nicely with the drawer boxes and the outer box. Make adjustments as necessary.

Step 6: Cut the Decorative Edge Into the Drawer Faces

My router table (from six months prior) is finally set up. This was my first time using it, and my first time routing edges. With the router, table, and a 3/8" roundover bit set up; I did several test cuts on scrap wood (of the same thickness). One thing I missed, that led to me cutting an additional drawer front face, make sure to test with a similar length as well. I didn't have something setup flush/correctly on the router table, that caused an uneven edge on a face front.

Note: From the design of the router bit (the bearing), I didn't actually have to use the router table.

Route the decorative edge into the four edges on the front of each drawer face front.

Step 7: Stain (or Paint)

Apply stain (or paint) and clear coat the outer cabinet and the drawer faces.

I applied the stain to the outside surface of the outer cabinet box, and to the previously installed edge banding. I did one surface of the box at a time, turning the box over, to prevent drips.

I than applied stain to the drawer faces as well.

I only applied one coat of stain (except on the edge banding where I applied two coats), and two coats of clear.

Step 8: Install the Drawer Faces

One at a time, from bottom to top... install the drawer faces.

I predrilled two pilot holes from inside the drawer boxes. (four pilot holes for the really tall drawer box).

Apply wood glue. Line up the drawer face with the drawer box and the outer box. Clamp in place. From inside the drawer box insert the screws through the drawer box into the drawer face. Remove the drawer, and apply additional clamps where needed/possible. Clean up any glue. Once dry, remove the clamps and reinstall the drawer.

The top drawer was the trickiest. You need the lower drawer to help line it up, but there is no space above for the initial clamping, or to screw in place before opening the drawer.

Note: My original intent was to leave about an 1/8" between each drawer face. I messed something up and don't have that gap. But fortunately the drawers still open and close (though two of the drawer boxes 1/2" plywood needed some sanding during the final installation).

Step 9: Install the Drawer Pulls

I used some cardboard to make a template for drilling the holes for drawer pulls. That way the holes all line up correctly, and so I could be more consistent centering each drawer pull onto the drawer faces. (There is a plastic template available for this as well).

Using your template, drill the necessary holes through drawer face and through the other side of the drawer box.

Attach the drawer pull to the drawer face/box with the appropriately sized screw length.

Note: I needed to get longer screws (1-3/4") than what was included with the drawer pulls. If you need to as well, make sure they are the same type of screw that was included.

Step 10: Back Panel

Double check the dimensions of the back of the outer box. Cut the 1/8" hard board to those dimensions.

  • 32" x 20"

I had a helper (and a propane tank) push the side of the outer box to make sure it was straight.

Attach the 1/8" hard board (smooth side out) to the back of the outer box's 3/4" back edge using a staple gun and 3/8" staples. Use a hammer to correct any staples that aren't too flush. (Instead of a staple gun and staples you could use a brad nailer, or a hammer and nails).

Once the back panel is in place the overall unit is significantly more stable.

Step 11: Admire You Handi-work

This came out nice. There were a couple small hiccups along the way, but a nice addition to the living room. Much nicer than the two legged laptop/desk stand we were previously using.

When the bird is visiting, we put a 24"x23" piece of plywood between the chest and her cage (to catch debris and poop). When she isn't visiting we'll stash the extra plywood away. All of the birds "gear" is hidden in the drawers now. Food, newspaper, backpack, etc. Seriously, the giant drawer on the bottom is for a specially designed backpack that my wife can use to carry the bird with her on walks.

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