Introduction: Massive Chest of Drawers
At nearly 8 feet long and over 4 feet high with 20 drawers, and around 500 pounds, this is a massive project!
Nearly all of the pieces to get the case together are large and difficult to handle by yourself in the shop. I did do the project mostly alone but, recruited some help for the glue-up of the case and for moving it into the house. I'll cover these more in a future step.
Like all projects, this one is a step by step process but, will require more than simple DIY tools. This project will be covered in 5 different videos and took around 80 hours in the shop to complete.
Plans are included for reference. Always remember to reference your actual workpiece for final dimensions of your parts! This is known as relative dimensioning.
Special thanks to mtairymd for all the help with the plans for this project!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Table Saw - With dado Stack
- Miter Saw
- Router (straight bits and profile bits)
- Drills/Screw Guns - Various size drill bits and Forstner bits.
- Router Plane (Optional)
- Brad Nailer - 1 1/2" brads.
- Festool Domino (Optional)
- Track Saw (Optional)
- Spindle Sander (Optional)
- Dowel Plate (Optional)
- HVLP (Optional)
- 16/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice) - Optional
- 8/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice)
- 6/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice)
- 4/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice)
- 1/2" African Mahogany Plywood (Or, species of choice)
- 3/4" Birch Plywood
- 1/2" Maple
- Blum undermount drawer glides
- Pulls (20ea - These can be changed to suit your wants)
- Dominos (Optional)
- General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat, 1 Quart, Satin
- General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat, 1 Gallon, Satin
- Sandpaper - 80, 120, 180 grit
- 1 1/2" screws
- Figure 8s
- Shop made jigs (referenced in the videos)
Step 2: The Videos
As this is a 5 part series, I wanted to drop all the videos here in one step to make them easier to find. There are a few other videos in the instructable for specific tasks that go into more detail on that task than I did in this instructable.
There are links in the show notes of each video to my website where there are free plans for this project and many others. Additionally, my email is in the show notes if you have any particular questions about this project or any other that I've done.
Step 3: Plans
A PDF of the plans is attached in this step. Hopefully between the instructable, plans and videos you have enough information to build the project. If not, feel free to contact me.
Step 4: Bottom Rail
Normally on a project like this, I would start with the legs because everything is referenced off of the legs. However, because I was waiting for 16/4 leg material to arrive, I decided to start on the 8/4 (2") lower front rail.
All of the rail material is made from 8/4 stock and all milled to the same final thickness. It's not important that you get exactly 2" from the material. It is important that all the stock be milled to the same final thickness on all of the rails while remaining as thick as possible. If this is not done, the dados will not line up on future steps which will prevent the panels from fitting.
Although this rail turned out great, I was not happy with the overall color and grain of this part and ultimately built another new front lower rail and moved this one to the back of the case.
Please reference the plans for dimensions.
Note: I used the (Optional) Festool Domino for the joinery on this piece. If you choose to use traditional mortise and tenon joinery, you'll need to leave your parts longer to account for this method. If you'd like more instruction on mortise and tenon joinery, I've left a couple of videos below.
Note: Because this is all one piece, the horizontal grain is a weak point. Special caution should be taken in later steps to avoid clamping on these center feet. Pulling against the feet in this direction could cause them to break.
Step 5: Legs - Making Them Look Right!
As you'll see in the video, I started by laminating 8/4 leg material together to get the larger stock that I wanted for the legs. In the end, I was not happy with the material that I used and changed it to 16/4 material for most of the legs.
Additionally, I ended up veneering one leg to hide the seam and undesirable grain from the glue-up of the 8/4 pieces. This leg is oriented in the back of the case so, really won't be seen but, it's a detail that I didn't want to overlook.
This veneer is ~1/16" thick and was cut oversize and then trimmed to fit after the glue up with a flush-trim bit in the router.
We'll be doing a lot more with these legs in future steps!
Step 6: Rails
After milling all the rail stock to the appropriate size, I then marked for the curves in the lower side rails as well as the upper side rails and upper front rail. I created a template for these curves so that I was consistent with all the curves. Since the top rail is a one time curve, I did not create a template for this curve. Do not cut these curves yet!
The upper side rails get a dado through the curved portion of the rail. It's much easier to cut this dado while the rail is still flat and square. Just be sure to cut the dado at least 1/4" deeper than the curve is tall, measured at the apex of the curve. The lower rails get a simple 1/4" deep by 1/2" wide dado on the side opposite the curve to house the panels.
The upper back rail does not have a curve in it so gets the same simple dado in the bottom as the top of the bottom rail.
Note: When cutting these dados at the table saw, always be sure to reference the same side of the material. I write notes on the pieces and label them with outside, right, left, etc. This helps me to remember to always orient the piece the same way to the fence on the table saw. By doing this, if there's any error, it will be the same on all pieces and not obstruct the fit of the panels in a later step.
Step 7: Domino and Dry Fit
As stated earlier, I used the Festool Domino for the joinery on this project.
I started by marking all the locations for the dominos. I then cut all the domino locations in the rails and then reset the depth of the domino by 1/8" and cut the leg locations. This allowed all the rails to be set back 1/8" on the legs. If you're using traditional joinery, you would just offset the leg mortise by that same 1/8" to account for the setback.
Note: This is purely a decorative option. Although I think this set back looks much better in the final piece, it's purely decorative and certainly not required.
Once all the dominos were cut, I was able to dry-fit the case for the first time. Do not glue up yet!
Step 8: Top Dividers
The top dividers are important for structural integrity. They are dovetailed into the top rails to prevent the rails from splaying out or warping inwards.
I started by cutting the stock to length per the plan and cutting the dovetail form at the bandsaw. The precise angle isn't important as long as the piece works to lock the 2 upper rails together. There are specific dimensions referenced in the plans.
Next, I used a marking knife to mark the locations for each dovetail.
Note: Because each one could be slightly different, I assigned each one to a specific location and orientation when marking for the corresponding dovetail mortise.
I then used a router to remove the bulk of the material, cleaned up the mortises with sharp chisels, and installed (no glue yet) the dividers in place.
Step 9: Rear Panel Dividers
The back of the case gets 3 vertical dividers to add some structural integrity, symmetry, as well as allowing small enough panels to be able to make the grain vertical. I purposely chose to run all the grain vertically purely for aesthetics.
The pieces are cut to the same dimensions as the rail stock with dados (1/2"W X 1/4" deep) added to each side of the dividers to allow for the panels.
Notches are also cut on the inside face of each divider to house the web frames in a future step. The notches line up with the notches in the legs in the next step.
Each divider was installed with Domino joinery. The locations are at each foot as well as centered on the back of the case. Exact measurements are stated in the plans.
Step 10: Back to the Legs
With the case dry fit, I was able to take actual measurements from the piece to determine the locations of the web frames. I laid out the locations on one of the legs and then transferred those marks to the other legs after disassembly.
Because the dados were cut in the rails in a previous step, I was also able to easily locate the locations for the dados to house the side and back panel as well, no measuring needed.
With the position of the dados located, I set up a router with a 1/2" bit and dual-edge guides to cut the 1/4" deep dados in the legs. Although I prefer to use dual edge guides to prevent error, this is not a requirement to cut this dado. One edge guide will work just as well. Just take extra precautions to keep that single guide tight against the reference surface of the leg.
Next, I created a shop jig to cut the notches in the legs that will house the web frames. The jig is designed so that a guide bushing can be used in the router to cut the exact notches per the plans. I clamped each side's legs together to be able to cut both legs at the same time. This helped ensure that each notch lined up the same on each leg. The corners were cleaned up with a chisel.
Step 11: Tapering the Feet
The last item with the legs, other than lots of sanding, was to taper the feet. This was done at the band saw and then cleaned up with hand planes and sanding.
Note: Although all the tapers should come out identical per the plan, any minor error will not be detectable in the final piece.
Step 12: Web Frames 1
The web frames are very important for structure as well as the overlook of the piece. These web frames create the horizontal separation of the individual drawer spaces as well as providing structure to mount the drawer glide hardware covered in a future step.
The web frames are made from 3/4" Birch plywood with the front of each one getting a 3/4" by 3/4" piece of African Mahogany glued to it. Refer to the plans for the sizes and locations for assembly of the individual web frame parts. I use the Festool Domino to assemble the web frames. This is one place that would lend itself to pocket hole joinery if desired. These pieces will never be seen.
I then created another template to cut out the corners to fit in the notches in the legs. These notches were cut with the jigsaw.
I did one additional dry fit to ensure that everything was fitting properly.
Note: It was during this step that I noticed one of my leg notches was off by about 1/4". To repair this, I cut a block to fit the leg notch mortise, glued in place and recut the leg notch. This is all on the interior of the carcass so, will never be seen.
With everything dry fit for the last time, I marked the locations for the dados that will house the vertical dividers. I also took the measurements for the back panels and side panels and cut them to size. Pay attention to grain direction and orientation for the best final look!
Step 13: Web Frames 2
Now that everything is fitting correctly, I cut the dados in the web frames to accept the vertical dividers that add vertical separation as well as vertical support to the case. These vertical dividers get the same 3/4" X 3/4" African Mahogany edge trim as the horizontal web frames.
The dados were cut at the table saw using a 3/4" dado stack raised to ~1/8". I then used a router plane to clean up the dados to ensure that they are all flat and equal in depth.
Note: Plywood is not really a full 3/4" thick. You should always run a test on scrap to ensure that your dado stack is adjusted to the correct thickness for the plywood you're working with.
Note: I do not recommend using the table saw to cut these dados. Although I felt comfortable with this task, I would recommend using a router and a straight edge to create these dados.
At this point, I also temporarily installed the bottom panel so that I could locate those dados as well. To install the bottom panel, I installed 3/4" x 3/4" strips to the lower rails 3/4" from the top using glue and screws. I then screwed the bottom panel to these strips. See the plans for details.
With the dados located, I was able to also cut the notches in the bottom rail as well as the top rail. Cutting these notches in the rails keeps all the vertical dividers aligned evenly to the front and locked in place.
Step 14: Case Assembly
You should have all the parts at this point. The case is assembled as shown in these pictures.
Step 15: Case Glue Up
Because this is such a massive piece, I found it best to glue up the back panel first as a sub-assembly. This was done separately from the rest so it could all be put on at once in the final glue-up.
I did not get any pictures or video footage of the final glue up due to the complexity and the fact that the people I asked to help me did not want to be on film. Although I really wanted the video footage, I didn't feel comfortable doing this glue-up by myself!
For the final glue-up, I used West Systems epoxy due to the longer open time. Once the final glue up was cured (overnight) I installed the vertical web frame dividers using glue and brad nails.
Note: Regular glue would work fine for this glue-up. Epoxy gives a longer working life which allowed me to get everything in place and squared up.
I only used one of the top rail dividers without glue during this glue-up. After all the epoxy was cured, I glued these in separately. These could reasonably be glued in during the big glue-up.
Step 16: Top
The top is made from 2 pieces of 6/4 African Mahogany glued together to meet the dimensions in the plans. It's ripped to final width at the table saw and cut to final length with a track saw.
To achieve the desired profile, the bottom side long edge was first chamfered at the table saw and the end chamfers were then created to match using a hand plane. The top (rounded) profile was done in a few passes with the final pass cut slightly deeper than the bit which creates the small lip on the final piece.
Note: Several shallow passes were made to get the desired look. African Mahogany, as well as many other species, are prone to burning when routing. By making several light passes, this reduces the amount of burning which, in turn, reduces the amount of sanding to be done.
The top (as well as everything else) is sanded to 180 grit prior to finish.
Note: I only sanded to 180 grit because I will be applying a film finish in a future step. There is no benefit to sanding to a higher grit when using a film finish.
The top will be attached in a future step.
Step 17: Drawer Construction
The drawers are all made from 1/2" maple milled per the plans. The final widths of each drawer are taken directly from the actual piece and not the plans (relative dimensioning).
The 1/4" wide by 1/4" deep groove for the bottom of the drawer is located 1/2" up from the bottom. This is a requirement for the Blum hardware called for in the plans.
I've left a video below to a video on simple drawer construction. The only difference between those drawers and the ones built for this project is that dowels were used instead of screws.
I created my own dowels from African Mahogany using a dowel plate. Standard dowels would work as well.
Once the drawer box was constructed, I cut a piece of 1/4" maple plywood for the bottom and secured it at the back with screws. I never use glue on a drawer bottom so that they can be replaced in the future if needed.
Note: If the drawer bottom dados are a little loose causing "drawer rattle", a couple of dabs of hot glue on each side will stop the rattle while still allowing for the bottom to be replaced later if needed.
Step 18: Drawer Hardware
To complete the drawers, Blum hardware was installed using Blum jigs.
Note: Although I used Blum jigs to locate the hardware, there are much less expensive options that work just as well.
The Blum drawer rails for the drawers are located in the case 3/4" back from the front edge and flush to the sides. I used the 3/4" X 3/4" African Mahogany strips on the web frames as the mark to set the drawer rails.
I prefer to use the more expensive Blum hardware because of the number of adjustments they have to really get the drawer to fit properly! Additionally, with seasonal wood movement, if there is a drawer that becomes tight in the opening on one side, you can simply adjust the hardware rather than removing the drawer and planning to fit. This will help keep all the gaps consistent regardless of wood movement.
Step 19: Drawer Front Fitting
Stock selection for the drawer front material is very important. I had to custom order some wider material than I can normally get at my local hardwood dealer. Because of this, I ended up with the top board being a bit lighter in color than the rest of the material. This will naturally darken in time and eventually be very similar in color to the rest of the drawer fronts.
I should also note that each row is grain matched all the way across each drawer front in that row.
I started by fitting each drawer front individually to its particular opening. This allowed me to make any corrections for anything that wasn't perfect with the opening.
Because of the curved top rail, I created a template to get the correct shape for each top drawer. This is covered in much greater detail in the video.
Step 20: Drawer Front Shaping
Each drawer front was shaped individually to ensure that a proper fit and look was achieved. I marked each side of each drawer front and then cut a slight bevel at the table saw. I then used rasps and sanding to soften that bevel and remove the hard lines created by the table saw. This also allowed me to correct for any error that may have been in the web frames keeping everything on the same plane across the entire front of the chest of drawers.
The curve on the top drawer fronts could not be done this way. To achieve this bevel, I marked the lines after the curve was cut at the band saw and power carved the angle portion. I then cleaned up with rasps and sanding the same as with the square fronts.
Note: Power carving made this step go quickly but, it could also be done with hand planes, rasps, or sanding.
Step 21: Drawer Front Installation
I wanted to add this step as it's one of the most overlooked "tricks" in mounting drawer fronts.
I used precut shims all around the front to ensure the drawer front is located centered in the opening. As this is the driest time of the year for me, I was shooting for about 1/8" all the way around. This should allow for seasonal wood movement during the summer months when the wood expands.
I've seen many videos where people use double-sided tape to secure the drawer front until the drawer can be removed and the drawer front secured from the inside. I never understood this method as you have two natural mounting locations using the drawer handle mounting holes for the drawer front.
Simply use a pilot bit to locate the drawer pull, shim (center) the drawer front in the opening, and drive screws at the pull location. Remove the drawer and secure it from the inside. Install the handle and you're finished.
On this project, I didn't install the handles until after the finish was applied. I backed the original mounting screws out about 1/2 way and used them as temporary drawer pulls.
Step 22: Finish
Again, because of the size and number of parts with this piece, I just didn't get much footage of the finishing process.
I started off with a coat of hand-applied General Finishes Arm-R-Seal (Satin) which is an oil-based wipe-on polyurethane. Once that was cured, I followed up with 4 to 5 coats of General Finishes High Performance (Satin) that was sprayed using HVLP.
Note: Spraying is optional. Multiple coats of the Arm-R-Seal will achieve similar results without the need for the HVLP.
I sanded between each coat using 400 grit sandpaper to remove any dust nibs and imperfections. After the final coat, I used a crumpled paper bag to rub out the top and flat surfaces instead of sandpaper because the paper bag won't leave any scratch marks at all but still gets rid of any dust nibs.
The actual products used are referenced in the Tools and Supplies section of this instructable.
Step 23: Closing
Super fun piece but, definitely took a lot of hours in the shop.
I get questions all the time about if this is a "beginner" project. Woodworking is all a series of steps to produce the final product. If you have the tools and equipment to follow those steps, there's no reason that a "beginner" couldn't build this project.
I hope you enjoyed the Instructable as well as the videos! This is only the first piece for our master bedroom, more to come!
Late Update: Now that all the furniture in this room is complete, I wanted to come back and add a quick wrap-up videos I did for the entire room.
Participated in the
Anything Goes Contest
1 year ago
plan to make a DVD/Blu-ray storage cabinet for our 400+ disks
add labels to each drawer for type of disk,
Family, history, military, biblical, Kids. and so forth.
and make it mouse proof.
I was moving some dressers that we had in long term storage and they had become "Mouse hotels"
the dressers where very nice when first storred, but now are firewood
2 years ago
Wow! That is absolutely beautiful! It is exactly the piece I’ve been looking for, that you just can’t find on the market. I know you’re not selling it, but I’m curious what you would sell it for if you were, considering all the man hours, materials and expert workmanship?
Reply 2 years ago
I would have to put it in my spreadsheet to see exactly what the price would be. If I had to guess, I would think somewhere around 8k but, that's a bit of a guess.
2 years ago
This is beautiful, and a great write up! Thank you.
I would love to learn about why you used the two different types of finishes. What did that combination give you that one or the other alone would not have?
Reply 2 years ago
I like the oil based Arm-R-Seal on darker woods as I find it "pops" the grain better. From there, I prefer the water based finished as it doesn't yellow, has no VOCs, and I really like the look. This means that I don't have to leave it in the shop for a week or 2 to finish off gassing.
2 years ago
Beautiful work, compliments ! Nicely written up, good pictures. Perfect. Thanks for sharing, all the best wishes from Slovakia.
Reply 2 years ago
2 years ago
I would add anti tip mechanism.
Reply 2 years ago
You certainly could although, it's not top heavy or "tippy". I don't have small children around and am not in an earthquake prone area.
2 years ago
Apron! is it gone I will use it.
Reply 2 years ago
Yes, the apron has been claimed.
2 years ago
securing the drawer front....using shims and handle layout.....useful tip.....not a tape guy anymore....
Reply 2 years ago
2 years ago
What would you estimate the material costs for this excellent build? Number of man hours? Superb craftsmanship!
Reply 2 years ago
Lumber costs are going to depend on where you live. African Mahogany averages about $7.00 per BF where I live. The drawer glides I chose to use were a really expensive part of the build as well. I left a link to them in the tools and material step so, maybe you can do some cost comparison and find them a little cheaper. All told, I was around $2500 in materials and around 80 hours in labor.
2 years ago
wow, very good job! Merry Christmas from Sicily!
Reply 2 years ago
Thank you! Merry Christmas to you as well.