Cedar Lined Closet Dresser

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In the interest of improving the storage in our walk-in closet, we wanted to add a small dresser. The depth needed to be equivalent to the clothes currently hanging, and the other shelves and bins already in the closet. And the height also needed to be similar as the plastic drawers already in the closet, so clothes on hangers could clear it. My wife also wanted me to incorporate cedar to help with storing of out-of-season clothing, and it had to have drawers (not shelves).

I was originally considering using 48"x48"x1/4" cedar plywood for the bottom of each shelf (available as special order from Home Depot). The cost was a tad higher (but still reasonable) but further inspection of the reviews made me seek an alternative (looses the cedar scent, cracks easily, and the thickness doesn't match other 1/4" plywood). I opted to use more standard birch plywood and just line that with cedar planks. That would make refreshing (re-sanding or oiling) the cedar much easier.

My target dimensions for the entire unit are 30" wide/long, 2' tall, and 16" deep. With three equally sized drawers, with outer dimensions of 28" width x 15 1/" depth x 7 1/7" tall.

We opted NOT to add drawer faces, which is why you can see the gaps around each drawer. We also left it all unstained/painted. If that changes I would also apply birch edge tape (actually, I may go back and apply the edge tape anyways. I've used it on another project, and it eliminates the layered look from the plywood).

I sand as I go along, to make sure the edges and surfaces are smooth.

Parts:

  • 1/2" Birch plywood (I had two 4'x4' 1/2" panels on hand)
  • 1/4" plywood (for the shelve bottoms and the back of the unit)
  • Aromatic cedar planking
  • Three sets of 14" drawer slides (14" 3/4 pull out appeared to work better than 16", and full extension wasn't necessary).
  • Three drawer pulls (unless making your own)
  • Adhesive carpet sliders
  • 1" coarse pocket holes
    • (you should probably be using 3/4", but I've never located 3/4" in coarse, just 3/4" fine which doesn't grip the plywood well).
  • Small washers (to use as spacers if necessary)
  • Wood glue (if necessary, to repair splits)
  • Sanding block

Optional Parts (I didn't use):

  • Stain or paint
  • Clear polyurethane top coat
  • Birch edge tape

Tools:

  • Table saw
  • Dado stack
    • (or a router and an appropriate 1/4" dado bit)
    • If you don't have access to a dado stack or a dado bit, you could staple 1/4" plywood to the bottom of each drawer... but you'll need to adjust the dimensions of the 1/4" plywood and the 1/2" plywood used to make the height of the drawer.
  • Pocket hole joinery jig
  • Level
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Screw driver
  • Staple gun and 3/8" staples
    • (or hammer and little nails/tacks for attaching the 1/4" back panel)
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Clamp

Step 1: Cut Plywood for Outer Box

Use the table saw to cut the following pieces from the 1/2" plywood:

  • Top and bottom: (Two) 30"x16" panels
    • I cut a 48" sheet down to 30", and than cut off (2) 16" panels.
  • Left and right sides: (Two) 16"x 23"
    • I subtracted 1" from the desired height of 24", accounting for 1/2" for the plywood top thickness and another 1/2" for the plywood bottom thickness.

Cut the following piece from the 1/4" plywood:

  • Back: (One) 30"x24"
    • (I actually cut this as 30" x 23 15/16")

Step 2: Cut Pocket Holes and Assemble Outer Box

Following the directions for your pocket hole jig, drill pocket holes along two of the edges of the top and bottom panels (30"x16") to facilitate attaching to the sides (23"x16"). I made two pocket holes an 1" from each edge, and than a third pocket hole centered between the first two. (The pocket holes are supposed to be made at every 6")

I used the table saws fence to help line the panels up at 90 degrees while securing them with the pocket hole screws.

Step 3: Staple Back of Outer Box

Lay the outer box down. Place the 1/4" (30x"24") back panel over the back and line it up equally.

Use the staple gun to apply 3/8" staples to secure the back panel onto the back of the outer box. I used about five per edge, spacing them out evenly. I already have a pen mark on my staple gun to make it very clear where the staple will be line up at. Getting through the 1/4" plywood is easy enough, but you want to make sure the other end of the staple is properly secured to the center of the 1/2" plywood edges.

Step 4: Cut Plywood for Drawers

Use the table saw to cut the following pieces from the 1/2" plywood, to cover all three drawers:

  • Front and back: (Six) 7 1/8" x 28"
  • Sides: (Six) 7 1/8" x 14 1/4"
    • I subtracted 1" to account for each 1/2" front/back panel from the desired depth of 15 1/4"

Use the table saw to cut the following pieces from the 1/4" plywood, to cover all three drawers:

  • Bottom: (Three) 14 3/4" x 27 1/2"
    • I originally cut these as 15 1/4" x 28"... but my math must have been wrong

Step 5: Cut Dado Slots for Drawer Bottoms

Install the dado stack appropriate for 1/4" plywood, and perform some test cuts on scrap plywood to get the height of the blade adjusted correctly. You want the depth of the dado cut at 1/4".

I think you're supposed to use a sled to do this cut? I used the fence, but it looks dangerously close to the blade. This was my first time using the dado stack. In the past I've used a router (not a rotary tool), a dado bit, and a jig I made (to provide repeatable cuts from the edges). Ideally, if using a router you should use a router table (I did not have one at that time).

Cut a dado into a single long edge on each of the twelve 1/2" drawer panels (this is where the 1/4" bottom will slide into).

Step 6: Cut Pocket Holes for Drawers and Assemble

Cut pockets holes into the the six drawer side panels (the 7 1/8" x 14 1/4" panels) as pictured, on the shorter 7 1/8" edge. Two per edge was sufficient, but avoid cutting near the dado slot.

I used the table saw's fence to give a 90 degree angle to help attach the side panels to the front and back panels, using the pocket hole screws. Once three sides are assembled slide the 1/4" bottom panel into place. Tap gently, if necessary, to get it seated correctly. Then move the fourth/final panel into place and and secure it with pocket hole screws.

The result is three equally sized drawer boxes.

Step 7: Install Drawer Slides

Each drawer slide is two pieces. One piece mounts inside the larger box, the other along the bottom edge of the drawer box.

Kreg makes a jig to make the installation easier. I keep convincing myself I don't install drawer slides enough to justify it, but keep proving myself wrong.

Follow the directions of your drawer slides to ensure they are spaced and installed properly. If they are not installed level on both sides, they will not slide in an out smoothly. If they are too far off, the drawer will fall off the track.

Make sure to predrill the holes, so they plywood doesn't split. Be especially careful with the plywood's layered edges.

(Ha, I just noticed in the pictures where I accidentally made the outer box pocket holes on the wrong edge)

You can test the fit of the drawer slides, by installing the drawers and sliding them in and out. I used small washers in a few places (as needed) to push the tracks out and improve the sliding.

Step 8: Repair Any Splits

If there are any splits between the layers of plywood...

Apply some wood glue. Try to work it down into the separated layers with a small tooth pick or paper clip.

Clamp the pieces together and let dry for the recommended 20 minutes.

I didn't do all these steps, but if you're planning to, this would be the time:

  • Apply birch edge tape as desired.
  • Perform additional sanding as needed
  • Stain (or paint) the outer surfaces.
  • Apply some type of polyurethane top coat.

Step 9: Install Drawer Pulls

In the past I've made drawer pulls from wooden dowel. For this project my wife requested something nicer.

She picked these out at Home Depot. I installed them according to the included directions. Mark the holes, predrill, drill a bigger hole, screw in from the back.

Step 10: Cut and Install Cedar

The cedar planks come as 3 6/8" wide at varying lengths (which sucks for trying to optimize the material). You're trying to line the bottom of each drawer at 14 1/2" deep x 26 7/8" wide.

Use the table saw to cut the cedar planks as follows (if your cedar planks are a different width, adjust as needed):

  • Drawer bottom lining: (Twenty-one pieces) at 14 /12" lengths (the width is already 3 6/8")

Lightly sand the panels, and clear off any dust.

Place them inside the drawer, snapping them together as you go. It will take seven pieces to line the bottom of each drawer.

Step 11: Install Carpet Sliders

This step is optional, but I find it useful. It prevents a single giant indentation in the carpet from the outer box. It also makes it easier to slide the entire unit in and out of place.

Stick four adhesive carpet sliders onto the bottom of the outer box. One slider in each corner. (If you have an extra, you can a fifth in the center of the bottom).

Now you can slide the entire unit into the closet, and into place. (Otherwise you'll need to lift and shimmy).

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    Discussions

    This would look great in the living room as well. In fact, with just a simple retouch of the outer layer colour, it could easily match the theme of any room at all. This is how amazing it is to build a generic concept furniture.