Shaping wood #1: Shaping an asymmetrical "propeller" drawer front

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Blog entry by Antti posted 12-18-2011 10:53 PM 2708 reads 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I’m making a credenza based on a design (“Reflect storage”) by Soren Rose Studio I saw on a website (

The drawer fronts are like propellers. I have never done anything similar, and lacking any instructions I decided to make them like this. I considered routing instead of table sawing the rough shape, but for some reason felt more comfortable with the saw. Please comment on possible easier ways, as this was quite laborious and I might want to make a slightly different chest with the same concept.

0) Figure out in Sketchup the shapes and dimensions. Then print them out on paper, cut to line and copy to the end of the already squared and otherwise right sized drawer fronts:

1) Build jigs for each of the six drawer fronts (I’m making the three columns each of different widths; 600 mm, 500 mm, 450 mm and as the bottom row is higher, none of the six fronts are of same size) to get the angle for cutting:

2) Start sawing away, and make sure I don’t cross the line as the drawer fronts are from one single board, and the grain pattern will be continuos across the six drawer fronts i.e. the whole front. No second chance here…

Saw away…

3) Grind out the majority of the waste, in my case with a round medium Holey Galahad:

4) Move on to hand tools – Shape with a pullshave so that the saw kerfs disappear, and continue right to the pencil line:

5) Smooth the surface with a card scraper:

6 – 23) Hand sand, scrape some more, sand to 120 grit, cover with Osmo Color clerar oil wax. I’m looking for a “soft” or satin finish, rather than a glassy shine – hence the last round with quite coarse sandpaper. I really like the Osmo Color product; direct translation from Finnish to English is “oil wax”, but I’m not sure how they label this in English markets.

Then repeat 5 times. My production line is pushing out about 2 fronts per day – 3 are now completely done, and the remaining three are partly done. In the meanwhile, I’m testing the fit, measuring and marking… I plan to attach “floating” wooden rails to the carcass, to which the Blum’s Tandembox metal drawer slides will be attached. I don’t want to screw them directly to the carcass, as the wood movement is front-to-back, and the metal slides have zero flexibility. Not the puritan way to use ready made drawers, but hey – This is just a hobby, and I just made one drawer with wooden drawers: I realized I wouldn’t be able to complete this one within the time I have available before starting in my new job.

I’m shooting for a finished credenza by new years eve, at which time we’ll be having guests – hopefully noticing a continuous grain patterned weirdly shaped credenza in our living room… I’ll be posting the project if and when finished.

Comments, feedback and (constructive) criticism welcome – not so much for the design as it is not my own, but for the work method I chose to implement the design. As mentioned, it is a first for me – I started woodworking as a more serious hobby about a year ago. I find myself picking a more challenging project each time (my next main project is supposed to be a Maloof inspired chair…). I have noticed that once I realize I can do a particular project (in this case the realization came after completing the first drawer front successfully), I tend to lose some of the interest and start looking already towards the next project…
This happened also with my previous project, which is still waiting the final sanding and Osmo treatment in the background of this new credenza:

2 comments so far

View linjay's profile


124 posts in 4085 days

#1 posted 12-19-2011 12:25 AM

It looks like the two ends are essentially the same but inverted to give the twist effect. If that’s what you are trying to achieve it means the shape has a straight center line running diagonally over it’s length. The curvature is constant—the center just keeps moving.
To help explain a concept imagine using a 10” table saw blade—initially raised 1/16” say. You now take a piece of rectangular pine (cause it’s soft and you’re just experimenting for now) and push it thru – at right angles to the blade. The piece of pine is much larger than the drawer because we don’t know yet just how we’re going to get the drawer front out of this piece. Keep raising the blade 1/16” and repeating the this process until you have a deep profile. This is the basic concept—but really not yet too practical. The radius is exactly 5” but you don’t get much drawer height for a given thickness. You’re really looking for something that has a much larger radius.

So instead of pushing it across the blade at right angles you push it across at say 45 degrees or 60 or whatever. The closer to being parallel to the blade the shallower the curve for a given width. This profile will be a true elipse not a circle but for the width required no one could tell. Once you have a curvature that looks good you know the angle required to skew the material so that the grain in your drawer fronts is horizontal while the center line skews at an angle. Thie end product would only require final sanding and that’s the big advantage—but for small quantities I can’t say it would be any faster than the method you have used.
I’ve never actually used this method – I don’t even own a table saw – but over the years I’ve seen it used for various magazine article projects. It could also be done with a router to get a true radius and using a fixture similar to the one shown in Fine Working (Dec 2011 cover) but more complicated because of the radius.

Another idea that could produce some really interesting results would be to use a method similar to making propeller patterns. This is not a one piece of wood concept that you want—but it’s interesting. Imagine having a bunch of thin straight boards all stacked into a column. Now you slide and rotate them to get general curvature you’re looking for and glue them up like this. Now you just have to sand off the small protruding corners to get a smooth continuous surface. Now imagine that stacked thin boards are not straight over their length but have curvature and each board is a different wood.

Hope you find this interesting if not helpful.

-- It's easy when you know how - but that's the hard part. Ontario, Canada

View Antti's profile


117 posts in 4071 days

#2 posted 12-19-2011 09:09 AM

Thanks linjay, I think I understood what you were proposing. I think I have even seen that, but hadnt realized you can produce large enough radius for this purpose (I saw a clip where somebody was making moldings with the method). I would also PREFER the ellipse profile over the xircle…

I will try that in the future, thanks (with these fronts I will “stay the course”, however).

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