Moravian Workbench #7: Building the Drawer

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Blog entry by Tom posted 09-21-2019 01:32 PM 283 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Building the Tool Tray Part 7 of Moravian Workbench series Part 8: Installing the drawer »

I enjoy having a workbench drawer to store various hand tools such as marking gauges, knife, try square, dovetail saw, chisel, etc. Storing tools in a wood box of some sort helps protect the them from effects of moisture and moderates temperature changes to avoid the effects of condensation. My workbench is not currently in a climate controlled shop, so I think this is important so that I may keep a small kit of tools with the bench.

The original Moravian workbench did not have a drawer and neither did the version from Will Myers. But many old style workbenches (including other Moravian workbenches) include a drawer, so it is in keeping with the tradition. The concern for this drawer is that it needs to be easily removable so as not to interfere with the portability of the workbench. Also, it needs to be appropriately sized and positioned to avoid interfering with work holding such as holdfasts and clamps.

The drawer is made from 3/4” stock. The front is red oak and the rest is white pine. The overall outside dimensions are 4” high, 12” wide and 18” long. It is a pretty basic drawer with half blind dovetails at the front and through dovetails at the back. The bottom is pine boards that are beveled in the old tradition. I made the drawer completely with hand tools.

The first step is to groove the sides. I plowed a 1/4” groove to 5/16” deep. The groove is positioned so that the top of the groove is 3/4” from the bottom edge so as to accommodate the 3/4” pine bottom. I groove the pine sides and back as one long piece. I prefer doing it this way and cutting it into pieces so that I may trim off any imperfections in the groove. This can happen sometimes if you end up cutting against the grain. I had good luck with this piece.

I make sure that I plane all my pieces to be very square and true. The bottom of the back piece gets cut off at the top of the groove to allow sliding the bottom boards into place and providing for wood expansion. I mark the pieces with a cutting gauge and I cut a shallow rabbet to help with positioning the pieces when transferring the dovetail marks. This is particularly helpful when marking the half blinds. The rabbet is only about 1/32” deep. I deepen the cutting gauge line with a knife and trim and level the rabbet with a chisel and router plane.

Once this is done, it is a straightforward process to cut the dovetails. I cut the tails first and then transfer to the front and back pieces to cut the pins. I often cut drawer dovetails quite quickly because they are not typically seen and a couple gaps don’t really bother me. In fact, I think it looks more authentic that way. But this drawer will be hanging out in the open, so I take a bit more time to have a nice fit. Cutting out the tail recesses for the half blind in the front can be a bit of a pain in the corners. A skew chisel can really help with that. You don’t need to buy a fancy chisel though. I have an old square side 1/4” Butcher chisel that I ground a skew bevel and honed. It works fantastically for this.

The bottom is made from two wide pieces of pine. I bevel down the front and sides to fit into the 1/4” grooves. I remove a lot of material with a wide chisel and clean it up with a bench plane.

Finally, I glue it up. The bottom only gets glued at the front so that it can expand to the back as needed. I also glued the joint between the bottom boards. Once it is dry, I plane off the dovetails and sides and I check the drawer for twist with winding sticks. I need the top of the drawer to be level and true because it will hang from the top. I level off the top with a bench plane as needed. It only required minor adjustment and cleanup in this case.

Next I will hang the drawer on the workbench

-- Tom

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