Lonnie Bird's School #3: Making & Fitting a Drawer

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Blog entry by kenn posted 05-01-2015 03:38 AM 1667 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Glueing up & practice dovetails Part 3 of Lonnie Bird's School series no next part

Day Four of class was spent making the drawer. I started with some more practice but eventually we were told Practice was over and it is time for the real thing. First up is to cut the pin sockets. Sharp, crisp corners are the goal. I was pleased with mine.

The drawer back was roughed out to save some time, here’s what I started with.

Next I laid out my drawer parts and labeled each matching joint. No way did I want to miscut one of these.

I mentioned last time what a difference seeing the line made for me in being a more accurate sawyer. With high magnification reading glasses and a close up view of the work, I made great progress in my abilities. I think I look ridiculous sawing like this but the results are what matters.

I was pleased when Lonnie showed the class my work. For the record, that’s straight from the saw, no chiseling required.

By the end of the day, I had a drawer and a table, here’s the proof.

Day Five, Friday arrived. The objective for the day was to fit the drawer to the opening with a piston fit and add the top. First we glued up and then installed the runner. It was key to have the spacer fit dead flush with the leg side of the drawer opening. We also concentrated on getting the runner installed square to the front of the opening.

Then it was on to the fitting. The procedure was to fit the front face to the opening, one side at a time. Each of the four sides needed to be just right. Of course, at home this is best done before putting the drawer together but with nine woodworkers of varying abilities, we fitted them now. Then it just takes time, a sharp plane with the correct cutting angle and patience to fit it closely starting with the back of the drawer and working your way forward. I bet I slide my drawer in and out 80 times to get the fit. I was too conservative and would only take one or two thin shaving before checking again. Lonnie gave me some advice and encouragement to take a thicker shaving. That sped things up. .

Next time I’ll be more confident and not so worried about getting a sloppy fit but after all the hard work I had put in to this table, properly fitting a drawer was one of my goals for the class. We installed stops glued with a rub joint to the lower rail. We planed the drawer front flush. Here is my finished fit.

Next we hand planed the top. Lonnie’s assistant had already milled these for us. I think having an experienced woodworker mill lumber for you is a very unique aspect of this school. I liked it. The advantages include the lumber was proper prepared, my time was spent learning and practicing the skills I came to learn and I saved my energy for the “good stuff” instead of the “grunt work” of getting something flat and square. With my Multiple Sclerosis, I was really fatigued by Friday and I’m not sure I could have accomplished all I did if I had to mill lumber too.

Anyway, here’s my top ready to be planed.

The top was attached with clips and a kicker was installed to the underside of the top, right down the middle. Here’s my table.

Class is over and I’m ready to pack up my table but there’s time for a picture with the table and proud craftsman!

Once I got home, my drawer need a little adjustment. The 530 miles north made a difference to the wood and I had to take a few shavings here and there to get things right again. I put shellac on, inside and out, except for the drawer sides and back (they stayed natural).

I’ve ordered a knob from Ball and Ball which I’ll install once it arrives. I’ll wait to post this as a completed projected until the knob is here, but you can have a sneak preview. Meanwhile, this table has a new home.

This class was a huge success for me. I had a blast. The shop, town, location and views were great. I was able to substantially increase my skills. Sawing, dovetails and fitting a drawer in particular were areas that I improved. Plus I made a great table. Thanks for following along with me. Maybe we will meet at a future class. I’m returning this September to make a chest of drawers and will be practicing my dovetails until then.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

6 comments so far

View WhattheChuck's profile


378 posts in 4191 days

#1 posted 05-01-2015 03:59 AM

Awesome, Ken! I really think the best way to master hand-cut dovetails, now that you’ve had the class, is to make a spice cabinet. The pieces are small, there are just a bazillion dovetails, and because the drawer side thicknesses are relatively thin, chiseling is not hard on the joints – namely yours.

But your table looks awesome!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View waho6o9's profile


8815 posts in 3207 days

#2 posted 05-01-2015 04:40 AM

Looks like time well spent Kenn plus you had a great time

making a perfect table, congrats!

View Woodtodust's profile


71 posts in 2467 days

#3 posted 05-01-2015 01:58 PM

I attended this class a year ago and found that my confidence and hand tool skills were significantly improved. Lonnie is a great teacher and the work shop is excellent. Immersing yourself in just woodworking for a week is very enjoyable.

I liked the fundamentals class so much that I’m attending the blanket chest class in a couple of months.

Congratulations on a beautiful table.

-- Bill...Richmond Hill, GA--"83% of all statistics are made up."

View lew's profile


12951 posts in 4385 days

#4 posted 05-04-2015 01:38 PM

Absolutely beautiful, Kenn!

Those are some fantastic dovetails!!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View mafe's profile


12340 posts in 3719 days

#5 posted 05-04-2015 10:49 PM

You are a lucky man.
And what dovetails!
Really looks like you had a wonderful time and learned a lot.
Truly a fine table, so crisp.
You should be really proud.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View kenn's profile


813 posts in 4350 days

#6 posted 05-06-2015 12:28 AM

Thanks everybody for following along with me. I had a blast and can’t wait to go back. I cut a set of practice half blind dovetails tonight and I’m pleased with my improvement. Still waiting on my knob, then this one will be completed.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

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