Boy's Cherry and Walnut Dresser #4: Face Frame Installed

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Patrick Jaromin posted 08-25-2008 02:20 PM 6652 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Gluing up the Carcass Part 4 of Boy's Cherry and Walnut Dresser series Part 5: Drawers »

OK, so I “cheated.”

I typically assemble face frames with pocket screws. It’s simple, fast and strong enough. Since this face frame is composed of 1” x 3/4” members, pocket screws seemed a bit weak to me—I’d only be able to use a single screw in each member, which would allow it to “spin” somewhat. While this would be minimized greatly after gluing to the carcass, some “twist” could still occur over time. Since the drawers will feature prominently displayed through dovetails, I figured dovetailing the face frame would be both practical and design appropriate. I briefly considered bandsawing and chiseling the joinery, but with a dozen to do and the drawers looming, I couldn’t see spending the amount of time it would take me to do this entirely “by hand.” Opening up my router bit drawer, I discovered a 3/4” dovetailing bit I seem to recall buying to produce sliding dovertails for another job. So, I “cheated” and built a quick fixture to help me knock off this part of the process.

Test Fit

Without too much fuss, the bit and fixture process yielded some very nice, tight and clean joints.

Completed and Sanded

Once the glue dried, I sanded it from 120 through 220 and propped it up for this picture. Not only do dovetails create very strong, tight joints, they’re also “self squaring” which meant I didn’t have to make any adjustments to square it up during the glue up process.

Not too tight, not too loose…

I’m not certain, but there was likely an audible sigh when I first test-fit the frame to the carcass. It fit snuggly, without any gaps on the sides and aligned flush with the dust panels. Just the “right amount” of persuasion was required to complete the pairing. The trickiest part of the whole process was the glue up. I had previously cut a continuous slot along the front of each dust panel. I referenced my plate joiner’s fence off of this slot and proceeded to cut, more or less randomly, matching biscuit slots along the back side of the horizontal members of the face frame. Even with the A/C running, it was in the mid 70’s in the shop and there wasn’t much open time on the glue—and with around 36 biscuits to glue and set in place, this was gonna be tricky and hectic. Also, since the middle dust panels weren’t open, it was a bit tricky for the clamp to find purchase on the 1/4” ledge around the panel. In my haste I was a bit overly-generous with my glue application to a few spots resulting in greater than typical squeeze out…and a longer than typical amount of time spent wiping up the excess. There are a couple spots that will require some additional sanding, but otherwise…success.

Fresh from the clamps

A few hours later the clamps were removed and the completed case is just awaiting its drawers and top.

(originally posted at

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

5 comments so far

View Grumpy's profile


25623 posts in 4332 days

#1 posted 08-25-2008 02:24 PM

Not cheating Patrick, just another means to an end.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View NICUTO's profile


27 posts in 4097 days

#2 posted 08-25-2008 06:12 PM

I didnt see any “cheating”... just good use of your resources!

looks sweet! I’m really digging this project! I like the contrast of the woods, it will look great once finish is applied. What are you planning to use for a finish?

keep up the great work!

-- Nick, Maine;

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

406 posts in 4313 days

#3 posted 08-25-2008 06:16 PM

Thanks Grumpy and Nick….

As for a finish, I’m leaning toward Waterlox “Tung oil” finish. I’ve used it many times before and really like the look.

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

View jaydub's profile


63 posts in 3595 days

#4 posted 07-29-2011 02:48 PM

Hi Patrick,
I know this has been up a long time, but it’s helped me a bunch this morning – I’m planning close to an identical dresser for my wife, and my thought process seems to have followed yours very closely. Thought about ball-bearing runners, but it just doesn’t feel right. The dust frame idea popped up next after seeing Norm do it a few years back, and your posts have been an awesome reference. Example – why fill the bottom panel? I would have just done it automatically, but there’s no real reason.

A couple of questions (and apologies if these answers are in a different post)
What did you use for panel material? I would imagine 1/4” birch or cherry ply
I’m sure clamping the faceframe on was tricky – any thoughts on what you might do different to allow for more of a clamping surface on the frame? Perhaps I’ll just offset the dado that receives the panel.
And what did you decide on drawer runner setup? I’ve only done a couple of drawers, none of which really needed to be too perfect – this I need to really nail.

Thanks again.


-- happiness is a sharp plane iron

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

406 posts in 4313 days

#5 posted 07-29-2011 04:11 PM


Thanks and I’m happy to hear you found the posts helpful! As for your questions…

  • Dust frames: I don’t recall on this specific dresser, but it’s either 1/4” birch or maple ply…I would have grabbed whatever was handy and of a good size. I usually have some of each around.
  • Clamping the face frame: Yeah, it was tricky. I’m sure someone more clever than I would have a better solution, but I did manage to get sufficient pressure and it’s held up. The only other ideas that come to mind would be drilling a couple holes in the dust frame for the clamp heads or using pocket hole screws from the dust frame in strategic spots to pull the face frame to it. Or, you could just hack it like I did!
  • As for the drawer runners: I had to run upstairs and look as I didn’t recalll that either! So it looks like I just inserted walnut guides on either side matched up with the face frame. I used walnut so it would flow with the face frame. Then a stop on the bottom so it wouldn’t go in too far and at the top to prevent tipping. ( I waxed the bottom (you can see the discoloration in the pic) and they fit perfectly (no one was more surprised than I!)

Here’s a pic I just took…getting a little dusty in there now…

Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics