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Hey everyone,

I am in the middle of my fist project that involves dovetailed drawers. I have gotten all of my joinery cut and I am getting ready to glue up the drawers. I am wondering when I should prep the inside of the drawers for finishing? If I plane them or sand them significantly, I'll end up rounding over the tails and pins and I'll no doubt have gaps everywhere. I scraped them last night, avoiding the tails and pins, and was planning on 220 real quick today on the inside faces before glue up. The outside faces are easy to do afterwards, but the insides not so much. I am wondering if I should have prepped the insides before I even started cutting any joinery. How do y'all who do dovetail drawers go about this process?

Thanks
 

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When I build a project that involves a few drawers, or a lot, usually the drawers are the last thing I make..I fit them to the carcass once it's complete….No matter if you use dovetails, box joints, or wahtever method you use, I would NOT put any finish on the inside of the drawers…I just sand all parts smooth with 220 or 320, and once that is done, then I add the drawer fronts, wheather overlays, or flush….If you put any kind (no matter what kind) of finish on the inside of the drawers, the smell will take forever, if it finally does, to go away…Final: Sand all parts smooth, intall drawer fronts, and finsh the outside of the project only…...That's what I do, but you can do what you want to….Just warning you about the odor that will be there a long time…...
 

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I do things differently than Rick I sand at least the inside of the drawer to 180 and pre-finish them masking any areas that get glue on them(just don't use and oil base)waterborne clear coat or lacquer works fine without any lasting odor.
Finishing the outside can wait until after the drawers glued up.
 

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Maybe I should have said it a little different….Like Jim, I do sand the inside of the drawer bottoms and all sides and front…before the overlays are added….I've never used laquer or any finish, although I did use poly one time years ago, and I learned my lesson on that one..Bad thing was, it was for a customer…Since then…NOT…
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the info guys.

Rick, the drawers on this project are all one piece, as in the drawer front isn't going on later, it is already dovetailed and ready to assemble. That said, I guess I could just finish the drawer face, but does this cause moisture absorption issues with the outside being finished and the inside not? I think I'll want to finish all parts inside and out. Good to know for my next project though. Seems like this method would be great in an overlay drawer front situation, or even when the drawer sides are a light secondary wood that is different from the primary wood on the front and aren't really ornamental. This is a purpleheart jewelry box, so the I want to finish the wood so that it keeps its color.

Jim, I do plan on using lacquer, so it is good to know that the scent shouldn't be an issue. I might do that prefinishing technique. The only issue is that the insides of the drawers are purpleheart and I just scraped them yesterday. I need to let them sit in the shop for a while to re-purple-ize. I wanted to assemble now and get the glue up over with because of time constraints. Maybe that just isn't realistic though. Should have started the Christmas making earlier… I say that every year…
 

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Woodoyster
Depending on how your drawers are designed you may be able to finish the inside after assembly. The way I make my drawers is I cut the back of the drawer right at the groove line for the drawer bottom so the drawer bottom can be slide in and out until completed.

Wood Table Rectangle Cutting board Wooden block
 

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Oyster….I got it now….The drawers are going to be flush-mounted with the faces flush with the outside of the box…..I would go ahead and apply the finish to the whole box, and not worry about moisture on the inside of the drawers….Are you going to be flocking the drawers, or leave them natural w a finish?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Rick - correct. The front drawer faces are dovetailed and flush with the case front. The drawers will be a natural finish. I bought purpleheart because it was cheapish and interesting. Little did I realize I'd be better off working with aluminum… I figure I ought to show off the purpleheart drawers since I have gone to the trouble to work with it this whole time.
 

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Oyster…..I really like working with purpleheart, but where I live it is not cheap, and I usually have to order it…It runs about $6-7 a board foot…it's as bad, if not worse , than walnut…..Everytime I use it, I'll have to change blades in my planer, as it's tough on them….Extremely hard and heavy, but it's such a beautiful wood…Too bad it's exotic…..
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I like how it looks, it is just the rest of it that drives me nuts. Rough on hand tools and power tools and it stinks.

It was about $8 for me. So it was just cheap enough to use on this small project. I suppose I should have said that this is a small box that will likely be a longtime heirloom, so buying 7 or 8 bdft didn't put me in the poor house. I wouldn't use it for a large piece of furniture. I make a lot of croquet mallets, and this stuff would be perfect for that sort of thing.
 

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Yep….Know what you mean about the tools….The small supply I have I use on small things like trivits, nakin holders, a few cutting boards, etc. I have never used it to build a larger project….Too expensive…I have about 20 bft., and I save it for special occasions…..or special projects….I made some of the above mentioned stuff for Christmas gifts, and very little of it then…..
 

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I do things differently than Rick I sand at least the inside of the drawer to 180 and pre-finish them masking any areas that get glue on them(just don t use and oil base)waterborne clear coat or lacquer works fine without any lasting odor.
Finishing the outside can wait until after the drawers glued up.

- a1Jim
Agree with Jim 100%
 

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The parts are safe to sand before assembly. You won't remove enough material to affect the fit of your dovetails. For drawers with integral fronts you need to decide if the whole drawer will be finished at once, separately, or not at all. I do it two different ways depending on whether the drawer sides and bottoms will receive finish as well.
If I only want the drawer front to have a finish, I stain and topcoat the drawer fronts only. That is the way I did it this morning. You need to lay some 1/4" rope in the drawer grooves, and use foam backer rod (small foam rolls) to fill the dovetail sockets. This will keep finish off the glued joint surfaces.
If you feel like topcoating the whole drawer box, sand the parts and glue the boxes up. Then topcoat the whole drawer.
Both ways work great.
 

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I do my drawers like A1Jim, and some people use slips, I think makes it much easier and easier to put a mutton in this middle for wide drawers… look up the draw slips, Neal Erasmus has an article on it.

But yes, sliding in the panel and using a screw in the bake in the easiest. I finish the insides on the drawer, all 4, and get them sanded up to 220- I would bother doing the outsides, since you will probably be planing your joinery and them giving a shaving or two to fit the drawers perfectly. BY slipping out the panel you can finish the panel after, and the insides with the panel out who prevents blobbing of finish and a less than desirable look. I finish my drawers with a few few light coat of clear shellac, sand them up very fine and wax them- it kind of lubes them up for the drawer rails and will extend the drawer bottom, or at least in theory.

If you use solid wood panels, the screw in the back can stay stationary and you can rout extra in the front drawer slot for seasonal expansion and wood movement. If you're using ply, not as much worry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for all of the input guys. I ended up gluing the drawers up today because xmas is approaching faster that I had hoped and I have to move it along.

1. As far as removable drawer bottoms go, that will happen for sure on my next project with drawers. I thought about cutting the back face of my drawer down today to allow a slip in drawer bottom, but I would have lost a pin at each corner, and there are only 3. I felt I might get too loose of a fit if I did that. Next time, I will plan on that and have an extra thick pin at the bottom to allow for a rear-entry drawer bottom to slip in and out.

2. I sanded insides to 180 and it felt good. I'll probably clean up the glue a little and leave it be for finishing. Outside of the box and drawers will be planed (a lot ) to fit, so I have a ways to go on prepping it for finish.

3. Planning on giving lacquer a shot. I hear it is that or waterborne poly to keep the purpleheart purple.

First drawer project is an eye opener…
 

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