Cherry dresser case design

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Forum topic by cdnstudentwoodworker posted 11-21-2018 04:54 AM 1022 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View cdnstudentwoodworker's profile


55 posts in 2360 days

11-21-2018 04:54 AM

Hey there , Im building a tall Cherry dresser , solid sides and using dadoed dust frames to separate the drawers. Ive reviewed various designs and am having a hard time weighing risk and reward of the various joinery possibilities. Ive already purchased about 60bf of 5/4 cherry.

Option 1 and the seemingly the most popular is to dovetail the top and bottom of the case together and then fit the dust frames in after glue up , this method allows me to only glue the front few inches of the dust frames and have them remain secure and allows for wood movement. Im not willing to handcut that many dovetails and risk screwing up a case this size, i have a leigh jig but no table tall enough to properly put the boards into due to the case height.

Option 2 use only dados and dust frames , in this case the the dust frames will have to be glued all the way and will not allow for movement of the 20” sides but the wood is very well seasoned and im not sure how much it will really move anyway.

Option 3 attempt to edge band cherry onto plywood and use that for the solid sides which would allow me to glue in the dust frames totally and not worry about side movement. Negative of this being all my stock is rift and quartersawn and may be difficult to match to plywood , i also hate plywood. and can never get it to stay flat in my shop.

What would you do ? anyone have experience with this kind of construction ?

12 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


3166 posts in 2598 days

#1 posted 11-21-2018 05:28 AM

Option 1 is good.
Option 2 is bad wrought with regret
Option 3 sounds ok but very unsatisfying
Cherry is not really known for its dimensional stability. Mahogany and walnut is.
Good luck sounds like a great project

-- Aj

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5857 posts in 3109 days

#2 posted 11-21-2018 07:20 AM

  1. one would be my choice.

How tall is the chest? Depending on the design the dovetails are structural and often times covered with trim pieces so they wouldn’t have to be perfect as long as the case is square. I have use my Leigh jig on 5 foot tall cases. What is you base design and the top design.

Maybe you could screw a couple heavy duty adjustable shelf standards on the wall with a couple of brackets and set your Leigh Jig shelf high enough to do you chest. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 3169 days

#3 posted 11-21-2018 12:41 PM

I agree with the comments so far. If you dovetail the case you traditionally hide the dovetails, so they don’t have to be pretty. Large finger joints could work too (dovetails with square walls.) Another option for the case is to dowel it together.

There are many option for the web frames for the drawers.

One is to attach (glue) the long rails in to the front and back of the case sides. You then attach the runners to the rails with mortise and tenon joints. Glue the runners in the rails in front, but not in the back. You cut the tenon in the back so it has room to take up any expansion or contraction of the case sides (give it room to move in and out.) You can attach the rails to the case with dovetail dados (looks nice and helps keep the sides from bowing) or with regular dados.

Another option is to screw the web frame runners to the case sides (with or without them in dados) and slot the hole to allow for movement. If you do it this way you can even omit the rear rail.

I’m sure there are others too.

-- John

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3683 days

#4 posted 11-21-2018 12:42 PM

Option 1 for sure. Option 2 will end in sadness once the wood moves (doesn’t matter how long the wood has seasoned for). Option 3 doesn’t sound nice at all. If you want an heirloom quality project it’s going to stretch your skills but at the end you’ll have an heirloom that you can be proud of.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View ChefHDAN's profile


1695 posts in 3649 days

#5 posted 11-21-2018 01:39 PM

FWIW, for your option 1, there are some power tool methods to accelerate hand cutting the DTs. Following careful layout, I use bandsaw and an angle jig to cut the pins, then transfer the marks over for the sockets, once marked, I use a small router with spiral bit to remove the majority of the waste, then finish cutting to the line with chisels. Goes pretty fast.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View bondogaposis's profile


5802 posts in 3151 days

#6 posted 11-21-2018 02:09 PM

but the wood is very well seasoned and im not sure how much it will really move anyway.

It doeasn’t have to move much in order to split. Wood never moves very much, but it moves inevitably and powerfully enough to crack open a dresser side. Another option to consider is a frame and panel sides rather than solid wood.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Robert's profile


3783 posts in 2281 days

#7 posted 11-21-2018 03:01 PM

Hate to tell you , but option 1 is the best.

Don’t be daunted by the dovetailed dividers. I used a paring block. Don’t make the mistake I made and do them after the glue up.

Once you get the sockets done, fit the dividers. Worst case scenario and you screw up, you can make another divider.

There are a couple different ways to do the dt’s depending on whether the drawers are inset or not.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Aj2's profile


3166 posts in 2598 days

#8 posted 11-21-2018 04:48 PM

It’s very good to practice on a less expensive wood if your confidence is low. Alder would be a good ( poor mans Cherry).Its a very advanced project to handsaw a Dt case. Not only do you want good fitting jointery the whole thing needs to be square and without twist. Or your drawer making adventure will be miserable
Practice Practice Practice

-- Aj

View bilyo's profile


1132 posts in 1902 days

#9 posted 11-21-2018 07:27 PM

I like jmos’s technique. I make all my casework this way even if it is frame and panel as opposed to solid panel construction. Doing it that way provides a strong and rigid case. Let the dust panel/frames take up the expansion/contraction.

View cdnstudentwoodworker's profile


55 posts in 2360 days

#10 posted 11-22-2018 07:12 AM

I think the final plan is to make a stand or shelf for the leigh jig , do full width panels for the top and bottom with halfblind dovetails. As much as i would love to hand cut , my design dosent allow for hiding through dovetails. Once the case is test fitted , cut dados for the dust frames and then glue and assemble the case, then make the dust frames to fit but will not be doing sliding dovetails , just a straight forward dado.

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 3169 days

#11 posted 11-22-2018 12:57 PM

Sounds like a good plan. I’d do stopped dados in the case sides, then make a small notch in the rails of the web frame. Having the dado showing isn’t terribly attractive, unless you dovetail the front portion, with a corresponding dovetail in the rail.)

One thing you didn’t mention, so I’ll throw it out there: Items like the web frames are often made out of a cheaper secondary wood. You can glue on a strip of Cherry to front of the front rail to keep the face of the piece consistent, but use something like pine or poplar to reduce costs and stretch the more expensive cherry. Might get another project out of it.

-- John

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5857 posts in 3109 days

#12 posted 11-23-2018 07:20 AM

I like the sliding dovetail because it mechanically lock the front of the case if the glue does ever fail. The sliding dovetails don’t have to be full length. The sliding dovetail can be the lenght of the front piece of the dust frame/drawers dividers or even shorter.
Run you dados full width and come back with a router with a dovetail bit put the dovetail right inside of the dado. You can put the dovetails on the end of your dust frame front piece on a router table (No hand work needed) Once those are made you glue them in the front front of the case. Slide the side runners in from the back in the dadoes and screw them in place using elongated holes.

Hopefully the picture will make this understandable.

I’m not using a piece across the the back because I’m using a plywood back that will hold the back together.

If you decide you what to do this I have a link to an article that show the steps needed with pictures.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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