I always found making drawers to be fun, but there is controversy in drawers too. The way I make them is what I was taught was traditional, but sometimes I sway from that based on the size of the drawer and what it's use is.
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Making drawers is really just making boxes, fancy boxes if you like, but still boxes with square corners and straight edges, now how could there be controversy in that you ask well read on to see how to make drawers and decide for yourself what you would choose ...
The first thing with drawers is the joinery. In my case I am making dovetails, but you could also use rabbet joints, which are much more popular and easier to make.
Controversy #1 - When making dovetail drawers, should you dovetail the front and the back of the drawer? Almost any commercial furniture maker will tell you, "only the front, because who sees the back of a drawer anyway?" Good point, but I often see custom furniture with dovetails at the back of the drawers as well. Ok ... I admit, I go looking for them and the only thing I can think of is that it's a "selling feature", and probably worth a bit more money to the woodworker ... extra work, extra pay, or at the least bragging rights.
What does Colin do? Dovetails in the front only. The back of the drawer is always fitted in a dado, with the lower part of the back of the drawer short enough that the bottom of the drawer can be slid in place after all the gluing and finishing are done, the bottom is then secured to the back of the drawer with a couple of little nails or maybe some small screws.
Controversy #2 - Should ALL of the drawers be finished, including the inside of the drawer and the bottom? This is a real mixed bag, sometimes nothing inside the drawer is finished, sometimes only the sides are finished and sometimes everything is finished. When I see what professional cabinet makers do, I am still confused because they do it all. The custom cabinet woodworker, who makes dovetails front and back, will of course finish everything in the drawer.
What does Colin do? Often finish all sides but leave bottom natural, but it depends on the build.
The wood for these drawers is Red Alder, a wood I enjoy working with, it looks and finishes well and is readily available to me.
The drawer pulls were not exactly my pick, but they were the only ones that I had 3 matching and until I can sort out something better, they will do the job, and anyway, this IS a workshop piece and at the end of the day, functionality is more important than looks.
One of the things you can expect with dovetail sides is small imperfections. It doesn't matter whether you cut the dovetails by hand or by machine, there will likely be imperfections, and they are a bear to try and fix. Most people will never see them, but as makers, we all know they are there. Be careful trying to fix some of these things, you can often make them worse trying to fix them.
The drawers that I have made are for a workbench in my shop. For this, I want to show off the dovetails so that any visitors can see I spent a bit more time making the drawers. As a rule, these drawers would have some sort of a "face" to them, a blank piece of wood made to match or augment the surroundings. This is where "half-blind dovetails" are perfect. From the side you can see there are dovetails, from the front it looks like a finishing drawer with a plain front, matching surroundings. I also have a Half Blind Dovetail Jig that works well with my router but opted to use this version for this build because it is visually more appealing in a woodwork shop.
For me .. the main reason for making drawers was to give parts and pieces a place to reside. I was finding that this workbench was quickly becoming a catch-all for tools, wood, parts, etc. which meant I had to clean it off every few days, now I can store things in the drawers, they are close at hand and it really did make a difference for keeping the top clear.
Copyright Colin Knecht