I’ve been a hobbyist woodworker for more than 20 years. I started woodworking in my garage with just a few power tools and over the years upgraded and added as the budget would allow. My first major tool purchase was a used Craftsman 10″ radial arm saw. I did everything with that saw, mitre cuts, rip cuts, dados, and of course cross cuts. My first projects were end tables, blanket racks, plate racks, etc. Many projects ideas came from Woodsmith magazine.
After retiring in 2008 and a move from Nebraska to Missouri, I now have a 1200 sq.ft. dedicated shop which is well insulated, heated and air conditioned. My collection of tools has grown as well. I still have a “wish list” though and my vacuum system is still not finished. No space left for a closed-in finish room. Maybe I’ll have to build on!
The dresser I recently finished starts out with a Google SketchUp drawing, as most of my projects do. Any changes I make to the final piece I try to update my SketchUp drawing with the changes. I enjoy the design process as much as the woodworking. I used quarter sawn white oak for the drawer fronts and top. Straight sawn white oak was used for the rest. I also put aromatic red cedar panels between the drawers.
I started with the two end panels. I also rough cut the boards I would use for the top to let them acclimate to the shop humidity. After gluing up the posts and panels, I cut ½” dados in the insides of the posts to receive the tenon on the end panels. I used a shaker raised panel, stile and rail bit set to build the end panels. The next step was cutting the mortises in the end panel posts to accept the tenons on the rails for the drawer dividers. I cut the rail mortises in the legs before I glued them to the panels. I have a hollow chisel mortiser, so making mortises is mostly getting the locations marked correctly and making sure the chisel is square with the work piece. My next step was making the rails. I then did a dry fit with the end panels assembled and the rails installed. I hadn’t decided at that point how I was going to mount the drawers. Looking at several options, I chose sliding dovetails. I wanted to build as many parts as I could with wood. The only hardware I purchased were the brackets to hold the top in place and the screws to attach the drawer fronts. My main concern with the sliding dovetails was getting everything square, so the drawers wouldn’t bind.
The drawers are all solid white oak with through dovetails. I cut the sliding dovetails in the drawer sides before I assembled the drawers. After mounting the drawers and getting them to slide correctly in the frame, I began working on the fronts. I numbered each of the drawers so they would go back in the same order. The fronts were quite easy to build. I again used the Shaker bit set and after assembly and glue up, I was ready to fit them to the openings and to attach them to the drawers. I marked and drilled the holes for the shop made pulls and then used those holes to adjust and temporarily attach the fronts to the drawers. When I had the best fit, I then attached the fronts with screws from the inside of the drawer to the front.
For the finish I wanted to match a bed I built a couple of years ago, I mixed 3 parts Golden Oak to one part Red Oak stain. I’ve used this mix on several of my projects. After the stain dried overnight, I used 100% wax-free shellac to which I added a small amount of boiled linseed oil. I’ve found the linseed oil prevents the shellac from drying too quickly and for me it’s easier to apply without getting sticky. As long as you don’t add too much linseed oil, it still dries very quickly. I always apply thin coats with a rag. For the final top coat, I used a semi-gloss oil-based polyurethane applied with a rag and sanded with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper between coats.