Seven drawer chest
Improve storage space in your child’s bedroom, or even your own, and build this project.
Bedrooms never have enough drawer space. Most of us have undergarments, socks, T-shirts and other clothing items that are ideally suited for drawer storage.
This high chest has seven relatively shallow drawers. Chests tend to be narrow and high, while dressers are wider and lower. However, you can make the same project with fewer and deeper drawers. The construction principles and plans are the same for both chests and dressers, so once you’ve built this one, you will be able to build any size to suit your need.
Many woodworkers feel there is a great deal of skill needed to build a chest or dresser. Nothing could be further from the truth – it’s a simple process. Take your time and perform each step in order. You’ll soon see how easy it is to build great looking bedroom furniture.
BUILDING THE CHEST
Cut the two side panels (A) to size. Then cut a 1/4” deep by 5/16” wide rabbet on the back inside face of both side panels to receive the backboard. (The rabbet can be cut with a hand held router, a router mounted on a table, or a table saw equipped with a dado blade.) The side panels can be your choice of material. You can make this chest using 11/16” veneer covered particleboard, veneer MDF or solid wood.
The front edges of both side panels are covered with a solid piece of wood called a stile. They are 11/16” wide by 52” long. Use glue and 2” finishing nails to secure the stiles (B). Countersink the nail heads and fill the holes with colored filler that will match the final finish.
The backboard (C) can be any 1/4” thick material as it will not be visible. Cut and attach the four support cleats (D). Then fit the back into the rabbets and attach it with glue and brad nails through the rear and into each side panel. Since I want my chest carcass to have a finished width of 32 1/2”, my back is 31 3/4”, plus the remaining thickness of each side panel after the rabbets have been cut.
Attach the bottom rail (E) with glue and screws through the side panels and bottom cleat. Use 2” screws in pre-drilled holes for the maximum holding power.
Attach the remaining seven rails (F) with glue and screws through the outside of each stile. Use 2” screws in pre-drilled counter-bored holes so wood plugs can be installed. One screw per side is adequate until the glue dries.
Make sure the placement of the rails allows for the three bottom drawers that are 6” high, the three middle drawers that are 5” high and the top drawer that is 4 3/4” high.
Cut the side legs (G). Round over the top, bottom, and back edge with a 1/4” router bit. Install each leg 1 1/2” up from the bottom edge of the side panels. Attach the legs using glue and four 1 1/4” screws, through the inside of the cabinet side panels.
Cut the front leg (H) and round over all edges of the outside face. Attach it with glue and 1 1/4” screws.
There are many options available for the chest top. If you have got the equipment to edge glue then edge glue three 3/4” solid boards using biscuits. Another popular choice is veneer particleboard with a solid wood edge. A third, option is to use pre-made solid wood panels and cut them to size. These are available at most home centres.
Cut the top (J) to a finished size of 19 3/4” deep by 34 1/2” wide. That will provide 1” overhang on the front and both sides of the cabinet. Round over the top and bottom face of the sides and front with a 1/4” round-over bit in a router.
Secure the top to the cabinet, making sure it’s flush with the backboard. Use glue and 1 1/4” long screws through the cleats to anchor the top. If it is a solid wood top, don’t use glue, as the boards will expand and contract with humidity changes; use the screw-only method, to allow a slight bit of room for movement.
Install 3/4” thick by 1” high trim molding (K) under the chest top. There are dozens of styles available. Choose an 8’ length that matches the cabinet style.
Build the drawer sides, back, and front boards from Baltic Birch. It’s sometimes called cabinet grade plywood and its layers are void free. Use the sizes detailed in the materials list. The bottom mount drawer glides I used require 1/2” per side for proper operation. Therefore, my drawer box is 1” narrower than the opening.
Normally, my drawer box height is also 1” less.
Cut the drawer box parts (as detailed in the materials list) and sand the edges smooth. Join the sideboards to the front and backboards using glue and finishing nails. Attach the bottom board using glue and finishing nails. The bottom board should be cut square and aligned to all faces of the drawer box.
To install the bottom mount drawer glides, first determine the height of the screw line above each rail for your particular brand of drawer glides. (The Blum drawer glides I used are installed by drawing a line on the side panel 3/4” above the rail.)
Lay the chest carcass on its back and use a carpenter’s square to draw a straight line to indicate the center of each screw hole in the glides. Install one 5/8” long screw in the front and one at the back (in the adjusting screw hole) of each glide.
Check the fit and alignment of each drawer box. If a box doesn’t sit properly on the glides, adjust it by slightly raising or lowering one side rail. Inset the remaining screws once you test the drawers. If a slight adjustment is necessary, loosen the back screw and align the glide.
Round over the outside edges of the drawer faces (L), (M) and (N) with a 1/4” radius bit. Secure each face to the drawer box using four 1” screws.
The top-drawer face can’t be attached by reaching through the next higher drawer box space. To make alignment easier, drill the hole (or holes) in the drawer face for the handles you plan on using. Then, temporarily attach the drawer face to the box using a 1 1/4” screw through the hardware hole. The drawer can then be opened with the face secured in place. Once the face is attached from inside the box, remove the screws from the front and install hardware.
Apply a finish of your choice and install the drawer handles. My pine chest was finished with three coats of oil-based polyurethane.
This basic chest construction method can also be used when building dressers. A long, low dresser is constructed in the same way the chest was built. Dressers tend to have two banks of drawers, which means you’ll have to add a center panel and center stile. But, no matter what style of chest or dresser you need, build it following the procedures outlined.
Many species of wood are available. Some are easier to work with than others. The final finish often determines the choice of wood. For example, if I wanted a painted dresser I would probably use poplar or ash, as they are relatively inexpensive hardwoods that readily accept paint.
Veneer covered MDF or particleboard is often the panel of choice when building cabinets. But, if you have a source of wood, and the equipment to glue up solid panels, then that is the way to go.
Details and Trim:
Details such as the legs and trim can be altered to dramatically change the look of your project. Thicker legs, tops, and trim give the piece a heavier look. Thinner tops and detailed trim lighten the appearance. Experiment with a few scraps of wood to achieve the “look” you desire.
Basic chest and dresser construction techniques are relatively simple to master.
This project proves that it’s well worth your while to build your own furniture – you can have fun and save quite a few dollars at the same time!
NOTE: Always try to use a screw or nail that is at least twice the thickness of the board you are screwing through. If my board is 3/4” thick I will use a 1 1/2” screw. But, I will use a 2” screw to secure the rail through the cleat because the cleat (3/4” thick) and the bottom rail (2 1/2” high) give me enough material to use the longer screw. However, the screw is only there to provide a good mechanical bond while the glue cures. Once that happens, the glue is the bonding agent. Remember that you need a solid mechanical bond for the glue to cure properly.