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Tall Dresser


Part One: The #1 Dresser

With two boys sharing a room, and with no plan to move anytime soon, the only way to gain storage is by going vertical. So when I determined to make a dresser for my son, I knew it was going to be a tall one.

In fact, at this point it is probably too tall for him.

I arrived at the final dimensions by starting with his previous dresser (a curbside "rescue+repair") and having my son stand in front of it to see just how tall I could go. I then jiggled those numbers a bit and arrived at the final dimensions of approximately 56-1/2" tall, by 34" wide, by 17" deep. I checked later, and those dimensions are coincidentally quite close to the "golden section rectangle", which is nice.

But please, don't just copy those numbers. During the course of construction I realized that I had made a rather unfortunate mistake. I designed the overall dimensions, but didn't really work through all the secondary dimensions carefully. The result was that the drawer bottoms -- for the large drawers -- needed to be 30-1/2" wide. However, baltic birch comes in 60x60" sheets, and there is NO efficient way to get a 30-1/2" piece out of that! I "solved" that by running a strip of cherry down the middle of each drawer bottom. This gave some reinforcement for such a wide drawer (not sure if it was necessary or not, we'll see) and by dividing the drawer bases into two pieces each a bit less than 15" wide, it was much easier to use the baltic birch efficiently.

Since I have two sons in that room, I had originally intended to make two dressers at once. In that way I might gain some efficiencies by making multiple cuts with the same tool setups. However, I decided that I couldn't do so, since my shop is not big enough to hold two carcasses at once. Boy am I glad I didn't. When I get around to the next dresser, it will be about 1-1/2" narrower!

The drawer fronts are maple. The top and trim are cherry. The side panels are Maple faced veneer-core plywood. The drawers are from 1/2" (actually 12mm) Baltic Birch plywood. For a finish I used Watco brushing lacquer. The drawers are graduated in height. The four top drawers have 5-1/2" tall fronts, and the bottom one has an 8-1/2" tall front.

And enough of that. Here are the photos...

Part Two: #2 Dresser, Not Quite a Twin

As I mentioned above, there are two boys sharing this room. So I thought about two dressers right away. Some time later (we don't need to get into just how much later...) I set about making the "fraternal" twin -- not an identical twin, for the reasons mentioned above! -- of this dresser for my #2 son.

(this segment is going to be more of a photo essay than the above.)

First, just for fun, here are some of my SketchUp drawings that I used when building this dresser. I rarely work with detailed step-by-step plans, but I do find SketchUp very usefull.

Here is the carcass after assembly, and also the four pieces that make up the top being glued up.

Another big change from how the first dresser was built was the drawer fronts. I used a slanted jig on the Table Saw the first time, to cut raised panels. It worked, but was slow, and some burning was a problem. I think that method is best when you only need one or two panels.

For this dresser I switched to using a vertical raised panel bit in the router table. Vertical panel bits are not as common, but I was very pleased with how easy it was to work with, and the good results. Here is a shot of the router table setup, and a shot of a panel being cut, and of some of the completed drawers with their faces now attached.

Some shots of the almost finished dresser -- finish is on, drawers are in, and at this point I was just waiting for the finish to harden up for a few days before installing the knobs and bringing it upstairs. For this dresser, the finish was a coat of shellac sprayed on followed by 3 coats of Flect Varathane water base finish -- 5 coats on the top.

And here is the finished dresser, first on it's own, and then installed beside it's "twin", amidst the chaos that is a two boys' bedroom.

Side Panel details

One last little bit... At the time of construction I did not produce a detailed set of plans or build instructions. I often work from only a partial set of home-drawn plans, which is what I did here.

However, I did write an article for a Lee Valley Newsletter, which goes into detail of how I built the sides of the dressers. They look like a standard panel you might find in a raised panel door, but they aren't. Details here: Lee Valley Newsletter Volume 2, issue 3, January 2008


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