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Tall Mission Dresser



This dresser was designed to match the Mission Nightstand which I built six months ago. The construction techniques are virtually identical, they just involve larger pieces and/or more pieces. You are strongly encouraged to read that webpage article as well.

Here is a look at the first design. I made this design by starting with the small nightstand, and then making it approximately the same height as the previous tall dressers I had built. Like those dressers, every drawer is a different height. I really like seeing the progression in height. I think it adds a custom touch as very few furniture factories would put in that kind of effort.

However, on this dresser I found that the drawers were too big. To me they give it a heavy look. As well, the design is too narrow -- We don't have a lot of space in the room, so I started with a fairly narrow drawing. And finally, the legs just don't look like. In the design I just took the nightstand legs and stretched them out to about double their height. But now the curve is too shallow.

For the second design, I changed it from seven drawers to eight by changing the drawer heights, and bumping up the height of the dresser by an inch or so. The drawers still decrease in height, but they do so in pairs. The other change was that I made the legs wider, and made the curve of the legs an eight of an inch deeper. It's is subtle, but with the legs so much taller I thought that they needed a more pronounced curve.

The third and final design looks very similar to the second one, but it is a full three inches wider. I'm trying to maximize storage in the space that we have! I made up for that by reducing the overhang of the top, and I also cut back a bit on the width of the legs.

This was the finalized design.

As with the nighstand, I started with a simple plywood box. The two sides are oak hardwood plywood. The crossbraces are also small strips of oak plywood. And the back panel is also 1/4" plywood. The box is assembled with simple butt joints and pocket-hole joinery, as well as basic ordinary screw joints. I'm careful to keep the screws fairly close to the edge of the plywood, so that they will be covered by the legs.

The legs are rabbeted on the tablesaw, and then the long curve is cut out on the bandsaw, and sanded smooth.

The legs are then glued to the sides of the dresser. Modern glue is stronger than wood, so I just used glue here, no mechanical fasteners. I kept the cut-off from cutting the curve on the bandsaw and used that to give a flat surface when clamping the legs in place. For simplicity, I would just glue and clamp the legs on one side of the dresser at a time, instead of trying to clamp both sides at once.

After the legs had dried, I moved on to fitting the 1/4" thick trim pieces onto the side of the cabinet. These provide no strength at all, they are just there for aesthetics. They hide the big blank expanse of plywood and give the illusion of a mission style raised panel.

Being nearly 54" tall, this box is VERY heavy. Once it is complete it is a guaranteed two-person operation to move it around.

For the drawers I did choose a different method from the nightstand. (If you will recall, I built the nightstand drawers with solid oak lumber that I had rescued from a dumpster.) This time I just used plywood with simple rabbeted corners to construct the drawers. This decision was mostly based on cost -- I had a lot of leftover plywood from cutting out the large side panels of the dresser, and I wanted to use them up.

I used the dado blade, partially embedded in a sacrificial fence, to cut 3/4" wide by 3/8" deep rabbets in the ends of all the drawer pieces. (you can see the stack on the wing of the tablesaw in the background of the photo.)

I then applied glue to the rabbets and nailed the drawer corners together with brads. I spaced out the brads so that I could fit in some dowels if I thought the drawers needed reinforcement at the corners, but I did not end up adding any. Time will tell.

A 3/16" thick piece of plywood was then glued and nailed to the bottom of the drawer. Glue is strong and clothes are light, so I am confident that this construction will be strong enough.

(If you're doubtful about that, I recommend that you go read Matthias Wandel's "destructive test" of glued plywood drawer bottoms ove here:

I used full extension drawer slides. These are a slightly cheaper model rated at just 75 pounds, but that should be plenty for socks and underwear!

I attached half inch thick drawer fronts. These were custom-fitted to each drawer opening. I sized them to be 1/8" smaller in both directions. This gives a 1/16" gap on all sides of the drawer front.

I first drilled some holes through from the inside of the drawers and inserted some screws such that their points stuck out 1/8" from the drawer. Then I positioned the drawer front in place from the outside, using some 1/16" shims, and pushed them firmly into place. This left marks in the back of the drawer fronts that I could then use to align the fronts to the drawer bodies, and then clamp them into place and drill and insert screws.

I chose an antique-look drawer pull from Lee Valley. I've used these on a few of my projects as I quite like the curves and mottled pewter colouring.

After some sanding and finishing, here is the finished dresser. I didn't film the finishing process at all this time. I used the same minwax oil-modified polyurethane as I did on the nighstand. Here are several photos of the finished piece.

The first photo is of the back, which I think is an interesting story. Doesn't it have some gorgeous grain? It's actually got some curl in it, in addition to that wild pattern. I found this in the local big box home centre. I was looking for some thin plywood for the dresser back and for some of the drawer botoms, and I came across this lovely 4x8 sheet of underlay. I find it ironic that this was intended to go on the floor, underneath tile, where no one would ever find it. Then I came to the store and found it and brought it home, and now I'm putting it on the back of the dresser which will go against a wall and no one will see it.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)


Thanks for reading!

See Also:

Harvest Table (Part 1)

White Oak Side Table

Small Drawer Lock Joint

Exotic Red Nightstand

Mission Nightstand with a twist