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Dressers and Chest of Drawers

©2003-2009 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

Chest of Drawers

This is a walnut chest of drawers with clear finish and no stain (unlike the one below which is stained). In real life this is more a medium brown, with more apparent grain pattern, than in the stained piece. This is a "normal" size chest of drawers, 36 inches wide and 50 inches high, rather than the very large size below.

There are no handles on the drawer, for an interesting appearance (the drawers open readily from the ends), but handles of your choice could easily be added. The 18 inch deep top and drawer fronts are solid walnut; the sides are furniture grade plywood for stability.

The chest includes dust panels between the drawers, as common in high-end furniture, to keep dirt and dust from moving between the drawers.

Note that the six drawers are three different sizes... and have hidden glides under the drawers that close the drawer softly when it gets close to closed. The drawer sides are solid maple - not plywood. The chest could also be made without metal glides - which would have been more traditional in bedroom use. The foot is a little different than many, about 2 3/4 inches showing below the trim.

$1,300 with soft-close metal drawer glides
$1,100 with regular wooden drawer glides
No extra charge for installing your drawer handles

The chest of drawers is massive, over 5 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and a full 18 inches deep, with 6 identical drawers. It has 2 1/2 times as much storage volume as the chest of drawers that was replaced. The unit is solid walnut with baltic birch drawers and a rubbed lacquer finish over a dark walnut stain.

Today I would recommend this chest be built with furniture grade walnut plywood, rather than solid wood carcase, but with hardwood drawers. See the story on Dr. White's chest for why plywood is both better and cheaper.

I would be glad to make this chest from solid hardwood, at a higher cost because of the labor and materials required.

$1,300 with plywood carcase
$1,800 with hardwood carcase
$200 extra for Shaker drawer fronts

Chest of Drawers 1392

Construction details as shown

The top has about 3/4 inch overhang on three sides, finished with a bullnose. Each of the six identical drawers has a solid walnut front rounded over with a rabbet, Shaker style, with Baltic birch plywood sides, attached to the front with half-blind dovetails.

The web that glides each drawer is 3/4 inch thick, walnut on the front, and poplar for the rails and back. The web is set into dados in the sides of the cabinet, but not glued so that the solid wood sides can shrink and expand with the seasons. Each side rail is 1/16 inch above and below the divider (7/8 inch total thickness), to keep the drawer from wearing the finished wood in front. To allow for movement, the side rails are about 1/8 inch shorter than expected, and float in mortise and tenon joints in the front and back rails. These side rails also float in the 1/4 inch deep dry dado in the sides. Dust panels are included between each drawer.

Triple Dresser

Finished dresser 1476

The triple dresser is our favorite piece in this bedroom set, with nine drawers in a three by three arrangement. The solid walnut unit has baltic birch drawers, and is braced so that a mirror can be added later.

Today I would recommend this piece be built with furniture grade plywood for the carcase, and hardwood drawers, since the plywood is more stable, less expensive, and requires far less labor with the walnut wood that is available these days.

$1,400 with plywood carcase
$2,650 with hardwood carcase
$300 extra for Shaker drawer fronts

Construction details.

Construction details: about 60 inches long, 18 inches deep, and 30 inches high with a 3/4 inch bullnose overhang on three sides of the top. Each foot shows 3 1/2 inches, and tapers from almost 2 inches to 1 1/4 inches. The drawers have a 3/8 inch rabbet on the top and sides (but only 1/8 inch on the bottom). With 1/8 inch clearance they overlap the frame by 1/4 inch on each side, requiring that the vertical divider be 1/4 inch thicker than the ends, top, and bottom of the carcase.

Not many people realize how many pieces are in a dresser or chest of drawers. This is about half of the dresser carcase just a few days before it was assembled. The white boards with the tenons are the glides the drawers ride on. Each of those boards requires 20 separate cuts on the saw, after you start with the correct size piece of wood. Some of the cuts are measured to about 1/128 of an inch.

Dresser parts 1468

Mirror for the Dresser

Mirror for the dresser

This mirror has an arched top and spindles, with heavy side posts, made from solid black walnut, and designed to match the bed in this bedroom set. It has legs, hidden in this picture, to attach it to the back of the triple dresser. The mirror is flat glass, 24 by 36 inches, but could be upgraded with beveled or heavier glass. The wood is finished in rubbed lacquer.


Designing your own Dresser and Chest of Drawers

The traditional bedroom furnishings include a tall chest of drawers for the gentleman, plus a wide dresser for the lady. Who knows why? But architects seem to design bedrooms with a space at least 5 feet wide that the dresser logically would go, and another space at least 3 feet wide for the chest of drawers.

Most bedrooms today have a television. And the television must be fairly high in the room if both parties want to watch it while lying down, looking over the other person. Today's larger television sets are deeper than the 18 inches of most chests of drawers. Therefore I am looking for the opportunity to build a bedroom entertainment center. One that is deeper than a normal chest of drawers, with a high place for a television, and with a dresser and/or chest of drawers in the bottom (since it probably needs to take the position of one of those units in a normal size bedroom).

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©2003-2009 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

We primarily serve Austin and the Central Texas area, but travel to the DFW area periodically and are glad to serve the Garland, Plano, Dallas, and other North Texas areas, and are willing to ship anywhere.