Monday, October 25, 2010


My drawer count at press time stands at 15 drawers in the master cabin: 12 under the bed, and three more at Shannon's dressing/vanity table. We've got a fairly large kitchen at our house, and we only have nine drawers in that kitchen. Needless to say, I'm getting all pumped up at how much storage space I'm squeezing into the master cabin.

I copied the drawer design that is on our 28' Carver cruiser boat. That design has served that boat well for 33 years with no failures. The design is extremely simple and uses no expensive hardware. I had thought about using metal slides with bearings, but given the odd size of the drawer depth, too much modification would have to happen to the parts. I also wasn't to psyched about dropping $200.00 on hardware that I would have to modify. So I went with a sliding dovetail to connect the drawer front to the drawer sides, an plastic guide that rides in a shop built hardwood track. The fronts are solid Cherry, the sides are 1/2" Cherry plywood left over from the paneling, the bottom is 1/4" Birch, and the back is more of the 1/2" Cherry ply. I had quite a nice pile of Cherry plywood scrap left over from paneling the master cabin, and the drawer project pretty much wiped out what I had left. These drawers are an overlay design.

I had to sort of think like a production guy and try to mass produce my parts for this rather large job. The first step was to measure all the rough openings and label them 1-15. I then developed a cut list for the fronts and sides. Once the fronts and sides were milled and cut I laid out where the sliding dovetail socket would be located. I laid out the dovetail so that there would be 3/16" of a gap between the side of the drawer and the face frame of the drawer chest. 3/16" is a little more gap than I would prefer, but I can always go back and install a filler piece if I feel the drawer wanders to much while opening or closing. Given that this is all wood, I have to give myself a little cushion with the expansion and contraction that is going to happen. I'd rather err on caution.

The first cut I made was the dovetail socket in the drawer front. I did this work on my home made router table/ glorified box that I can hang my router off of. The real money maker on my home made router table is the fact that I borrow the fence off of my shaper witch gives the router table a fine level of accuracy. Being able to micro adjust the fence gives me quite a level of precision for this type of work. The next cut was to route the dovetail pins in the drawer sides. This cut is where the micro adjustable fence comes in handy. Once all the socket and pins were machined I laid out and machined the 1/4" grooves for the bottom to ride in. The next cut was to machine a dado in the drawer side to accept the drawer back. The final cut was a 3/4" x 1/4" deep dado on the bottom of the drawer sides where the side meets the drawer front. This dado is what causes the drawer to drop over the face frame when closed, thus preventing the drawer from opening when things start rocking and rolling. I machined all the grooves and dado cuts using my table saw and a Freud dado set.

The assembly went pretty quick... about 20 minutes per drawer. Once I was ready to assemble, I measured for the drawer bottom and drawer back, then cut these two last parts. I sanded the insides of all the drawer parts with 220 right before I assembled. I applied glue to all the dovetail pins and glue to the dado that holds the back. I then slid the drawer side into the drawer front. I machined the dovetails so that I would have to only tap them home with my fist vs having to drive them with a mallet. Even with that tolerance, once the glue was applied I did have to persuade a few with a dead blow mallet. I then slid the bottom piece into the grooves, slid the drawer back into the dado, used a bar clamp to pull the sides tight against the back, then pinned the sides to the back with my pneumatic brad nail gun using 1" brads. I then laid the drawer upside down on the bench, checked the diagonals, then pinned the bottom to the back. The final step was to wipe off any glue.

I've yet to decide what kind of pull I'm going to use. Since I'm on a budget, I think I'm going to route a finger pull on the inside bottom edge of the drawer for a pull. A cove bit is what I've got in mind. I'm still going to look at store bought pulls, but I'd rather save the money. Having been in residential construction all my career, I've kind of learned a lesson watching others build houses they cannot afford. " It's easy to spend it early". I've seen too many people get in pissing matches with their builder because they blew their wad too early in the game. I kind of like the flush look with now hardware on the drawer face.

I'm going to get a few coats of finish on the drawers before I install them. I'll attach the plastic guide, then make sure the drawer fits. I designed the rail so that the plastic guide sits 3/4 above the rail. I figure I'll have to do a little block plane work on some of the rails to loosen up the rail/guide fit so it's not an interference fit.

Anyway, the drawer build was a pretty big job and I'm glad I've got it behind me. I've got to build my desk and cabinet, then I've got to build the sink base for the master cabin sink. Once I've got those last three jobs finished, I'll bung all the screw holes and get some finish on things to start protecting the wood.

I decided to rout a finger pull in the drawer fronts. The more I thought about it, the more I felt a finger pull would fit well with the look of the cabin. I'll probably do the same finger pull on the cabinet doors. I used a 1/2" cove bit with a bearing to route the pull. The pull feels fine on the prototype drawer, and with it's 3" length, ones fingers find it easily. On the larger drawers, I routed two pulls.


  1. Conall,
    Nice looking work... I've been following you're blog regularly. You've consistently stayed a few steps ahead of what we're doing with our boat build, so we have been able to look at how you approach the job whenever we are looking for inspiration. Right now we are doing subfloors and planning insulation. Also finalizing our interior layout. Wish I had a nice pile of home grown Cherry wood like yours to work with...

  2. Neil Young, in his song "Home Grown", sings that home grown is a "good thing"... I'm agreeing with him. Thanks for the kind words. What you have happening on Koloa is too an inspiration to me as I'm a daily visitor to your page. Hopefully one day these two home grown boats will cross paths.


  3. Very nice work Conall.

    I hope you don't mind if I steal your design for our boat! ;-) I really like the hidden finger pulls. True, no added cost and there are fewer things to get snagged on. It's a clean look too!


  4. Thanks Rick,

    I found some other profiles for finger pulls that looked interesting, but since I had a cove bit, I used what I had.