Building the nightstand drawers

We’re almost at the finish line of yet another project. Luckily, these drawers are pretty straight forward. Just be patient, and make sure to mark all the components so you don’t forget which pieces go together since each drawer will be fitted to each opening individually.

I couldn’t really find any drawer slides that would fit with the design we’re using. The stands are just slightly too deep for a 10″ slide and too shallow for a 12″ slide. So, we’re going to use hardwood rails that will slide on a dado cut into the drawer sides.

Start by milling up some lumber. I measured each drawer individually, and they were all right at 6 and 1/8th inches tall. I had about enough room for a 10 inch deep drawer as well. Alder rarely comes in widths greater than six inches, which meant I needed to glue pieces together to get the width necessary. Most hardwoods will come in wider sections, so you may be able to avoid this step by using another wood.

The drawer faces will be 5/4 alder to start with. Glue the pieces together, and then plane both sides parallel to a thickness of one inch. My jointer is only six inches wide, which initially presented a problem flattening the pieces. However, there’s a cool work around I learned recently. Joint six inches of the face flat (you may need to remove the blade guard, be careful!). This will leave you with a tiny notch of wood on one side (see below). Clamp a piece of plywood to your planer table, and then put the piece down so the six inches that are jointed sit atop the plywood. The notch will overhand the plywood. The rollers on the planer will push everything flat, leaving the entire top surface deep flat and parallel to the portion you already jointed. Then, simply flip and plane off the notch. Here’s a video as well.

Repeat the same procedure with some 4/4 pieces. Final thickness should be either right at or just under 3/4″, depending on how much flattening you need. Don’t go less than about 5/8 though, we need to make a dado into the side and still maintain enough thickness that the drawer won’t break.

At this point, using the measurements you have from each drawer opening, rip the drawers down to width and square the edges. We’ll be making a 1/4″ inch deep sliding dovetail in the drawer faces to attach the sides, so the sides should actually be cut to 10.25″ in length.

Make sure to mark the pieces and group them: one front and two sides per stack.

This is really tight, but I did that intentionally. We’ll do final trimming later.

Use a 1/2″ wide dovetailing bit in your router table, and set it to cut 1/4″ deep. On each drawer face, make a cut through the entire width, on each side, with the outside edge of the dovetail 1/2″ in from each edge of the drawer.

Then, set the router up to take a 1/4″ deep cut that is just about 3/32nd’s of an inch into the wood on one side. In my case, this left the dovetail a little thick and I had to experiment to get the right fit. Just be careful, and use scraps to test the fit.

Now, on the outside edge of each drawer, make a 3/4″ wide groove that is about 1/4″ deep that runs the entire length of the drawer. Make this about 1″ up from the bottom. I used a dado blade on my table saw, you could use a router table as well.

Finally, add a 1/4″ groove on the bottom inside of the drawer sides and the drawer front that is 1/4″ off the bottom of each piece. Here’s how it should look afterward.

Now, cut a piece of 1/4 plywood for the bottoms. I had some leftover pre-finished birch plywood, which is a godsend for these kinds of projects. It looks nice, and it’s one last step. However, you should have quite a bit of 1/4 alder plywood left that could be used here too. Simply dryfit the drawers, measure the dimensions, and then add the depth of each groove on each side (minus a bit, so it can float as the seasons change).

For the drawer back, I opted to use some 1/2″ alder plywood I had around. You could use solid wood here too, but I opted to reuse some scraps. The groove on the bottom is the same as the one on the sides.

Apply glue to the dovetail slots and slide the sides in.

Apply glue to the sides of the plywood. Fit it in place, use a square to make sure everything is good, then use some 1″ 18 ga brad nails to fasten the sides.

Once the glue has dried, dry fit your drawers. They’re going to be pretty snug. That’s OK, it’s easier to remove wood than to add it back! The best way I could find to trim the drawers is what I show in the picture below:

Since you have to remove the blade guard, be very careful doing this. It did a really good job fine tuning everything though. I tried my thickness planer, but it destroyed the side of one of the drawers. Lesson learned!

And now to apply stain and finish (don’t forget to sand first!). I am only going to finish the drawer front pieces, so I used tape to partition everything.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t pre-finish these pieces like I have done every other piece of the build. I knew the drawers would need lots of fine tuning, and the only way that can be done is once they’re assembled. I didn’t want to cut a finished edge off and have to refinish it, so I figured this option was best in the long run.

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