Tag Archives: Shaker

Different Dovetailed Drawers

IMG_0622The drawers on the Connecticut lowboy that Bob Van Dyke and I found in the back room of the Connecticut Historical Society are tapered from bottom to top. I’ve mentioned in blogs (either here on my blog or on the Popular Woodworking Magazine (PWM) editor’s blog) that I’ve seen this treatment of drawers only one other place, and that was on Grove Wright’s Shaker work, including the Shaker Counter I copied and built in the June 2012 issue (#197) of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The process of making these drawers is a bit different from regular hand-cut dovetailed drawers. To begin, the material for the drawers sides and back are tapered. Because there are two drawer depths on the one lowboy, there are two different tapers needed on the drawer parts. IMG_1280I set up my band saw to just leave the bottom of the parts uncut, and the top edge to cut leaving a 1/4″.

Off the band saw, the cut faces need to be smoothed. That could be a pass over the jointer. But with the narrow edge being only a 1/4″ in thickness, I think it was best to use a jointer plane. It’s from here that things get twisted. I used my marking gauges, but not in a way that is customary when dovetailing drawer parts. I set on gauge to 1/2″ and a second to 1/4″. I used the two gauges to place tick marks at the top (1/4″) and bottom (1/2″) to use as layout lines. IMG_1282The next step – where you would normally use a marking gauge – I used a straightedge and utility knife to score the baselines.

The trick to marking off the pins and tails is to use the square or outside face as a register. (If you use the inside face, your marks can be all kind of funky angles.) After the layout is complete, it’s a matter of sawing to the lines then chopping out the waste. Because I work pins first, I began with the pins in the drawer backs. To transfer the pins to my tail board, I set the completed back in position, making sure the orientation is correct. To cut the tails, I go back to the band saw and cut just off the layout lines, inside the pin waste area. Ordinarily, I would chop the waste at my bench, but because the parts are angled – and the waste area is so narrow – I stay at the band saw and trim the waste using power. Nibble. Nibble. Each time staying just tight to my baseline. Because this is a poplar-to-poplar fit, I get a little smash factor to make it all work.

IMG_1286The drawer fronts are not tapered, but the sides are. Again, I have to use the straightedge-and-utility-knife layout method, but from there the process is the same as with standard dovetailed drawers. The only difference is the tail sockets are tapered from top to bottom. To transfer my pins to the tail board (drawer sides), I set the front at my scribe lines, which is a consistent 1/2″, then transfer the lay out.

In the drawers of the Shaker Counter, the bottom was slid into the 1/2″ thickness of the bottom edge. The lowboy drawer bottoms at applied – it’s good to have the thickness at the bottom for nailing. I use the counter on a daily basis, and the drawers slide spectacularly. I’m wondering if it’s the design (heavy bottoms) or the yellow pine I used for drawer parts. I’ll have a better picture when the lowboy is wrapped up.

Build Something Great!


This lowboy is an upcoming project in Popular Woodworking Magazine. To see the entire project, pick up the February 2014 magazine – if you’re not a subscriber.


Filed under Antique Pieces, Joinery, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

Shaker Counter Top

This is a photo of one of the two known Shaker counters on which I based my counter in the June 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. As I looked at the photo, I concluded that it surely wasn’t a maple top as was the balance of the counter. No, this top looked more cherry-like in color.

With that determination, I built my top out of cherry. I finished the counter carcase using a mixture of half golden amber maple dye and half brown walnut dye – a mixture I use quite often since I tired of a straight golden amber maple color. The top I finished with my favorite dye for cherry, dark antique Sheraton which is actually a mahogany color in the Moser’s line of aniline dye. (I use Moser’s dye almost all the time.)

When the two parts were complete, and the top married with the base, I felt ill. The combination was so far from what I saw in my mind’s eye, I wondered if I needed stronger glasses. It would not work. I had to change the top’s color or wood. I chose color because it was much more work to change the wood. Or so I thought.

Samples closet to the bottles includes the India ink. I think coverage is better as is the color – less blue, more black. (With Moser's ebony out of stock in my finish cabinet, I turned to Transtint.)

First thing to do was to strip the top of its dark antique Sheraton dye. Pull out my #80 scraper and get busy. To my surprise, the top was clean in a short time, but I had to completely sand the surface a second time. With that complete, what would be the best look for the top. I looked again at the antique counter and began to see the top as if it may be ebonized. My top was cherry, and cherry is one of the better choices when ebonizing. Sounded like a plan.

I knew that using only ebony aniline dye would leave my top with a bluish cast. That’s not good. I went back and again read Brian Boggs’ article on ebonizing a finish (June 2009), but that procedure, even though the results are extremely nice, is too involved for my liking. I needed something easier.

I thought back to when contributing editor, Christopher Schwarz built one of his many benches and needed to fill in some larger cracks in his top. He used a two-part epoxy colored with India ink. Why not mix some ink in with my dye to see if I could move from blue to black.

I decided to use one part ink with 10 parts dye – I figured a 10% solution would be good to start. I didn’t want to simply ink the top. My results were, at least to my eye, better than the dye itself. One coat on the cherry added a great deal of color, but still allowed the cherry grain – and the slight reddish hue – to show through. I am very satisfied with the finished appearance of my top, and equally happy with the combination of the ebonized top perched on the “popping” tiger maple. Take a look for yourself – pick up a copy of the magazine.

Build Something Great!


1 Comment

Filed under Design, Finish Techniques, Shaker