A set of drawers for keys and sunglasses

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We have a cupboard in our kitchen which houses the bread maker. Over time it has also become the repository of keys and sunglasses. Like most ad-hoc storage areas though it gets a little messy, but more importantly having prescription sunglasses and keys occupying the same unorganised space is a recipe for scratches and the resultant general grumpiness. Long have I wanted to build something to better organise the “stuff”, but most ideas either seemed too kitschy or impractical.

What a clutter, and those sunglasses and keys in uncomfortably close proximity.

I have long admired Mike Pekovich’s “design language” and have been following his builds for a while. He recently published a series of Instagram posts following his building of a cubby. The aesthetic really appealed to me, so thought I would have a crack at incorporating some of his elements. Specifically proud dovetails on the case and the recessed pull housings on the drawer fronts.

Firstly the case. I still had some Tasmanian Oak off cuts from our staircase which was built over ten years ago. This was 35mm thick, so was re-sawn down and finished at 12mm for the case, and 6mm for the dividers. Each piece was squared on the shooting board, then cut to length on the table saw with a cross-cut sled.

Once the case and dividers were prepared I divided the height equally by four which was a mistake which will be revealed in time. None the less, I marked the dados with my knife and in doing so made another mistake. I was cutting stopped dados but failed to stop the marking lines before the edge, so I have some racing stripes in front of each divider. I didn’t have a narrow enough blade for my router plane, so had to use a 6 mm chisel to remove the waste. Time to order a narrower blade, as the router plane certainly offers a far simpler method to achieve an accurate depth than my skills with a chisel.

Marking the divider daddos on the sides.

On to cutting the joinery for the case. They were all hand cut through dovetails, but with raised stakes relative to other dovetailed joints. As I was going to leave the dovetails proud I wouldn’t be able to clean up the joint post glue-up. Whilst there are a couple of hairline gaps, all in all I was really chuffed with the result.

Raised dovetails turned out really well

With the case put together, I fit and glued in the dividers. In order to allow for wood movement, they were only glued at the front, with a gap of around 10 mm between the divider and cabinet back. Unfortunately this also revealed the issue with the over scribed dado edge. I couldn’t think of a suitable way to remove it as the scribe was very deep, and would have necessitated too much of a reduction in thickness. In then end I hoped that once a finish was applied, it would be barely noticeable, which turned out to be the case.

Cutting the drawer parts revealed my error when I first divided the height. You see I forgot to take into account the case top and bottom, plus the extra lost height with the exposed dovetails. Such a rudimentary mistake, that I can only hope it will serve as a reminder for all future layouts. I was therefore left with the top and bottom drawer housings a little smaller.

After cutting the drawer sides, back and fronts, I went about fitting them. This is where the precision of a hand plane really shines when aiming for a perfect fit. With the plane set to take 0.05 mm shavings, it was a doddle to creep up on a Goldilocks fit.

Dovetailing time. Full through dovetails on back and half blinds on the front. In trying to get as much depth in each drawer as possible, I planed the dado for the drawer bottom very close to the edge. Considering the negligible load each drawer would carry I didn’t foresee an issue, until I tried cutting my half blind dovetails low enough to hide the groove. In the end the bottom dovetail is a hybrid shape, with a regular sloped tail on one side, and a 90 deg. edge on the other. Lesson learned for next time!

Once the drawers were fitted it was time to add the pull detail. This requires a “moon crater” to be sunk in the centre of each front, into which the pull would be mounted. With my half round router bit selected, a 10 mm hole was drilled in each front to accommodate the bearing on the router bit. Before drilling the craters, I performed a series of test holes in an off-cut of the same timber as the drawer fronts at different speeds to try an minimise any tear-out. A fairly fast speed was chosen, I held my breath and drilled. I really should have done this step before assembling the drawers, as not only would I have been able to hold the top more securely, but if I had messed up the whole drawer wouldn’t have been wasted.

All that was left now was to create the pulls. Christian Becksvoort has a fantastic video on making drawer pulls with either a drill press or a lathe. Unfortunately I don’t have a lathe, and the drill press version requires a plug cutter and rasps, of which I have neither. I tried several attempts with a block of wood and sandpaper i the drill press, all with terrible results. I relented and arranged with the local men’s shed of which I am a member to be accredited on the lathe. Two weeks later, with my name badge suitably adorned with a silver star (lathe accreditation) I took a morning off work and made my first attempts at turning pulls out of Tasmanian Blackwood (and yes, I was wearing my 3M face mask).

They’re not entirely uniform, and not as short or the exact shape as I would have liked, but they serve as a snapshot of my skill level at this point in time. And of that I am immensely proud.

And with that it was finishing time. My regular finish of shellac followed by wax, which is both visually attractive as well as providing a silky smooth feel was applied. And then it was done.

Well fitted drawers allow you to play whack-a-mole

Now all that was left was to put it in its new home, and fill it up. After adding glasses and keys to the drawers, I decided that the top drawer, which is the bits and bobs drawer really could do with a divider, do knocked up a quick square frame out of Tasmanian Blackwood, which splits the drawer into three sections.

It’s almost a shame that it’s hidden away within a kitchen cupboard.


March, 2020

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