A William and Mary Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part Three

The top of the carcase is 7/8″ thick and the top moulding is 1-1/2″ tall, so a 5/8″ ‘packer’ is required across the front underside of the top to make up the difference and give the moulding a solid foundation. Packers were often made of second grade wood, but sound enough for the purpose. I prepared a suitable piece of wood, glued it to the underside of the top panel and planed it flush with the front edge of the top.

The three dustboards were prepared and rubbed together in the same manner as the carcase panels, but only three boards per dustboard were joined as they were commonly two or three inches short of the backboards. When dry, I tidied up the dustboards and planed them to be a neat slide-in fit in the carcase gables.

This chest incorporates two short top drawers which require a central, vertical divider and central drawer guide to prevent the drawers skewing within the carcase. I made the divider from an off-cut of one of the dustboards, having two stub tenons on each end which engage in blind mortises in both the packer and the carcase top, and through mortises in the first dustboard. The central drawer guides were typically a 3/4″ x 1/2″ strip of pine and usually nailed, dry (without glue), onto the top of the first dustboard behind the central divider. This can present a problem to restorers when the nails rust or the guide wears because, with an assembled carcase, there’s not much room to wield a hammer between the carcase top and first dustboard to drive new nails in. Alignment of the guide can also be problematic in such a confined space. Better made chests had a shallow housing cut into the upper face of the first dustboard into which the drawer guide was glued, thus ensuring positive location. I decided on the latter approach. My great, great, great grandchildren may one day laud my circumspection.

The carcase with its internals glued in place.

With the carcase and dustboards assembled, I rubbed some 5/8″ scraps of pine across the ends of the underside of the top. This built up the void behind the front packer, forming a kicker for each of the top drawers to prevent them tilting down when being withdrawn from the chest.

Upturned carcase showing top packer and top drawer kicker.

The chest was flipped onto its top and the base packers and foot blocks were glued in place. The foot positions have been laid out on the foot blocks for the spigot holes which will be drilled through both the blocks and carcase base at a later date. The feet will be glued in place after the carcase sides have been veneered to prevent damaging them.

Upturned carcase showing base packers and foot blocks.

I cleaned up the top and gables of the carcase and toothed them in readiness for the veneer.


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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5 Responses to A William and Mary Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part Three

  1. Devin says:

    Ok, ok, ok… somebody’s got to say somethine about that lemon tree. In adition to being a beautiful backdrop for your photos, it may be the real reason we are all drooling at the sight of your projects. When life gives you lemons…


  2. 4five1 says:

    You’re so right, Devin, that’s a devine lookin’ tree!


  3. Kevin says:

    I’m trying to make sense of something here. As an apprentice, I was trained to put the tails on the gables so if the chest was lifted accidentally in the wrong place, the bottom or top wouldn’t pull off the carcase. You have the tails on top and bottom, is this to keep the sides flat since the dust-boards are in grooves and not housed in sliding dovetails; due to the time period in question? Nice piece. -Kevin


    • Jack Plane says:

      Even with the dovetails on the top and bottom, it would be impossible for them to come apart when lifting the chest. There is so much friction between the tails/sockets that it requires heavy blows to separate them even without glue.

      I cut the tails on the sides when making half-lapped dovetails in solid (non-veneered) chests in situations where the top/bottom mouldings will cover the dovetails. I would also cut the tails on the sides for a hanging cabinet.


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