A George II Virginia Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part Four

I prepared all the stuff for the drawers; rebated the sides for the bottoms, grooved the fronts for the bottoms and cut the dovetails. The boards for the drawer bottoms were planed down to 1/4″ thickness and rubbed together in threes. I began gluing the drawers together and notwithstanding the high winds and forecast of rain, I whipped the tarpaulin off the carcase so I could rest the drawer shells in it to ensure they set-up perfectly square.

The drawer shells setting-up.

I trimmed the drawer bottoms to size, cleaned them up with a plane and then slid their front edges into the grooves in their respective drawer fronts, nailed and glued them into the side rebates and nailed them to the undersides of the drawer backs. Lastly, narrow runners were rubbed into the side rebates/undersides of the drawer bottoms.

Drawer bottom and runner glued in place.

When all was dry, I planed the runners/rebates down just enough to allow a modest clearance between the bottom edges of the drawer fronts and drawer dividers.

Jack Plane

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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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16 Responses to A George II Virginia Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part Four

  1. John says:

    The side looks amazingly thin to me in the last photo that shows the left side of the drawer! They seem like they will be nice and light.

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  2. Joe M. says:

    Hello Jack,
    So….I’m trying to “see” the contruction at the top of the second photo. (bottom front of the drawer)
    The last tail, that is part of the rabbet for the drawer bottom, it looks to be about 1/8th thick? (based on the dovetails being set back 1/4in from the 3/4in drawer front)
    How deep are the rebates for the bottoms and runners? Are the sides rebated across their width at the front? Giving 1/8th in thick tails?

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    • Jack Plane says:

      The groove in the drawer front is 1/4″ wide and 1/4″ up from the bottom edge. The rebate in the side is a fraction over 1/2″ deep. The sides are the full 5/16″ thickness across their width except for the depth of the rebate.

      JP

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      • Joe M. says:

        So the top tail in the photo (actually the bottom because the drawer is upside down) How thick/deep does it get cut into the drawer front? The edge that is seen in the photo looks alot thinner than 5/16, I know its because of the rebate for the bottom and the runner, but how deep is that last/top tail?
        Maybe it’s the heat here but ….. I still don’t “see” the jointery on that last tail to accomadate the rebate and the dovetail in one spot.
        Joe
        Your site is bookmarked and checked every day…Love to see the work and progress.
        Well done!

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        • Jack Plane says:

          Joe, yes, the bottom edge of the side is about 1/8″ thick after the rebate has been cut in it. The thin rebated area of the side (the entire half tail) is therefore only cut 1/8″ deep into the side edge of the drawer front.

          I have also received a couple of emails regarding the construction of these drawers, so I will likely write a separate post on the topic in the near future.

          JP

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  3. Eric R says:

    Very nice.
    I enjoy watching your work.
    Thank you.

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  4. Ted says:

    Hi Jack. This type of drawer construction has more bearing area than the type I am used to seeing where the drawer side acts as a runner. I wonder how we can more economically use hardwood. Replacing the runner with a hard wood is simple. How would you best substitute the pine on the carcase side of the joint? Perhaps the bearing width compensates for the wood softness? Thank you. Ted

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Ted, the fact that many chests of drawers from this era survive in good condition is testament to this low-tech type of construction. The system works well as long as it isn’t meddled with. With all-pine construction, it is essential the runners are also made of pine; otherwise irregular wear will occur due to the imbalance in hardness and abrasion resistance of differing woods. With oak-lined drawers in oak carcases, it’s also normal for the drawer runners to be oak.

      JP

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  5. Richard S says:

    Hi Jack – I am curious to know why on all your drawers there is no bottom half pin to match the half pin at the top. Perhaps due to historical context that this is the case, but not from all the books I have on cabinet making.

    Curious yet confused…

    Richard

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Richard, the arrangement of the half tail at the bottom and full tails above is, as you alluded to, correct for this period. Replete sets of full tails and sockets weren’t common until about 1770.

      JP

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  6. Floss says:

    Hi Jack,

    Do you kerf the runners? I have seen both English and American drawers with the added runner that is kerfed then planed so that the runner appears as small blocks on the underside of the drawer bottom. This was a practice utilized by the American Seymour family of John and Thomas. I have also seen it on other early George I furniture.

    F.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Do you really mean kerfed, or do you mean individual blocks? I have seen many examples of runners built up from small, individual blocks (presumably to use up off-cuts which would otherwise be scrap) in the same vein as composite carcase packing and drawer kickers.

      The English and Irish composite runners I’m familiar with can appear to be one continuous strip of wood that has been kerfed, but the eye can easily be deceived by the longitudinal striations on the runners caused by centuries of being pushed and pulled in and out of the carcase.

      I’m intrigued; if the North American practice was to kerf runners, I wonder what its purpose was. Was it to allow for unevenly planed bottoms?

      JP

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      • Floss says:

        I thought it was to allow for the unevenly planed bottoms and to use up variously bits and pieces.

        I was fortunate to see several examples of the Seymour’s when there was an exhibition in Salem MA in 2003/2004 at the Peabody Essex Museum. I noticed that several drawers on a particular sideboard had the runners that appeared to have consistent grain from front to back.

        The Seymour’s were rather fastidious with blocking and and the like so I was wondering if they were an exception to the rule or if the father John was bringing over some technique from his training in England.

        To me it makes sense to kerf and glue so that the bevel on the drawer bottom does not require precise planing/fitting. I use the term planing loosely as many drawer bottoms appear to be worked with no more than a hatchet and drawknife.

        F.

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