Building a Walnut Changing Table (Part 2)

July 17, 2015

In this couple of videos I’m going to show you how I made this small walnut dresser that we are going to be using as a changing table in our nursery.  The whole project was an experiment in book matching and incorporation sapwood into the overall design. In this second half, we’ll add the lower rails and backboards, glue up the case, apply a finish, and build and fit the drawers. Plans for this project:

Video Script:

I made a mark on the sides with my marking gauge and Ill set one cut end of the lower rail on the side just covering the mark. Then I’ll go to the other side and transfer the mark with my knife. This will give me a piece that is the perfect length. This is also how I cut the drawer divider to length. I’m going to dovetail this rail into the case. Here I’m marking the length of the tails onto the divider. This is the same length that I had marked onto the case. I’m going for some really small pins here so I’m using my handsaw to cut the tails instead of the bandsaw. And some cleanup work with a chisel. Now I can transfer the tails onto the case. I can place the rail on the case and line it up with the lines I made previously. I’ll remove the waste here similarly to the drawer divider. First I’ll make som cuts close to the line with my saw. then remove a majortiy of the waste with a chisel. Use the router to remove even more waste and then work back to the lines with a chisel. Now these pins are going to be very frangile since the grain is running horizontally. So this pin and even the half pin at the bottom will either break off as I am cutting the joint or as I am assembling the joint. That’s not an issue unless I loose the piece that breaks off. These are going to be more decorative than structural. The structural benefit of this lower rail comes from the top half of the top tail. that part hooks the two case sides together. With the joinery cut, I can add the curve to the lower rail. I selected the stock for this rail because the grain already has a nice curve to it. I laid out a curve that follows the existing curative and cut it roughly at the bandsaw. Back at the bench, I’ll clean up the cut and even out the curve with my compass plane. I’ll work from both ends into the center so I’m always planing with the grain. and then I’ll clean up the transition with a card scraper.

Now it’s time for the glue up. I used epoxy for this glue up since it has a nice long working time. I’m using west systems epoxy with the slow hardener. As we’ll see this glue up lasted 40 minutes and I was able to really take my time getting everything together. There was still a bit of working time left at the end as well. So like most pieces there is a certain order that this needs to be assembled in. I first attach the shelf and bottom and then I can install all the parts that lock the case together, drawer dividers and lower rails and lastly the top. From this view of the back, you can see the rear lower rail and the rear drawer divider that I added. I also connected the drawer runners to the dividers with my domino to save some time. One thing about solid wood case construction and webframes is you need to leave the rear tenon floating with a gap between the rear divider and the runner. As the case expands with the seasons this gap will give that expansion somewhere to go. When I attached the front lower rail, I used regular wood glue to attach it to the underside of the bottom – it’s just easier to apply and I don’t need a lot of working time here. At 36 minutes in, I started checking for square. The case was off by an 1/8″ so I made some adjustments to bring it into square.

With the case glued up, I started working on the drawers, starting with fitting the drawer fronts. Here’s the other half of the boards that gave me the top. I really wanted to incorporate the crotch figure on the left. I thought the knot on the right was cool too but the required length was too short to include them both. When fitting the drawer fronts, I am trying to match the geometry of the opening. I work towards cutting a perfectly size front for the opening and then I will adjust the reveal later. First I rip the front to a width that fits snuggly into the opening. This leaves material for later. Next I want to cut the ends to perfectly follow the case side. I’ll start on one side by cutting it square and checking how that fits. Might look good from far away but let’s look closer. Here the front is tight at the top but has a gap at the bottom. This means I need to adjust my cut to remove more material at the top. here’s how I do that. Back at my crosscut sled, I shim one end of the board to angle the drawerfront just slightly and make a light cut. That looks better and here’s a look at the top drawer front. Next I need to cut the other end to not only the right angle but also the perfect length. I’ll tackle both of those individually starting with finding the angle the end needs to be cut to. I mark the length with my knife and cut the front a little longer than that so I have some material to remove as I work to get the cut angle right. Once I get the angle right, I’ll cut the front back to my line. Here are the two drawer fronts fit to the opening. Now it’s time to work on the drawer boxes starting with cutting the tails. I thought a 3 tail layout with the center tail being larger than the other two would be a nice layout. Once the tails are cut I’ll transfer them onto the drawer front. To remove the waste from the drawer front, I’m using the router again but this time, I’ve set my depth all the way to the scribe line. Since this is inside a drawer and will rarely be seen, I would care less if I slipped and messed up the inside of the drawer front – luckily I didn’t slip. And then some clean up work to finalize the pins. Next I’ll start working on the back. The back is cut to be about a 1/16″ shorter than the drawer front. This will produce a drawer that get tighter the further into the case it goes. I cut these through dovetails pins first so I’ll go ahead and lay those out and cut them with my dovetail saw. I’ll scoop out the majority of the waste with a coping saw and then I’ll go back to the router to clean up all the way to the scribe line. There is just a little cleanup work that has to be done at the base of the pins. Now I’ll transfer the pins from the back onto the sides and cut those tails out. –

Before I had glued up the case, I filled any voids with tinted epoxy. The top had a small surface check that I filled as well. With the glue dried and the case finish prepped I started to apply the finish. I used 4 coats of general finishes arm-r-seal sanding between coats with 600 grit paper. It always exciting seeing the wood come alive as the first coat is applied!

Next I’ll make some backboards. These will be ship lapped. I take some time to lay them out in an order that I like. I’ll then number them and mark the edges that will be rabbeted. At the table saw I’ll set my blade height so that when both rabbets are put together the faces are flush. Once I have the setting I’ll run all the boards with the chalk mark down towards the fence. After cutting them to length I can install them. I cut them a little short so they wouldn’t contact the floor. I’m using a couple of pennies to leave a gap for expansion between the boards and I’ll secure them in the center with a screw.

After the finish on the case was done, I started working on fitting the drawers. The first area that I work on is the top reveal. I want this to be nice and even along the length. My style is to have the largest reveal along the top for the drawer to expand and have a pretty tight reveal along the sides and bottom. So with the drawer clamped in my vice, I’ll use a plane to remove material from the top until the gap is wide enough and consistent. I went back and forth a couple of times and here is the final result. Now I can work on the bottom. Removing material here does two things, it allows the reveal to match the reveal that I will have on the sides and it keeps the drawer front from getting caught on the front of the case as it is pushed into the opening. With the top and bottom fit, I’ll glue up the drawer. Since my joints are nice and snug, they don’t need clamps, their own friction keeps them together. I’ll install the drawer into the opening to dry. This allows me to rack the drawer do that the front is nice and parallel to the front of the case. Now I’ll work on the side reveals. I’m going to be removing this drawer a lot as I work towards a consistent reveal so I’ll add to wax to make it slide a lot easier. I’ll sand the drawer sides to clean them up and flush up the tails and then I’ll reinsert the drawer to see if I’ve produced a reveal. Looks like one started at the top but more material needs to be removed along the bottom to make it match. After a few iterations actually 14, here’s how this side looks. And here’s the other side and the final reveals around the entire drawer. Now I’ll add some temporary pulls and test out the drawer.

Now I need some drawer bottoms. I had all these scrap pieces of ash from making flooring. I figured they would work great for drawer bottom stock. So I glued a bunch of them up into a panel. Next I’ll work on beveling the panel so it fits into the grooves. I did this with hand tools because I enjoy it. It can also be done on the table saw with the blade tilted or on a router table with a panel raising bit. I’ll first make some guide lines. I’ll scribe the thickness onto the three edges referencing from the top side and then I’ll scribe a guide line along the bottom. Now all I have to do is connect these two lines. Sometimes you do a test fit and it’s a bit too snug and gets stuck. This is how I get the bottom out. The back of the drawer bottom is going to be the drawer stop. I left the bottom wide so I could trim it down to the perfect length to stop the drawer when it’s flush to the front of the case. I use my combination square to give me a guide line and then I’ll plane the bottom until the drawer fits correctly.


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