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Designing the Drawers

It is time to tackle the drawers. I have spent a lot of time thinking about their design and construction. They will not be straight forward owing to the compound angles involved in fitting them to the curved carcase.

I have been researching bombe and bow-front cabinets for construction ideas. There are two main methods that I can find: either one builds rectangular drawers and adds guides to run them inside curved carcase walls, or one copes the drawer into the side of the curved walls, which is the plan here.

I have found very few examples of drawer construction for coped drawers in bombe cabinets. One build was that of David Boeff. He has built a few bombe cabinets, and does very nice work. His website is worth a visit.

The construction design that David uses is to build thick drawer sides (1”) and then carve them out to fit the carcase …

I do not like this method – which may be traditional for all I know. Aesthetically, I like thin drawer sides, in the region of 3/8” (9.5mm).

The alternative to building a drawer side with thick sides is to build a drawer with thin, angled sides, which would minimize the amount of waste to cope away. The complication here is the construction, which will require dovetailing compound curves at the front – angled sides into a bow drawer front. At the rear, it would require a less demanding, but nevertheless still a compound angle of straight back and angled sides.

Above is the amount of waste (5/16”) that would be involved using a construction that begins with straight, compound angled sides.

The following is a trial build using this design.

The build begins by creating templates for the inside curve of each drawer front. The underside of each drawer blade is traced onto plywood …

and shaped with a block plane and spokeshave.

Next, the drawer front is sized to fit. I have chosen to practice on the fifth drawer (of the eight) as this will provide some insight into the difficulty in working the angles.

The width is a tight squeeze below the drawer blade. The drawer fronts are lipped to cover the drawer blades. The sides of the drawer taper from the lower corners of the lip. Measurements begin at this point.

To obtain the angle for the taper, straight edges were taped to corners of the lower- and upper drawer blades.

It is reassuring to see that the angles match at each side.

Below: the angles are transferred to the blank for the drawer front …

and then this is sawn away just off the line ..

... and the remainder shot on the shooting board ..

At this stage, the drawer front is sized for width but the height is still oversize.

Once the angles are created, the correct height for drawer front can be marked and the waste sawn and planed away. Doing this now removed any spelching from shooting the sides.

With the elevation complete, the bow plan is drawn on the drawer front.

Here’s where the drawers start to get tricky. With a bow, the drawer sides are dovetailed into the curved front at a slight angle. It is no longer square.

This angle is transferred to the drawers – all the dovetails will need to cut to this angle at their ends and baselines.

Planning the dovetails takes into account the drawer lip. I am using the cutting gauge on the left, but I included the wheel gauge to show it as alternative. The gauges here do all the marking. It may be apparent now – if you were not aware of this before – that all marking is done without use of scales or rules.

Below: transferred to the drawer front.

The inside of the drawer front needs to be shaped preparatory to sawing the dovetails.

Oh, it is so nice to work with softwood, as with this Pine. My old Stanley #62 works this easily.

A spokeshave smooths to the final dimension.

The outer curve of the bow drawer front will not be formed until later. It is retained to provide a reference for square.

Above: removing the waste at an angle.

The half blind sockets do not look different, but there is a slight, corresponding taper at the baseline.

The fit is decent.

Now the outside curve is created: bandsaw and plane.

All the parts are now ready for assembly and fitting.

Above: to fit the drawers, they need to be coped to the carcase. This requires removing waste along the drawer sides. A rasp does the drawer front and a block plane takes down the sides. On the real drawers, the sides will be in Tasmanian Oak, which is a hardwood. This will enable the use of scrapers.

Everything fits …

There are 8 drawers in all, in progressive heights. I have provisionally chosen to have 3 (central) dovetails on the first two drawers, and then increase the dovetails by one for each succeeding pair.

Above and below: the fitted drawer.

Now onto the drawer backs …

These are just tapered sides. I did not bother making them to fit. The main aim here was to test out the design.

The only complication here is that the upper- and lower edges of the sides are bevelled along their lengths so as to sit flat on the drawer runners.

This is the drawer back design I shall use. It allows for 11mm high drawer slips.

Regards from Perth


November 2015