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I have always wanted to have a big dresser, not just any dresser, but one that is made of natural wood with dovetailed drawers. I looked around for ideas and learned about the traditional Shaker style, which usually incorporates tapered legs, pegged joints, and ball-and-claw feet. I also examined other types of traditional furniture, but I didn’t like any of them. And then it hit me, why do the old stuff when you can make your own?

Therefore, I started drawing things on paper and eventually came up with this design: three-square boxes standing on top of each other with some tapered legs added for character.

I started to plan what I could do with the material that I had. It’s called BC plywood, which has an outer layer of hardwood surrounding two layers of softwood. The drawers are made of regular construction-grade pine, so they’ll bend if you look at them wrong.

Construction lumber or industrials are typically kiln-dried and have a very consistent moisture content. The problem with this type of wood is that it’s just too darn heavy. I needed portability, so I had to find another source for the material.

I decided to use furniture-grade Baltic Birch plywood, which has an inner layer of high-quality birch veneer surrounding the softwood core for stability. The high-quality birch is much lighter than hardwood to use thicker material, which saves money because I have to buy less.

The last piece of the puzzle was the legs. I will place the dresser in my garage with a concrete floor, so it needs to be very sturdy to handle the weight of the tools. I used 2×6 (nominal 1 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches) boards for the legs and attached them with 3 ½ inch deck screws.

I started construction in May but didn’t get any valuable photos because it was raining most of the time. Here are some snapshots that show my progress during this project.

I started by transferring the measurements of each drawer onto a piece of plywood. I used my laptop, which has AutoCAD installed on it, for this job. I also printed all of the drawings on letter size (8 ½ x 11 inches) paper and put them together to make some patterns for reference.

The front side of each drawer has a beveled edge to give the dresser a little more character. I used a router and pattern bit for this job, one of my most valuable tools.

I laid out the holes on the sides of each drawer with masking tape before drilling them using a 3/8 inch countersink bit.

To make the dovetails, I used a jig that I built about ten years ago. It works great for this task, so there’s no need to buy an expensive dovetail jig. The only problem with this jig is that it doesn’t have any stops, so I have to use tape to prevent myself from cutting too many tails.

I rough-cut the tails onto each side. This is done by making repeated cuts using a handsaw and then cleaning up the edge with a chisel. It would be much easier to use a dovetail saw for this job, but I don’t have one yet.

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