Writing desk

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    Fellow woodworkers,

    I am desining a writing desk with a hutch for my daughter. The desk is based on the one made by doucette and wolfe. They made a 7 minute video about the build of it and i have figured out most joints. The only thing i don’t know jet is how they connect the drawer runners. Some advice would be helpful.

    I added a drawing so you know what it will look like.

    Thanks in advance.



    Here is the link to the video if you’re interested:

    Harvey Kimsey

    It looks like the sides of the case has the grain running horizontally. That makes applying the runners and kickers pretty straightforward. They can be directly glued to the sides since their grain runs in the same direction. If the sides had grain running vertically, conflicting grain direction would be a problem. Dimension the runners so that they are the same thickness as the drawer dividers seen from the front. This will be important in getting the drawer to move smoothly on an even surface. Here’s the important part: install the runners so that they are perfectly square (90 degrees) to the front of the case. Sometimes you can reference a combination square off of the adjacent leg. Also make sure the runners are parallel to each other, so that you end up with the front drawer divider, left and right runners, in the same plane. Otherwise, you will have to excessively plane and fit the drawer sides to get the drawer to move smoothly. Here’s another wrinkle: sometimes the top divider is NOT parallel to the divider below it! This can happen when the top divider is dovetailed into the legs and the dovetailing is deeper on one side! I know, it’s endless…..patience! One trick I’ve used to get around this is to make 2 spacer blocks that fit precisely between the dividers on the left, and a separate block on the right. Get these blocks fitted, then move them to the back of the case when you are gluing in the dividers to ensure everything’s at the same and parallel level. Assuming your drawer is square and has NO twist in it, you should have a pretty easy time fitting the drawer.

    One other thing: if the legs are fatter than the side apron, you must build out from the inside with “doublers”, then apply your runners to those. These doublers keep the drawer from shifting side to side in a wider space. Doublers may be needed on both sides. You’ll understand that better when you get to that point in the construction. Best of luck!!


    @ironmikie their videos motivate me more than just about anything else. Beautiful work. Here’s what I see in the video, but you be the judge of whether it is right. At 1:08, you can see the man face front assembly that determine the drawer face sizes. At 2:59, you can see insertion of the drawer runners, which seem to be mortised into the four legs plus two vertical guide blocks that were attached to the main interior dividers that form the drawer box. I missed when he installed those vertical blocks. You can see them clamped in at 2:58 for the dry assembly. At 3:10, they add a frame at the top that defines the top of the top drawers. I’d guess the front of that frame dovetails into the tops of the front posts and the front-to-back pieces are M&T’d to that front piece and dovetailed into the tops of the posts. This frame is likely how they attach the top, too. So, this all defines the top and bottom support of the boxes so that they have something to sit on and don’t tip. It likely needs to be dead accurate to have any chance of fitting the drawers, and this accuracy likely comes from layout of the corner posts, marking each from the other. At 3:31 you can see him go nuts trying to plane up the face frame without breaking out any corners. At 6:45, you can see into the assembly as he fits the drawers. This is the final piece, since you can see guide blocks have been attached onto the top of the runners to guide the boxes side to side. The three magic ingredients are accuracy in this large structure, the dog, and the seven pencils in his apron at 4:58.

    Edit: Think carefully about those added vertical blocks that are clamped in at 2:58. They are running cross-grain to the back and dividers and are long enough to be an issue. I don’t see any joinery for these. One possibility is to glue a few inches at the top and then use screws in slots at the bottoms.

    Edit 2: The M&T for the runners may be tenons into grooves at the front. There’s a lot of detail in the video to pick out! For example, it looks like there are grooves in the dividers and back to support the runners for the center drawer (above the knees).

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Ed.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Ed.

    Thanks for your reply.

    The sides run indeed horizontally but it’s a two part construction. The left side is morticed into the large back rail and morticed into a upstanding front rail/style. The lowest drawer divider is dovetailed into that rail. So i could glue or screw the runner to the side. But the side moves up and down while that front rail moves left and right. Does that impose the risk that the runner might end up below or above the divider?


    But the side moves up and down while that front rail moves left and right.

    The corner posts and the front face-frame are all long grain assemblies. They aren’t going to change length. So, the drawer openings will be stable as will all of the drawer runners, which are spaced via M&T into those vertical posts. The sides, back, and dividers are going to move up and down with moisture, but nothing is attached to them for the drawers *except* (as best I can tell) that one funky block in the corner at 2:58. (By “divider” I mean the wide, horizontal panels that form the sides of the knee-hole area. I don’t mean drawer runners.) Note a couple things. First, I’ll bet he is only gluing one of the tenons on the sides and the rest are free to move in their mortises. Second, if the glued tenon is at the top of the sides and backs, that means the very tops of the sides and back are fixed in height, as defined by the mortises at the top. So, if that funky vertical block is glued at the top of the structure and then tacked on via a screw-in-slot at the bottom, then the mortises in it for the runners will not move relative to the top of the casework. That’s my guess for what’s going on.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Ed.

    Thank you @ed.

    I will analyse the video again with your comments in mind.


    Watch for whether any of the tenons in the sides are pegged to the leg mortises.


    @ed. At 2.59 or so i indeed see a little post at the left side of the right drawer box at the back. I hadn’t noticed that before.


    I made a little drawing to illustrate what i think it should be based on the feedback i was given. The guide block and the large drawer/kneehole are actually a little lower than the back rail to make room for a top rail/kicker.



    Yeah, that sketch matches most of what I’m seeing. Notice a couple things, though. Notice the frame that goes on top at 3:08. It guides the top of the top drawers so that they don’t tip. In your sketch, there’s nothing to keep the top drawer from tipping. Second, notice the vertical piece that you marked, “dovetailed.” It is just hanging from the top and is likely to be a failure point if the drawers are loaded. Do you see the spring clamps sticking up in the air at 3:30? I think he’s taken that vertical member through via through tenons and that’s what the clamps are grabbing. I’m wondering whether they are wedged, too, so that they cannot pull back through? Not sure.

    I said before that he likely only glued the top tenon on the sides to allow for movement, but you’d need more than that to keep the legs strong, so maybe he glues the top two tenons? That’s why I was wondering whether the bottom one is pegged via a slot, but not glued.

    Harvey Kimsey

    Thanks for introducing me to those videos…..amazing work! They’re not too far from me. Also, a bit of an advertisement for Lie Nielsen tools! Let us know Mike how it progresses. I’m sure it will look great!

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