Chest of Drawers: Episode 5


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With the frames together, they can be fitted into the side panels. This involves cutting a tenon at either end of each rear divider rail which will through mortise towards the rear of the side panels. The mortise is cut first, with care taken to not damage the outside face of the side panel. Then the exact size of the tenon can be transferred from the mortise to ensure a perfect fit.


  1. bytesplice on 8 March 2017 at 4:43 pm

    When I saw the intro, I thought “way beyond my abilities.” Now a week 5, I’m starting to think “perhaps”.
    I love Wednesdays!
    Thanks Paul

  2. joeleonetti on 9 March 2017 at 2:55 am

    When you were marking with your knife some of the through tennons, it appeared as if the location of the square was such that the bruising from the knife cut would be left on the remaining wood rather than waste wood on the outward facing side. Was I mistaken or is there something more subtle going on, another teaching moment. Many thanks.

    • joeleonetti on 9 March 2017 at 11:28 am

      Around the 15 min 30 sec mark.

    • jakegevorgian on 10 March 2017 at 6:14 am

      From my experience, when the knife is sharp I don’t get “bruising” that I’d get from a dull knife. Maybe Paul’s knife is real scary sharp.

  3. deanbecker on 9 March 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Watching it ,it looks like he isn’t cutting deep enough to make a difference. Two light passes rather than his usual three with the third being heavy

    • joeleonetti on 10 March 2017 at 1:04 am

      Good point. Also, the more I think of it, it is a through tennon which is different as well.

      • Philip Adams on 23 March 2017 at 11:47 am

        There is often a tradeoff between holding and registering the square in such a way that you can ensure it doesn’t move when marking with a knife, and the side that the bruising goes on. As you say, Paul goes very lightly with the knife, but also slightly adjusts the angle of the blade so it is not bruising on the good side as much. Sometimes, it is more accurate to very slightly move the square and angle over the knife to get your line in the correct place.

  4. Reece on 9 March 2017 at 4:23 pm

    One thing has been bothering me about the frames. They are all listed as being 7/8th thick. You use a 3/8th chisel. That means the sides of the mortise are 1/4 thick so the mortising guide is 1/4. But, if the stock was prepared by hand, or even if it was just given a final smoothing by hand, I would think that there would be slight variations in the thickness of the boards and that would make the mortising guide the wrong thickness. How do you get all of the boards to be exactly the same thickness?

    • jakegevorgian on 10 March 2017 at 6:11 am

      I think Paul’s using machined stock. That’s why there’s not much variation in the thickness.

      • Reece on 10 March 2017 at 5:48 pm

        I think you are correct. I first thought that he would have at least planed them to remove the machine marks, but, this is an interior frame that will never be seen when assembled and in use. He has specifically left the only surface that will be seen very slightly proud so he can plane it after assembly. “Be practical in your work”, He has said it several times and I think this is a good example of being practical.

      • Philip Adams on 13 March 2017 at 11:52 am

        The stock was mostly milled by machine to thickness and width, but was then planed or scraped on all surfaces by hand. You do have to be careful not to take too much off, so the aim is to take an even shaving off all surfaces and when exacting sizing is critical, a rule and vernier callipers come in very handy. If you are careful to measure carefully, stock can be prepared by hand to very fine tolerances.

        • Jim Braun on 15 March 2017 at 11:52 am

          I have a related question regarding machined stock. Assuming one has a good machine that does not leave excessive machining artifacts do you machine the part oversized to allow for final hand finishing/scraping?

        • joeleonetti on 4 April 2017 at 8:50 pm

          If I recall, in one of the chess board series, Paul demonstrates a technique in which he planes pieces to exacting thicknesses.

      • rudfaden on 15 March 2017 at 11:57 am

        Even machines can be off by small amounts. You should check that the guide does in fact give you the desired mortise. If not you should adjust it. The best thing is to use a piece of paper or a playing card as a shim between the guide and the wood.

  5. Wesley on 9 March 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I cringed at 39:15.

    • piper on 10 March 2017 at 12:56 am

      Same here. I wonder how many were talking to the screen about how it started to split off the knife line? I know I was.

  6. mikerurup on 10 March 2017 at 4:11 am

    You never cease to amaze me with your skillful workmanship and keen attention to detail. Your precision and accuracy are remarkable. Thank you for your dedication to helping us “want-to-be’s” learn to become craftsman. This chest-of-drawers is way beyond my present skill level, but I am learning a great deal. Wednesdays have become my favorite day of the week.

    Mike Rurup

  7. knightlylad on 11 March 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Thank you for the lesson.

  8. jefrog1844 on 5 June 2017 at 6:47 pm

    I’ve seen you use wedges on through tenons of a drawer back. Why didn’t you choose to use wedges on the through tenons to secure the back rails?



    • Philip Adams on 7 June 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Good question. It is a nice additional feature that does add longevity, but not essential to the function of the drawer. You could certainly add them if you wanted, but as this project is already feature rich, we didn’t include them.

  9. Matt Mills on 22 April 2019 at 7:56 pm

    I’m working my way through this project and I’m in the step where I’m laying out the rear mortises (video 5). I noticed that the math doesn’t seem to add up. The front and rear rails are 2 3/4” wide and the side rail is 18” long with 1 1/2” tenons for an effective length of 15”. Add 1/8” for the gap in the rear mortise and you are at 20 5/8”, but Paul said he left 5/8 from the back of the 21” side panel. I’m counting 3/8” or 1/2” if he really let the front rail overhang by 1/8” to be planed off later. What did I miss?

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