Drawers for the workbench on wheels

Having built the frame for the workbench, it was time to build some drawers for it. One of the hardest parts of starting a project is picking out which pieces of lumber to use. At this point, I have more hardwood panels from old dressers than I have soft wood panels, so I figured I might as well make these drawers out of all hardwood. Here's the wood I picked.

Cutting some dresser tops into the sides for the drawers. These weren't all that flat, so cutting them into strips was a good use.

Then squaring the ends and cutting them to length.

Here's how the drawers will go together. My first thought was to just dado join them, but that would look kind of ugly for the front. A stopped dado would be better, but then I figured a stopped dado is a lot like a mortise, so why not just mortise it on the pantorouter?

Setting up the pantorouter for the drawer joints

I figured I'd use two short mortise and tenon joints side by side. I want these centered across the wood. So the first thing I did was to find the center of the wood by scratching from both sides with callipers.

I then put the follower pin in one of the holes of the template holder between the templates. I then line up the center of the bit with the center of the workpiece.

I make sure the workpiece is on square with a framing square and push the stops up against the workpiece.

I also want the tenon to be centered vertically. For that, I hold the workpiece over the template holder and line up the horizontal line in the top of the transparent template holder with the top edge of the workpiece.

With the 2:1 reduction in the pantograph, raising the template by the thickness of the wood raises the cutter to half the thickness, so it centers it in the workpiece.

The fit of the tenons can be adjusted, but the mortise size is determined by the size of the router bit. So before cutting tenons, I need to cut a mortise. So I'm clamping down a test piece on the table using a wooden hold down...

...then tilt the table up 90 degrees and push the bit up against the workpiece.

I then set the front stop to 17 mm, which is the depth of mortise I want to cut.

Then routing the two mortises, using the slot in the red plastic templates as a mortise guide (not visible in this photo).

Checking the fit. I normally cut the tenons a bit large (by adjusting the follower to be on the larger part of the templates taper), then try the fit while the workpiece is still clamped down, make it smaller, try again, etc. But I made the mistake of using my tenon workpiece as part of my clamping, so I had to unclamp everything to check the fit.

With the fit checked, I'm milling the tenons in the front ends of the drawer sides.

Then milling the mortises near the back part of the drawer sides.

Oops, major screw-up. I forgot to set the depth stop for the mortises, so I ended up milling right through them and into the table! I can still flip the table over to put this scar on the bottom. Or maybe I should wait for my next major mistake before I flip it!

The drawer fronts are a bit taller than the rest of the drawers. I had to move the side stops to the left when milling some of these mortises to get them in the right place.

Next I made a groove in along the bottom edges for the drawers. I stacked several 7 1/4" saw blades in my table saw made a groove of the required thickness. I have a dado stack, but the saw blades are more convenient. Also, a smaller diameter cutter is slightly better for "stopped dadoes". I don't want the grooves to go all the way to the end of all my workpieces.

I realized I could make much better use of the nice baltic birch plywood pieces I had by making the drawer bottom as two parts. This allowed me to get two drawer bottoms out of the piece. I'll add another piece of plywood to the bottom to join them later.

Gluing the drawer bottom parts into the groove.

Adding the front. It was a tight fit.

Adding some clamps to make sure the joints are fully closed.

Then gluing on some thin (3 mm) plywood over the gap to join the bottom pieces together.

After assembling the first drawer, I figured it was much easier to glue the plywood pieces together first. Here I have the extra bit glued onto one of the bottoms.

With the drawers assembled, it was time to make the runners (or slides) into strips, 3.5 cm wide.

Two strips on the side of each drawer will form an L shape for the drawer to slide in. The part that goes against the side has notches cut out on either side so that it's just under half an inch (12.7 mm) thick. I left that much space on either side so I could still install full extension drawer slides if I want to.

Cutting the notches on both ends of 8 pieces. I set up a stop behind the blade so that I'm not cutting beyond the notch I want to cut out.

Then another cut at the end of the notch, and finishing it up with the bandsaw.

Time to glue the rails together. The glue for these strips is best applied with a glue bottle. And I like to keep it fairly full so I don't have to squeeze so much to get the glue to come out.

I used a scrap of wood the same width as the drawer sides, plus a 3 mm shim to space the guide down from the top of the cabinet, then attached it with wood screws.

I also glued some blocks of wood on the inside near the front to keep the top drawers from tipping down too far when they are pulled most of the way out.

Second drawer installed. Surprisingly, the gap between them is quite consistent.

I picked the wood I used for the drawers because the varnish on it was in good shape. I figured that way I wouldn't have to varnish them. But by this stage of the project, the varnish had gotten quite scuffed up.

It turns out, this varnish is shellac, and it's easily damaged. So I scraped it off. Fortunately, Shellac is very easy to scrape off. Mental note: Don't ever use Shellac for stuff that gets used!

With the drawers now very light in colour, I figured darker handles would look best. So I cut up some mahogany to make four handles.

Laying out the handle shape on each one. The shape is simple enough that it's not worth bothering with a "design" or templates. I used a full and a nearly empty roll of electrical tape to mark the inside and outside radiuses.

Cutting them out on the bandsaw, then smoothing it on the strip sander

Finally rounding all the edges with a 1/4" round-over bit, and pre-drilling screw holes in the handles.

I rigged up a jig for drilling the pilot holes using some scrap wood, just drilling through holes in the wood. It's amazing how much you can spend on drawer handle drilling jigs, considering a few pieces of scrap wood will do the job.

Before mounting the handles, I need to varnish the drawer fronts, and before varnishing them, I need to round over the corners a bit. I do this using my palm plane

I varnished the drawers, mounted the handles (no photos), then took the workbench frame to my big garage workshop where I did the final assembly and glued and installed the wooden drawer slides.

Adding the drawers

With the drawers above, there is plenty of room for my welder and plasma cutter below.

This workbench is on wheels so I can wheel it outside to do some of the smokier work there. The only problem is, it came out much nicer than it needed to be, so it will be mentally hard to abuse it by welding on it.

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