11-19-2011 12:46 PM
Building a dresser isn't a normal diy project. If you have woodworking tools and some experience then you might
succeed at this. You can find plans and instructions by doing a web search. I would suggest finding a old dresser
and doing a refinishing project. This is somewhat simpler, doesnt require as many tools or knowledge and gives
you a chance to see how they are constructed.
11-19-2011 02:24 PM - edited 11-19-2011 06:13 PM
Welcome to the community! Congrats on your new soon-to-be new arrival!
To get started with getting a dresser installed from scratch, I would first look into several that you like, be it online or places that sell furniture nearest to you to get inspired. I find this step when doing any design work is just as important as grabbing a power tool or paint brush.
In this post, I will be discussing how to build a standard dresser. Like the kind you can put a mirror on afterwards, but not a chest drawer which is not a true dresser.
As I stated earlier, first find a dresser you like and carefully look and read not only its measurements but all the elements that first caught your eye. For me, I chose two that I would like to share with you, so as you can get an idea of the style, measurements, and preference.
No matter the size or material of the dresser you pick out, it is essentially made of 4 components in its most basic form, shown in my diagram below...
This is not a typical weekend DIY job, therefore, your supply list will require some tools that you may or may not have. Not to worry, all of these materials can be bought at your local Home Depot. In fact, some power tools can even be rented, depending on the availability of your local store.
- several sheets of 3/4" solid sheet wood, laminate, or plywood (for carcass)
- 1-2 sheets of 1/2" solid sheet wood, laminate, or plywood (for the drawer frames)
- 1 or a partial sheet of 1/4" solid sheet wood , laminate, or plywood (for drawer bottom)
- tape measure
- T-square for accurate angles
- template or schematics showing exact dresser specs (optional)
- table saw or router (for cutting dado/rabbet joints)
- circular saw (for small cuts, if needed)
- jig saw (if you want to make intricate cuts)
- cabinet pull hardware
- drawer slides (in this project, drawers will not go into cut out (dadoed) wood frames
- wood glue
- Power Drill w/ various bits
- C-clamps to hold frame together during wood glue drying
- safety glasses
- sandpaper (fine grit 150-220)
- Cam bolts (optional, to hold carcass together)
BUILDING THE CARCASS
As you saw in the picture above, the frame or carcass that holds everything together will be the backbone of making a dresser. In this post, I will attempt to make this dresser as easy as possible. At this point in the project there are many ways to decide how to fit and place all pieces together. As I am sure other DIY'ers and carpenters can agree with me, there are many methods to get the drawers, carcass, base, and hardware on securely.
With that said, drawers can slide on custom wood frames built into the carcass and can be separated by dust panels so that nothing can fall between drawers. Wood guides can mounted above each drawer ensure that they stay centered and slide smoothly. My point is, even with choosing how to build drawers can seem like you have a lot of options. In this post, I won't go over those, but if you can go with further research if you do believe this is the right options for your drawers. In fact, if in any of these steps you may need a further run-through, just let us know
Back to our carcass though, you'll first need to install these using material of your choice. You can choose a solid (think solid pine or oak), plywood or laminate at 3/4" thick. I personally like the price and strenght of sanded pine plywood, as that and any natural wood gives off a nice smell longer after the project is done. As a general rule of thumb you will want to keep your overall height of your dresser frame at around 34". This isn't a set-in-stone mandate, but something to remember when building. For a basic dresser, there are 9 different pieces that make up a carcass, shown in the image below...
Other than the 34" height rule, this will be entirely up to you as to what width and depth to make your dresser. In terms of storage space, I find that around 18"-20" depths with a 32"-36" width for the drawers work great for adults clothing and storage. At this stage, this is where finding what measurement will work best for you, and then applying that knowledge to the carcass. In other words, you will NEED to install the drawers at a smaller height, width, and depths than the frame that is created. This is usually at 1 inch overall smaller than the frame to allow for about 1/2" wiggle room for the drawers. To assemble the carcass you can use Cam bolts, rabbet/dado joints, or a bracket system. The rabbet/dado joints are the cleanest and sturdiest way to build a sturdy carcass for your drawers, but you will need a good table saw to achieve this. Below is a picture of one way of assembling it...
The Cam Bolts are a clean look but I find that without prior experience working with them, it can be a challenge. To get the carcass built together using a dado or rabbet joints, you can cut a small corner (usually 1/4") in the corner of the frames, applying them to make a tight bond. This bond can go further with a good wood glue if you are using unfinished wood or plywood. Or you can even use finishing nails to further hold everything in, carcass and the drawers too; the combination is up to you. The back is generally saved for last and can be fastened in with finishing nails or glue to the back of the frames. Let all joints that are going to be glued be clamped together or set with weights overnight to make sure the joints are snug and won't dry at an acute angle. Because once they are dry, now you are ready for the drawers....
BUILDING THE DRAWERS
Once the carcass is squared up and ready to go and you have already taken inside measurements for your drawers, now you are ready to build them. Even though you are building 6 drawers, I would recommend starting out with one drawer first, so as to get a feel of it before committing to the other 5. Just like the carcass we just read about, you can build them using the same dado/rabbet joints and/or glue and finishing nails. The drawer is the part of the dresser that is going to get the most use. So in this part of the project, I would very carefully draw out and plan where your drawer pulls and glides are going to be placed. Also, remember the front of the drawer will most likely be larger than the drawers interior, but make sure the front is not going to impede the perfomance of the other drawers as well. In short, draw, plan, and measure them before even picking up any tools. Below is an image showing a cross-section of various areas of a drawer when you are joining the pieces together...
As you can see, the bottom, sides and front are all joined together by dados and rabbet joints. This is done with wood glue and clamping the pieces together. Your frame should be 1/2" thick and your base can be thinner at 1/4" thickness. To achieve a joint shown in the image connects the bottom to the side, you will need to use a table saw (or router) to cut out the grooves, or rabbet, to make the bottom piece slide in effectively and be secure from whatever is being placed in the drawer. To do this, the table saw's blade will need to be adjusted so as not to cut through the sides of the drawers, but deep enough for the thickness of the bottom (1/4") piece to slide in. This is done by either using a dado blade on a table saw or cutting the wood more than once (saw blades are usually 1/8" thick) to ensure the bottom piece slides in. The rule of thumb is to cut in 3/4 of the thickness of the wood you are cutting into. So essentially, you are building everything but the front, which goes on last since the bottom piece needs to slide into the dadoed sides and back. After measuring and getting a good drawer front, you can install it and then smooth the edges down with your fine grit sandpaper. To achieve a beveled look, it will take a power sander to achieve this, but since it's your first go around, I'd stick to just the straight 90 degree angle edges. Remember you are clamping and/or putting weight after gluing all your joints to make sure they all have a good, tight fit. After letting them dry overnight, you are ready for your next step...
INSTALLING THE DRAWERS WITH SLIDES AND PULLS
Now that the drawers are ready, hopefully you've placed one in already to see how snug the fit is in the carcass, you are ready to truly install them. Lots of considerations need to be remembered when choosing drawer slides. After selecting the best one as well as pulls for your drawers, you are ready to install them.
Planning on where the drawer slides are going to be is your next step. In the picture above, the slides are shown just above the bottom of the drawer, but you can place them on the bottom for easier installation. Measuring at this step is key, because you will need to match up not only one side of the slider with the carcass frame, but also the other side at the same height to ensure a level fit. Using a pencil or marker here will be your best friend at this step. Use a T-square to maintain the same measurement throughout all 12 slides, and use your power drill to install them into the carcass. Most sliders have more than one hole in them to ensure if you need to make any adjustments. Also, most nowadays are included with a template to make installation easier.
Now you can use the template or glide to find the spot where the mounting screws will go on either side of the drawer. Drill small (usually 1/8") pilot holes for the screws. They should already be provided with your glides and now you can install the other glide piece to the side of the drawer.
Now that you have your drawers all secure and in place, it is almost done, with the exception of the cabinet pull hardware. It is up to you to choose what style, color, and make you like. The how-to of installing cabinet hardware is pretty simple compared to previous steps. After finding the center of the drawers and installing the cabinet pull hardware, you should now have a working and functioning dresser! At this step, you may to use the sandpaper to smooth down and exposed rough edges you may have encountered.
Well karadangelo, I hope this helps you out, and please let us know if you have any further questions,
I am a 12 year Home Depot Store Associate, trained and authorized to help people on the Internet.