This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
The next operation is to make 2 frames of;-in. pine, to form a top and bottom to these gables; they are of a length to make the surbase 1 in. shorter than the base beneath, so that the base projects all round 1/2 in. beyond the surbase - that is, when the drawer front is in its place. The breadth of the frames is the distance from the front of the gables to the check for the back lining. Each frame consists of a front and back rail, 3 in. broad, and 2 cross rails 5 in. broad, let into the former by mortice and tenon. The ends of the front and back rails being dovetailed into the gables, the cross rails tit inside these, and are then made more secure by having blockings of wood glued in the angles.
Two semicircular blocks are made of several layers of pine glued together as described for the base blocks. They are 5 in. broad on the back, the semicircle being drawn with compasses set to 2 1/2 in. The block is 3 1/2 in. thick, however, the additional inch being to allow for the thickness of drawer front, so that when this front is in its place the blocks show but 2 1/2 in. projecting. These blocks are veneered, dried, planed and scraped, then carefully fitted to the face of the surbase and glued down. The veneer on the block where it joins the edge of the gable must be a good joint and both flush, as the veneer, being thin, it will not allow of much reducing when cleaning off.
When this surbase is made, it should fit on to the lower base and show a margin of 1/2 in. along the ends and round the blocks, and 1 1/2 in. along the central portion or drawer space. The upper side of the surbase is capped with a moulding, usually a "thumb." This moulding h is a section of an ellipse. For the chest of drawers it is made of 7/8-in. mahogany, and in order to economize that wood the necessary breadth is made up with pine, the two being glued together previously to running the thumb. The breadth of mahogany required is 1 1/2 in. backed by 2 in. of pine. i shows the upper side of the surbase with the line of junction of pine and mahogany, also the manner of mitring at the inner corner of the circular blocks. In ordinary chests of drawers the portions of thumb moulding covering the blocks are composed of a piece of 7/8-in. mahogany turned in the lathe, and afterwards cut in halves, which do for both blocks. The portion of moulding along the front is mitred at the corners to these semicircular pieces, and the end pieces are butt-jointed behind them.
In a first-class chest of drawers, however, they are done differently. A piece of mahogany is cut large enough to make both pieces for the end mouldings and the circular portion over the blocks in one. k shows the method of cutting the one out of the other usually pursued. The thumb in this case is worked by hand, and the pieces do not require backing with pine. These mouldings are toothed on the under side, and glued on to the base, a few screws being put in after the hand-screws are removed. This base receives a 5/8-in. back lining, but it is not put on until a drawer is made and fitted in. The drawer front is of pine, "slipped" with a piece of Bay mahogany on the upper edge. This slipping is a process that has to be noticed. A piece of mahogany is cut about 1 in. broad and 1/2 in. or 3/8 in. thick, as free from warping and bending as possible. It is truly planed on one side, and toothed. The edge of the drawer front is also planed perfectly straight with half-long plane, and toothed. Then, with the drawer front in the bench lug, the slip of mahogany is wetted with a sponge, and turning its toothed side up, and on a level with the edge of the pine front, both receive a coating of glue quickly applied.
The slip is turned over on the edge of the front and rubbed firmly backwards and forwards lengthways, 2 persons being necessary for the operation. The sliding motion is gradually lessened till it stops with the slip in its proper place, when a few smart rubs with a veneering hammer complete the operation. In most cases a slip thus laid will be found to adhere perfectly in its whole length. When the front is dry, it is planed up and fitted exactly in its place; care must be taken to have the heart side of the plank turned to the front for veneering upon. This drawer front is 12 in. broad, and when in its place rests upon the 2 7/8-in. fore edges forming the frame of the surbase. The drawer sides pass between these fore edges, and are consequently only 10 1/4 in. broad, the extra breadth of front projecting 7/8 in. downwards, and the same upwards of the sides, as in l, which shows the drawer side as dovetailed into the front. The drawer sides are 5/8 in. thick, often made of pine, sometimes of American ash, but the best wood of all is cedar, as the strong but not unpleasant odour emitted is a sure preventive of moth. A groove run in 5/8-in. wood m for a drawer bottom makes the side very weak.
A very great improvement is the fillet clamped to the inside of the drawer tide n, and the groove run in it.
The carcase consists of 2 gables o of solid mahogany, usually 5/8 in., but they ought to be at least 3/4 in. thick. The breadth to make these gables is 1/4 in. less than the breadth of the upper side of the surbase - that is, 1/4 in. within the thumb moulding. The length of the gables is sufficient to admit 5 drawers of the following breadths - namely, 9 1/2, 8 1/2, 7 1/2, 6 1/2, and 5 in., with 7/8-in. fore edges or shelves p between, and 1 in. additional to cut into pins or tenons to enter the top, which should show straight pins not dovetailed.
The 2 gables are planed up on both sides, "thicknessed," made to the breadth, squared on the bottom ends, and marked off on the insides for grooves to receive the shelves. The rabbet plane used is 13/16 in., and the depth of groove is 1/4 in. A guide for the plane is made by "stitching" with tacks a thin lath of wood to the gable alongside the groove to be run. These grooves being run, the bottom ends are dovetailed - not through - to receive a 7/8-in. carcase bottom, and the top ends are squared and cut into pins as already mentioned. Two grounds have now to be built to clamp on the inside of the gables. These are of pine, faced on the inner edges with mahogany, as indicated by the lines shown vertically in q. The method of building these grounds is to clamp 2 pieces of 7/8-in. or 1-in. wood together for the thickness, as this stands better than one piece. Next a piece of 7/8-in. Bay mahogany is planed up and toothed on both sides. The edges of the ground pieces are also planed straight and toothed. The mahogany is heated on both sides, and, glue being applied to both pieces of pine, the mahogany is placed between them and several hand-screws are applied.
When this is hard, it is planed up and sawn through the centre of the mahogany, making a pair of grounds with mahogany slips about 3/8 in. thick when finished.