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 grounds are planed to such a breadth that when glued to the gables the total breadth of face is 31 in. q is a cross section of this arrangement of pieces; 1 is a portion of the gable, say 3/4 in. thick; 2, the two thicknesses of pine, 2 3/8 in. broad and 2 in. thick; and 3, the clamp or slip of mahogany, 3/8 in. thick. After these grounds are fixed to the gables they are squared with the gables on the face, and the inner edge is squared with the face. Then they are drawn for dovetails to receive the shelves in a line with the grooves in the gables. The dovetail is all on the under side of the shelves, and enters into the ground about 5/8 in. As these shelves must be quite level in their whole breadth to allow the drawers to run smoothly, great care must be taken to cut the dovetails in the grounds with exactitude. Otherwise the shelf when entering the dovetail will be bent up or down, as the case may be, and it is hardly possible to make a good fit of the drawers in such a carcase.
The shelves are not of one thickness, or one board throughout their breadth, but are known as "clamped" shelves. About 3 in. of the front portion is 7/8-in. wood, the remainder being 3/8-in. wood clamped at the ends with pieces of 1/2-in. wood, which makes them up to 7/8 in. The two are joined with matched ploughs, glued, and clamped; they are carefully made of a thickness to fit the grooves in the gables; but, previously to this, the front edge has to receive a facing of mahogany. The general practice is to "band" them - that is, to put on scrap pieces of rich veneer, with the grain running across the thickness of the fore edge. This has a showy effect, but it is false and ridiculous, as a shelf of solid wood put in in this way would be an impossibility. The result of such work is also bad, as pieces of this "banding" get easily chipped off with the pulling out of the drawers. The proper way is to "slip" them with good mahogany, at least 1/4 in. thick, with the grain of the mahogany running in the same direction as the shelf. This will last for an age without chipping. When the shelves are slipped and got to the proper thickness, the corners are cut out to admit the grounds, and the dovetails worked to fit the latter.
The shelves should be fitted pretty tight into the grounds, and when driven home the mahogany slip should project beyond the face of the ground the thickness of a veneer (1/32 in.), so that when the grounds are veneered the whole will be flush. The carcase bottom - that is, the lowest shelf that rests upon the surbase - has 1 dovetail into the end of the ground. This will be readily understood by reference to r, which shows a portion of the under side of the carcase. The back edges of gables are checked to receive a back lining, which is nailed to the back edge of the carcase, as shown on the right in r.
The gables, carcase bottom, and shelves being ready, the carcase is put together by glueing and rapping up the carcase bottom first, then the top shelf, and after this the intermediate ones. A cramp is necessary to draw these shelves home, care being taken that they all project beyond the face of grounds only the thickness of veneer as above mentioned. All the shelves have now to be "blocked" on the inside - that is, 3-cornered blockings of wood, with their glueing faces at right angles, are glued in against the shelves and gables. Before these are glued in, the carcase must be tested to see that it is square, and that all the shelves are quite at the bottom of the grooves in the gables. After this is made sure, the blockings, 4 in. long, 3 to each shelf, are rubbed in with hot glue, the first one going forward pretty near the back of the ground. "When these are hard the carcase will be perfectly rigid and strong.
It is usual to fit the drawer fronts and make the drawers before making a top. The upper blocks are of the same breadth as the grounds, semicircular on the face, but 1 in. thicker than the half circle, to allow for the drawer front between them, as this front projects 1 in. over those beneath it. These blocks are veneered in one length in a canvas bag, as described for the base blocks. When glued on the grounds, their lower ends are on a level with the upper side of the top shelf. The upper ends are faced with mahogany.
The top of the carcase is 1 1/2 in. thick, being a board of 5/8-in. mahogany, made up or clamped on the under side with pine 1 in. thick. A piece of pine 5 in. broad is glued along the front; the ends are made up with end cuts of pine 6 in. or 7 in. long. As the grain of all the clamping must run in the direction of the grain of the mahogany, a narrow clamp is fitted between the end ones at the back to nail the back lining to. These clamps are put on with large hand-screws; when hard, the top is planed to thickness and squared at the ends. The front edge of the top is veneered before the 2 semicircular blocks are rubbed on. This veneering of the edge of the top is usually " banding," but it should be done by slipping, as described when treating the base.
The carcase has now to be fitted with drawers. The drawer fronts are of pine 7/8 in. thick, fitted into the various openings in the carcase perfectly close all round, and with the heart side of each front outward for veneering upon.
The top drawer, that between the 2 semicircular blocks immediately under the top, is slipped on its upper edge with a piece of 3/8-in. Bay mahogany previously to fitting it in, the same as already mentioned for the 12-in. drawer in the surbase.
The other drawers are not slipped in this way; after they are veneered and cleaned off they receive a 1/8-in. mahogany beading all round. This is called a " cope bead," and the manner of putting it on will be described. When all the drawer fronts are fitted in, they should be each marked on the face in pencil with a ^ or similar figure pointing upwards, so that there be no mistakes afterwards in the fitting.