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 following detailed and illustrated description of the construction of a chest of drawers has been modified from one which appeared some time since in Amateur Mechanics. The example here given consists of a base, surbase, and top carcase or body. In the usual method of structure, a large part of the work is veneered, the whole front included. The gables and top are solid, usually bay mahogany, 5/8 in. thick, the top being clamped on the under side with pine to 1 1/2 in. thick, and veneered round the edges to cover the whole. The breadth across the front is 4 ft. 1 in., and the depth from front to back, 20 in. at the body or upper carcase. The base, which may be called the foundation course, is 5 in. high, having 4 ball feet under it; these raise it 3 in. from the floor. Over this base is the surbase, made to contain a large drawer, 12 in. deep on the face, and having the mouldings mitred on the face of it. The fronts of these bases have semicircular blocks on the ends, that on the base being 6 in. broad, and that on the surbase 5 in. broad; the ends of the drawer are fitted exactly between these 2 latter. The surbase is screwed to the bnse, and the latter projects beyond the former 1/2 in. all round.
The surbase is surmounted by a "thumb" mouldiug, 7/8 in. thick, and over this is placed the body or top carcase. This contains 5 drawers; their depths on the face, starting from the bottom, being 9 1/2 in., 8 1/2 in., 7 1/2 in., 6 1/2 in., and the uppermost, that with the carving, 5 in. The top over this last drawer is 1 1/2 in. thick, the total height being 5 ft. 4 in. The base is made of 7/8-in. pine, and is veneered all round. The surbase has solid gables 5/8 in. thick, and the semicircular front blocks veneered. The top carcase has a " ground " up each side at the ends of the drawers. This, including the thickness of the gables, is 3 1/2 in. broad and 2 in. thick. The faces of these grounds are veneered. At the top of the grounds are semicircular blocks, 6 in. long, at the end of the top drawer, and the top over all projects all round 1 in. It is fixed on by mortice and tenon, the tenons being cut on the ends of the gables. It has also circular blocks in front. The fore edges of the shelves between the drawers are 7/8 in. thick finished. The shelves are dovetailed into the thick grounds in front, raggled into the gables, and made fast by blockings glued in underneath. The various moving drawers have fronts made of 1-in. pine, sides and backs § in., and bottoms 3/8 in.
The fronts are covered with showy veneer; the most showy, but not the most durable, being those known as curls. These are short cuts of the log, having a strong feathery-like appearance diverging from the centre. They are usually about 2 ft. long, and the practice is to take 2, cut from each other, to make a drawer front, they being marked, when sawing, for this purpose. The drawer front has consequently a butt joint in the centre, the spreading ends of the pieces being carefully jointed, so that the same figure or marks in the veneer will appear going both ways from this centre joint. These veneers are very showy, but they are very apt, after a time, to get full of cracks, and with age they become very dark in colour. The drawer fronts are surrounded by. a "cope" bead, 1/8 in. thick, and projecting from the face of the veneer half that thickness.
In the construction of the chest of drawers, Fig. 697, the first work is making the base. This is 4 ft. 3 1/2 in. long, 1 ft. 10 1/2 in. broad, and 5 in. deep, made of 7/8-in. pine. The method of procedure is as follows: - Make a front a 5 in. broad, a back b 4 in. broad; plane both sides, and to an equal thickness throughout; square both ends to a length of 4 ft. 3 in.; plane and square up 2 end pieces c in the same way, 5 in. broad, 22 1/2 in. long when squared up. The front and back are dovetailed into the ends, keeping the back flush on the upper side. The ends have a lip 1/4 in. thick, or, in other words, they are not dovetailed through, but made exactly as is done with a drawer front; consequently, when the base is put together, it is 4 ft. 3 1/2 in. long. This dovetailing is shown at d, where one of the circular blocks c is removed. It is, of course, covered up when these blocks are glued in their places. The object of not dovetailing through is to avoid having end wood on the surface at any part to be covered with veneer.
This rule holds good in all veneered surfaces - namely, avoid having end wood and side wood in the same veneering surface, as they do not shrink alike : in fact, end wood does not shrink at all; consequently in a short time any such portion covered by veneer is detected, as it stands above the surrounding surface. There are cases in which this cannot be avoided, but in most cases it can be guarded against.
The base being dovetailed and glued together is to be " filled in." This filling in consists of pieces f of 7/8--in. wood fitted inside the base at the front and ends, and flush with the upper edges. The front piece is 2 1/2 in. broad, and is fitted in neatly between the ends. The end pieces, which are broad enough if 1 1/2 in., are fitted in between the back of the base and the edge of the front piece, glued in and pressed close with hand-screws. Then the base is turned over, and the angle formed by the base and the filling in is filled at intervals of 5 in. or 6 in. with blockings 3 in. long. A portion of the base blocked in this way is shown at g. The glueing surfaces of these blockings are about 1 1/2 in. broad. In planing them, these 2 sides must be at right angles, and roughened with the toothing plane. When the glue has set quite hard, the base is planed straight and level with a half-long plane, the ends being made square with the front, and these toothed ready for veneering.
The surbase, which rests upon the base just described, is 12 in. high, and consists of 2 gables, either of solid mahogany or pine veneered. In either case, the grain of the wood runs vertically. These gables should be 7/8 in. thick, but, if of solid mahogany, they are seldom made more than 5/8 in., in which case they are clamped on the insidc with pine to make up the thickness. The breadth of the gables is 1$ in. less than the base below, not including the blocks, and in the back edges a check is made to receive a 5/8-in. back lining.