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.
Draw again along the upper edge inside, and plane down to this mark. These fronts should fit tight, and at present it is sufficient if they just enter. Cut out 4 sides of 5/8-in. wood, dress and square the ends on the shooting-board, 1/2 in. shorter than the width from face of rail to inside of back rail. These 4 sides may be at present a little broader than the finished side. Groove the sides and front with a drawer-bottom plane, and make 2 backs exactly same length as fronts, and 1 in. narrower; these are also 5/8 in. thick, and have no grooves like the sides have. Being ready to dovetail, set the cutting gauge to a shaving less than the thickness of sides; gauge all the pieces with this - the fronts on the inner face and also on the end wood, gauging from the inside; then the backs and sides on both sides. Mark on the fronts 4 pins, as in Fig. 579, and on the backs 3 pins, as in Fig. 580, cutting clown to the gauge lines. The backs are cut from both sides, as is all " through" dovetailing, while the fronts are only cut to a depth of 5/8 in.
To draw the sides for dovetailing : Place a pair of sides in position, groove to groove (Fig. 581), and, taking a front, stand on the end of the side flush with gauge line, and flush on grooved edge. Draw close to each pin with the drawpoint, reverse the front, and draw on other side same way. Turn the sides end for end and draw the backs in the same way, having each back marked so that you make no mistake when fitting the drawers together. Observe by Fig. 582 that in drawing the back pins, the back is placed even with the groove in the side, as the bottom slips in under it - in other words, the groove in the sides is clear of the back to receive the bottom. The pieces to be taken out of the sides are ripped with a dovetail saw, and cut out with a 3/8-in. chisel; these pieces are 3 at the back end, and 2 at the front, with the 2 corners cut out as in Fig. 583. In dovetailing, it must be observed that the thickness taken by the cut of the saw must come off the piece to be cut out - in other words, the piece cut out is exactly the portion within the drawpoint lines, so that the pins from which they were drawn will fit exactly in the openings thus made.
In " through " dovetailing, which is cut from both sides, the chisel is inclined very slightly to cut-inwards, which allows the sharp edges to come closely and neatly against the adjoining part when glued up; this is called making it "lean" in the centre. The same remark applies in dovetails not through, as on the drawer fronts, which are slightly "lean" at the bottom both ways - that is, both from face to end. The dovetails are cleaned neatly out with narrow chisels, and the corners of the sides pared, after sawing off, to the gauge lines.
The drawer stuff, all dovetailed, has to be planed on the inside and sandpapered; then try if the fronts and backs enter their respective sides; after which glue them as follows, and this rule will hold good in all work of a similar kind : - Take a drawer front and the corresponding side, put some glue with a small brush into the recesses in end of front, taking care to allow none to get on to the inner face; put a little on the end wood of the side and on the 2 cut-out corners; stand the front on the bench, glued end up, enter the side, and rap it home with hammer and a bit of wood; turn it over on the bench, the side standing vertically; see that the junction inside is perfectly close; apply a large square inside and press the side to agree with the square. This done, take the back belonging to this drawer, put glue on the pins to enter this same side, enter it and rap home as with the front. Glue the remaining end of front and back, and rap on the remaining side. See that the inside junctions are all close.
Lay the drawer flat down on the bench, and square it with a foot rule, applied from corner to corner.
When both drawers are glued, lay them aside, and prepare the bottoms. These are of 3/8-in. wood, and if not broad enough may be jointed with 3/8-in. match-ploughs. To do this jointing, mark the best side of each piece, place in the bench-vice lug with marked side next you, plane straight with half-long. It is usual to work the "feather" in the narrower piece, if there is a broad and a narrow; it is also usual to work the feather first. The groove and feather made, rap the joint up dry to see it is close. If it is a perfect joint, use thin glue made by dipping the brush into the boiler of the glue-pot. Apply the glue directly with one stroke of brush, and rap the pieces together very smartly with a mallet; they should need no cramping. When glueing of the bottoms is set, plane up both sides with half-long, one edge and one end squared to each other; hand plane inside of each bottom. Take the drawer bottom - plane, and make a gauge by running a groove in a piece of wood 4 in. or 5 in. long. Lay the bottoms face down on the bench, and bevel the edges now uppermost for about 1 1/2 in. inwards, bringing the thickness down to the size of groove in gauge (Fig. 584), in which g is the gauge and b the bottom.
This done on front edge and one end, find the length to cut the bottom, by placing one corner in the groove at back of the drawer; mark at the bottom of opposite groove. From this mark cut the bottom to the square, and bevel the back to fit gauge as before, sandpaper the bottoms inside, and before driving them into their places, try that they enter both grooves by inserting the bottom, both back and front edges, because, if wider at the back, they will burst or split the sides. All being correct, drive them down gently with mallet, and see that they enter the groove in the front to the full depth; see also that the sides are perfectly straight and not bulged in the middle.
To block the bottoms, glue on fillets 3/4 in. broad, and 1/2 in. thick. These are fitted to the drawers along the bottom and side, and must be bevelled to the required angle. They are well glued, and rubbed in with a motion lengthway, when they will take hold. If they do not lie close along their length, cut them into 2 or more pieces before glueing; 2 or 3 short blockings of this kind are also glued on behind the front; these may be 3 in. or 4 in. apart; whereas those on the sides are continuous, being subject to wear in after use. These blockings should harden for 6 or 7 hours, after which drive 3 nails about 1 1/4 in. long through the bottom into the back.
Fit the drawers to the table frame by planing with jack and half-long. First reduce the breadth of the sides to enter easily, then place a piece of board across the bench, catch the drawer in the bench lug, and let the side rest upon this board. Plane both sides and try into frame: when they push in with an easy motion, but not loose enough to shake, they may be hand planed, the back dressed off, and the front planed to stand even with the face of the frame. They must be stopped at the back by glueing small pieces of wood to the back rail. Tush the drawer in 3/8 in. beyond the face of the frame, and fit the bits of wood in the space left at the back. A guiding fillet is also fitted between the 2 drawers and running from the short upright to the back; this should not be too tight. The drawers should pull out and in easily, and without sticking or shaking.