I’m writing up some of the things I did during my build of a Kendall style extra wide dresser. I’m doing this in the hope that some of the tools or techniques I used may be helpful to others. I sort of hesitated to write this all up on my own hardly ever used blog as I kind of didn’t want to just add MORE stuff for folks to read who might be doing such a build. But I did some things a little differently that I thought some might find of interest. At the same time, each of us likely modifies plans just a bit as we each have different tools that could dictate how we go about certain tasks.
- I got the idea from:
Ana White’s Amazing site : Kendal Extra Wide Dresser Page
If you’re a novice DIY woodworker and haven’t been to Ana White’s site, you have to go. Lots of plans, tips, good ideas, etc.
- I also relied on info from:
Woodsy Husband & Wife DIY Team
- And also some nice cutting patterns and sketchup plans from:
A Lesson Learned
The Build is Based On..
The Kendal dresser from Pottery Barn Kids is a very nice design. However, , it doesn’t seem to be the most solid build. For over $1,000, it seems to be made from a lot of cheaper parts. Having seen and touched one in the store myself, I thought it’s a decent piece of reasonably priced furniture, but not really great. There’s certainly nothing wrong with composite materials and cores, or veneers. We use them all the time as woodworkers. But still, I just personally prefer solid wood where possible or sensible In a product like this – that’s going to be painted – it doesn’t even make sense to use expensive wood. So if using Poplar or maybe some Pine, it just seems overly cheap to go with much cheaper products.
Here’s a screenshot of the original product:
Here’s what it started out as:
Here’s my final outcome:
First Steps: Sides and Posts
- Since I decided on using solid wood throughout, without use of either composites or plywood, I had to do a little bit of edge joining for both the sides and the top. In some ways, of course, plywood is easier. You just cut it. But anyplace where a plywood edge might show you need to put on veneer or some other kind of edge anyway. It’s really just as easy to just join two boards and then you have – what I think anyway – is a better overall outcome. I think I just don’t like how easily plywood veneer can be damaged because it’s so thin.
- Because I planned on painting, I decided on Poplar. Pointless to use expensive Oak or whatever, as that doesn’t even paint as well as Poplar anyway. The one exception is the posts. Those are Pine. I couldn’t easily source 2×2 Poplar, so I got 2×4 Pine to quickly slice some posts. Yes, I could have laminated two boards together and sliced out all the posts, but… well… I just didn’t want to. Which was maybe a bit lazy. This was already going to be one of my more complex efforts and one less step was appealing to me since the yard had 2×4 Pine. If I was doing it again, maybe I’d face join two 1×8 boards and then slice out the posts.
- Before joining, I used table saw to cut a groove in the top of the sides to allow for table top attachment hardware. Some folks might just screw the top on. But since I’m using boards and not more dimensionally stable plywood, I’m just a little concerned about the top’s potential expansion / contraction. This way, no issues. (I hope!) I used these table top fasteners from Rockler, but a lot of folks sell them. They seem to be mostly the same dimensions, but it pays to check if you end up mixing brands if you happen to run out and get faster shipping from another supplier. I didn’t really measure where the groove should go. I just placed the fastener on the workpiece and directly marked where the groove should go. Then set fence on table saw and did the grooves. First in the side panels, then also in the long way top rails.
- To join the edges of the two boards that formed the side panels, I used my BeadLock loose tenon system instead of pocket holes. Why? Because I have that jig / toy and thought “why not?” Though the pocket hole joinery would have worked fine as well. the BeadLock system is reasonably easy once you get it dialed in. The key with this one is getting it centered on the board edge and making sure you continue to pay attention when drilling the holes in order. After doing a few, you fall into a rhythm and can screw it up. I find it useful to make sure to back out the drill to clear chips to make sure to get clean flutes, then I use an air compressor / blower to get the rest of the garbage out of the holes.
- You may notice the small translucent/white block on the side piece below. That’s a piece of paraffin / wax. I’d heard that it’s good to scrape the screw threads on this so they go in more easily with less chance of splitting. I can’t say for sure this truly works, but it doesn’t seem to hurt. It does ‘feel’ as if they twist in more easily, but that could be in my head. In any case, haven’t had any splitting problems since I’ve been doing this.
- You’ll also notice the side panel is attached the posts in such a way that the inside of the panel is flush with the top part of the posts. (“top” is relative here.) The point is the plans and design call for this so it’s a little tricky to have this stay in place to get in the pocket holes. (Or whatever other joinery you’re going to use.) To do this, I used both clamps and shims. First, I had this whole thing upside down to get the parts flush. Then clamped them down hard. After flipping over to the orientation you see here, I still put some shims in so things would be less likely to move if I put pressure on the panel while driving the pocket hole screws.
- Also, if you look carefully at the bottom of the posts, you’ll see the bottom feet have had all four edges rounded over slightly. I did this with a small round over bit on a 1/4″ palm router. The reason I did it was to soften the edges a bit as I thought sharp edges might be more likely to split as the piece gets moved around; both during the build and over the course of its life.
- Another Also… Since this is for a little girl’s room, I decided to soften most of the other edges a bit. All outward facing edges, including on the posts, have a 1/4 round over treatment done using a 1/4″ trim router. The only thing to be careful of here is to not round over edges you might want to have sharp. Such as the inside the cabinet edge. It wouldn’t trash the project, but it could be useful to have clean edges on the inside depending on where slide mounts or or brackets / cleats might also get attached.
Rails to the Sides
- The Kreg pocket hole jig came in handy once again for this task. For the top rails I once again put in a groove for the table top fasteners. This is just a simple 1/8″ groove, the same width as the kerf on my table saw blade. Whether needed or not, I did use dab of wood glue on the ends. It can’t hurt, and since I’m only using one screw here, it avoids twisting of the part once it’s all dry.
- Since I’m using some glue, I did clamp up. The clamps are standard pipe clamps. The pipes themselves are a good six feet long. I got them at Lowes. What I did was had them take 10 foot steel pipes and cut them to six feet and four feet, then thread the ends so the pipe clamps could be used. I forget what they cost, but they were reasonably cheap to all of a sudden give me both six and four foot lengths for clamping. As well, these are silver steel; not the black ones I’ve seen others use, where they always complain you have to do stuff like use wax paper to keep them from rubbing black stuff on workpieces. My solution is to just avoid the problem and use steel. Not sure what advantage of the black ones are. Maybe less likely to rust. over time.
- To put the rest of the rails on the back, it was easy to just lay the whole thing flat. It’s not shown here, but I used some hand screw clamps to keep the side panels straight up and clamped the sides together to put pressure on the rails so they didn’t move position when I pocket screwed them in. The measuring / marking was done prior by having both side pieces lined up together and using a long t-square and straightedge to make sure the marks lined up.
- Next came the front rails or face frame parts. This was a bit more challenging as I thought it would be easier to line these up and make sure they were level and square by doing this vertically, rather than laying the front flat. So I used some clamping squares and small clamps to get the parts lined up in order to drive the pocket hole screws without anything moving around. While I love the pocket hole joinery, I find one of the greatest challenges is to make sure nothing moves when you’re driving the screws. Critically important to have things strongly clamped in the proper place to make this work. And if after driving the screws something’s off, it’s time to immediately fix the problem. Otherwise later on you just find somethings’s out of square and those small errors seem to compound themselves as you go forward.
Not a lot of explanation needed here. Same deal. Clamp and screw in pocket holes. Except maybe at the top, which uses regular wood screws. I used Rockler #8 Square Drive Lube Finished Screws-Number 8 Screws, you know, because I’m just all pro ‘n all! The center posts are actually a bit of a hassle for a couple of reasons. I don’t have an angle drill. I do have an angle drill attachment that kind of works, but you don’t get the same pressure or line up capability as when just driving from a ‘normal’ angle. So you have to be careful the order in which you do some of these things. Or get creative. Here, I used through the top – or bottom – of rail screws for the center posts where possible. But then used pocket holes in the rear long edge of the center post on the other side. (Sorry I don’t have pictures of that handy.) Bottom line is you don’t want the screws in a place where they could interfere with each other or potentially where you might screw in slide mount hardware.
Starting to look like a real thing!
About the Top
- Even though I’m working from plans, I like to wait to do certain things until other prerequisites are done first. You just never know if you’re going to screw something up, (pun intended) and be a little off and maybe have to adjust something or another. but now that the frame is done, I can measure and make the top; even if I’m not going to attach it until after I’ve got all the drawer hardware in. Mark at the Wood Whisperer calls this relative dimensioning. At least, I think that’s what he called it. The idea is that, sure, you go from plans, but maybe don’t cut every single part to spec. See how things go. Measure or get sizing directly from how your workpiece is developing. Not much worse than being 1/16″ short on a critical piece. Often the only fix for that is to waste an hour or whatever going back to lumber store to buy more wood. Then you just have another piece of expensive scrap that hangs around shop until you find something to build with it. Or desperately need room so you slice it up for the fireplace. Total waste.
- Like the sides, I edge joined two boards. To join the edge of the boards that made up the top, this time I used my Kreg pocket hole jig and Titebond 2 woodworking glue. I like using pocket hole joinery because it’s just so fast and easy. Of course, it’s really best for when there’s no way someone will see those joints. (Yes, they make plugs you can trim down if you want to make that part of the style, but that doesn’t thrill me.)
- I used 1×12 boards for this and ripped them to about an inch wider than I needed each one as I anticipated trimming down later. Even so, I had some trouble getting the boards perfectly lined up. I don’t have a jointer. While I can use my router table as a poor mans jointer, it’s not great for that. Between my hand held power planer and a lot of sanding, I finally got two smoother matching edges to join. But by the time I was done doing this, I’d almost taken off all the excess ‘safety’ that I had. This would have caused one of those trips to the lumber store. And even though Poplar is relatively cheap, the 1×12 is still somewhat costly. Yes, I could join up more pieces of 1×6 or whatever, but whole point in first place was to make it fast and easy. Anyway, just something to watch for. Of course, again, I rounded over the edges. That is, the three user facing sides. The back edge stayed as is as it’s going against the wall anyway. And it’s going to need to take a couple of screws to lock down the changing table.
Starting on the Drawers
- Since this is for a little girl, again like the posts and other parts that could be easily bumped into, I decided to soften the edges of things a bit on the drawer fronts, as I did for the posts. While anyone can easily get hurt ramming into stuff, I figured even a slightly rounded over edge means a bump and bruise, but maybe not a cut, whereas a sharp edge could easily result in a cut or stitches instead. Paranoid? Maybe. But as a new dad and long time EMT it seems to make sense and it looks just fine to do it this way.
- For the drawer boxes, now that the cabinet / case is done, the actual measurements can be taken. Let’s slice’em up!
- For the drawer box joinery, I used dovetails on the front, and then a dado along the back sides to hold the back drawer box member. The bottom was put in with the usual 1/4″ dado. You just have to be careful with dovetails that you position the dado such that it’s in the center of the lower pin so you don’t see the dado groove coming out the side. In the pic above, you can maybe see the Porter Cable Dovetail jig. This was new to me. I destroyed a fair amount of scrap before figuring out how to dial in all the settings. Everything needs to be perfect. Everything. Well, ok, some small mistakes can be fixed. For example, in a few I had some small gaps. For these, I took some fine sawdust and put some glue on my finger and dipped it into the sawdust. Then smeared it into the holes. After sanding, you can barely tell, if at all. I was told by a guy at the Woodcraft store I would have been better off to use finer sawdust though. Another lesson.
Well, that was time consuming.
You know, these are some seriously hard core drawers. Too much so. Why? Because I used all 3/4″ Poplar. If I do this again, I’ll find some 1/2″ boards. That would give me a whole extra 1/2″ width internally. And as I’ll talk about soon, maybe I’ll use under mount slides next time, which would give even more width. Basically, I could have gotten a whole ‘nother inch of width. The drawers are 16″ long; maybe 1.5″ less due to the rear dado. So that’s another 14.5 sq in I could have had. Live and learn.
Drawer Slide Hardware
- Getting closer to the moment of truth! The Accuride side drawer slides I selected have a margin for error of maybe 1/16″ And things need to be all squared away. Unfortunately, I did screw up the top left a little bit. Not sure how, but I did. In two ways. First of all, the drawer was a little big. Mostly. It was too big overall, but something was also out of square a little in one of the cabinet parts. There’s several ways to deal with this. Some of them would have involved some serious dismemberment and re-work. Instead, I planed down one side of the box and took off about 1/32″. Then I used some double-sided carpet tape on one portion of the cabinet where the slide is to be attached to push it out a little bit in the area that was off being a bit loose. That was just enough to push out the slide part attached the cabinet.
- After having the dovetails come out nicely, I probably should have used under mount slides instead of the side mounted ones. But the’re somewhat more expensive. Also, to me anyway, the under mount slides seem more complicated. One day, I’ll have to try them out.
- A few notes here:
- It’s a little hard to see on the lower right, but that’s a Rocker Slide mount jig. It makes it reasonably easy to line up the slides and drill pilot bits, then screw them in. Without this, you’ve got a crazy balancing act using clamps or scrap pieces to line stuff up.
- Two drills is easier: One with a self-centering “Vix” bit to drill the pilot holes. And another with a driver bit. Drilling all the pilot holes at once or changing bits repeatedly would be a problem. Much easier to swap.
- I had purchased some rear mount brackets for some of the slides that are used on the inside drawers. I suppose they would have worked ok, but it just struck me as unnecessary when all I needed to do was make some wood brackets to hold them. So I did and saved $27 on brackets. The only thing I had to be careful of is switch up where I used the screws in the slide members so they didn’t interfere with the slide on the other side of the bracket.
- These are going to be inset drawers, so you have to make sure to follow instructions on the jig to made sure you have the right offset backwards. Basically, you use the front of the drawer plus a 1/8″ ship for the offset, Hard to explain. If curious, watch the video on the Rockler site for how to set up the slide jig. If doing it by hand, I suppose it’s just trial and error. If doing it that way, I suppose I’d measure the first one and make sure it was right, then make a stop block for all the rest.
Sanding: 180 grit with orbital sander, then 220 grit by hand, and 300 grit sanding pad between primer coats.
Two coats Primer: A water based primer recommended by this guy: Zinsser PRIMECOAT 2, applied with Wagner Flexio 590 Sprayer
One coat Paint: Only one coat of the paint was needed. Benjamin Moore Regal Select Semi-Gloss Finish White 551 01. Applied with sprayer.
* Note: Added a couple ounces of Floetrol to smooth it out even further. Also, this sprayer was new to me. Took some time to practice with scrap first. Though I’d used it to stain a deck, primer and paint are different consistency. I found it best to use a medium ‘material’ setting, (which is on the trigger screw), and a higher setting on the power. (At maybe 6.) In other words, follow the directions! I’d done so awhile before, but should have re-read them. Instead, I started at low power settings and thought that would be safer. It’s not. That’s just not how it works. Read the directions and then also do trial and error. I think the Floetrol stuff definitely helped to make a smoother coat than I’d have otherwise gotten.
Two coats Clear Coat: Water based polyurethane; Minwax Polycrylic. For the dresser knobs, I actually dipped the whole top of the knob in the Poycrylic. Let it dry and did it again for two coats. For drying, as you can see I used a foam pad and some screws so any dripping would come off the bottom. I used some wood screws just loosely put in to do this. When dry, I scraped any excess of the bottom and lightly sanded the bottom. Then screwed in the threaded inserts for the 8-32 machine screws. This way, I didn’t have to worry about the poly messing up the screw holes or the screw threads. Putting in the screw threaded inserts wasn’t too bad, but I cheated by spending an extra $5.95 for the special tool to do so. I’m not sure how people do this with just a screwdriver. The way I looked at it was that knobs that already have the inserts cost several dollars. The ones without are pennies. In the end you save money. And you have the tool for the future. Of course, it’s yet another rare use single purpose tool, but oh well.
oh yeah, and there’s a topper for it to use for changing baby. This went together super fast and I just screwed in the sides. I’m not caring if this part is all that pretty / perfect as it’s only for temporary use. I’m going to use some figure 8 fasteners to safely attach it and lock it down to the back. When done, I can fill those small screw holes with wood putty or just leave them as no one will see the back anyway.
- All in I think this cost me about $750-$800 to make. Almost $150 of that was just in drawer hardware and other small parts. The wood would have been only around $350 – $400, except I messed up a couple of times and that cost me another $40 – $50. Wood can likely be had cheaper, but since I don’t have a jointer or planer, I got the best flat S4S boards I could from a good lumberyard so I could have a nice flat side and edges with which to work.
- I need to check for square even more than I do. This thing came out great. But side mounted slides have really tight tolerances. On one drawer, somehow, I was off by a bit over 1/16″ somewhere. That one error cost me maybe two hours to try to sort out why and how to fix it.
- I messed up the table top sizing, as mentioned. That is, in all the trimming and sanding to get two edges I could join, I ended up making it about 1/8″ shorter than I would have liked width-wise. So the edges all hang over about 3/8″ on the sides and front; which was intended. But I forgot that the 1/4″ ply was going to go on the back at the very end and it would come to the top. So, no normal person will notice this and it doesn’t matter, but if you look at the back you can see the top really should extend another 1/8″. Not a big deal. If I ever decide it truly bothers me, the top is mounted with table top fasteners and I could re-do it. Totally not worth it and likely never will. I just mention it as yet another learning for others.
- I think I probably spent 40-50 hours on this. Maybe a little more if you account for extra trips to hardware store. As with most of my projects, it probably takes me longer than some others due to lack of skills for which I have to hit up YouTube or practice on scrap first. Of course, similar tasks in the future will go smoother, but for first attempts, things take awhile. Probably spend a whole hour just sorting out the dovetail jig alone.
That’s about it! Hope some of you find this info useful. And thanks again to Ana White and the others who put up details about these plans. Without them I never would have attempted this!