I’m taking a break from tuning up a bunch of planes by getting back to the dresser project. The next step in the dresser is the vertical divider. That is the piece that separates the left and right banks of drawers. It is an unassuming part of the design because only one skinny edge is visible, but it is key to the strength of the case and keeping the drawers sliding smoothly.
Top view of the joinery on my tool cabinet – see the wedged through tenons in the center
The picture above is an example of the this step in case joinery, but from another project. This is the top view of my Tool Cabinet with the through, wedged mortise & tenons housed in a dado. Isn’t this joint really just belt & suspenders? Probably, but I want the joinery on this dresser to be as sturdy as possible. I know that dressers get moved by opening the top drawers and lifting up by the top. Furniture should not be moved like that, but it is, so I’m planning for it in my joinery.
This joint is very similar to the hand cut dados on the Simple Shelf project. Yes, that project came first on purpose. I was practicing. Just like I was practicing on the joinery of my tool cabinet. Every project is prepping me for the next one.
To start, the board that will be the vertical divider needs to be consistent in thickness for at least the last inch in length (on each side). Otherwise, the fit in the dado will be loose. Once the divider is consistent in thickness, joinery begins on the sub-top or bottom of the case. One edge of the dado needs to be marked.
The first mark for the dado is not in the center of the length of the board, because the divider would then be off center. Figure out where the center of the board is then go over about half the width of the vertical divider. Just get it close because if the drawers on one side are 1/16 inch wider than the other no one will ever know (careful – 3/4 inch off is probably too much). I didn’t take a pic of the next step – see the Simple Shelf. The width of the dado is set by the thickness of the vertical divider. Place the divider in place and mark the other side of the dado. NOTE – Work from the front of the case because that will most likely be the best fit since that is where the marks are made. If there is a slight gap in the back only the builder will know.
After the line is marked on both sides of the dado use a straight and square piece of wood as a fence to guide the saw. Use your off hand to hold the saw to the fence. No depth stop needed. Just watch the depth of your kerf at the front and back and make the kerf a bit deeper in the middle. Don’t forget to saw on the WASTE side of your lines.
Once the sides of the dado are defined with a saw (saw is a noun) take a chisel and “carve” off the corners of the waste in the dado. Take off as much wood as you dare at this point.
Follow with a chisel that is the same width as the dado or smaller and impact it down the length to loosen up the waste. This is easily done by feel for depth because it takes more impact to drive the chisel as it gets to the right depth.
Finish the chisel work working across the grain. Be extra careful at the front to stay inside the lines, especially depth. In the middle of the case the dado can be a little deep and nothing will be hurt, but a deep dado at the front would need to be fixed or be ugly. Finish the dado depth with a router plane. Take light passes and it will go fast and easy.
Here is the finished dado. Next we go beyond this simple dado and that is a good place to pause until Part 2.