Inset drawers lead to revealing work

April 27, 20154 Comments

As the construction of Madison’s tall dresser was rolling along at a much faster pace than most of my large projects go I kept telling myself not to jinx it by saying something stupid like “I’ll probably finish this one up in record time!”

8 drawer tall dresser

Sure enough, just as I neared the finish line the month of April came along and all my best plans went flying out the window. I’d name all of the reasons why but most of them begin and end with me in the middle of the explanation.

So rather than boring you with excuses let’s talk a little about what’s coming up in the final build episode of the Tall Dresser Series.

At this point everything is built and the only thing left to do is the final touches. As I’ve mentioned before, the final touches on any project tend to be the most tedious and time-consuming.

For example in my situation I still had to finesse the dimensions of the top (okay actually I just needed to cut it to size,) and then I still had to tweak the reveals around the inset drawers, all 8 of them!

reveals on an inset drawer

Equal reveals around an inset drawer make it appear to be floating…

I discovered a long time ago that when it comes to building a project that’ll have drawers I prefer to make them inset versus overlay, even though overlay is hands down the easier of the two to build. Why?

With overlay-style drawers even if you get a little sloppy with the face carcass or drawerbox construction, the drawer fronts can usually be positioned in a way that compensates for the error.

In other words, you have a way to hide your mistake (until someone attempts to use it and then wonders why it opens or closes the way it does.)

For inset-style drawers, if you make an error it can sometimes be magnified even greater when the drawer is fitted into the opening. So in my opinion it takes a little more effort to insure your construction is good from the start (something I know we all strive to do anyways.)

What I also like about inset drawers is the reveal line (or shadow line if you prefer.) There’s something about a beautiful reveal line that runs uniformly around the drawer front.

It’s always been something I’ve considered to be the mark of a good craftsman.

Sure some place the dovetail on pedestal but I strive to create reveal lines that leave the inset drawer looking as if it’s simply floating in the opening.

Are you an inset door/drawer woodworker, or do you prefer the look of the overlay-style? There’s no wrong answer, just inspiring conversations.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Dave says:

    Hi Matt,

    Are you planning to do a video on your process for painting the dresser? I don’t normally paint my projects (I’ve only done it once) so it would be interesting to see what prep work you do, the type of paint you choose, your application process, whether or not you topcoat it afterward, etc.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Derek Long says:

    Poplar is definitely an underrated wood. The drawer fronts, left unfinished, with the grain arranged in continuous sweeps across the front would be pretty eye-catching. Or maybe graduated amounts of whitewood showing at the bottom until you get to the top wide drawer with all whitewood. Lots of things you can do with some nice Poplar and drawer fronts.

  3. paul6000000 says:

    Great looking chest. I’ve only done a couple of drawers so far and mucked up the reveal a bit on one, so for me, it was an excuse to try an applied cock bead. Mitering the corners was a bit if a paint but the raised bead made the fit and depth of the drawer a lot less tricky to adjust.

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