This Week’s Flashback – Samantha’s Lingerie Chest

May 26, 20155 Comments

Time for another installment of “look what I built…I’m amazed it hasn’t collapsed yet!” I’m half-joking as I write this, because seriously I’m amazed my first projects haven’t collapsed on themselves yet!

Last week I shared my first attempt at a project that required drawers, a big step for me at the time considering the level of extra joinery and design it required. Add to it the fact I was completely winging it with zero experience meant it was twice as hard.

This week the next project in my woodworking evolution was the next big project I built, a lingerie chest of drawers for my wife.

Samantha's lingerie tower

Samantha’s lingerie tower

As is quite obvious from the pictures, this project wasn’t about to be featured on the cover of any magazines, and I’m sure if I had a website at the time I probably would’ve had a ton of traffic from somewhere else with a link stating “Don’t let your furniture look like this!”

But in reality, this project was the first of many bigger and better to come. Why? Because it allowed me to do something I wasn’t letting myself do up to that point, build with a purpose.

What does that mean “build with a purpose?”

Simply put, up until then I just built things to build something. If they were crap, I’d just scrap them and start over. But in this case, I talked it over with Samantha and asked her what she wanted and how it should look?

The result was a project with a purpose and a client I wanted to impress!

The only tools I owned at the time were my little bench top table saw, a bench top band saw, the crappy router I had picked up for the short chest of drawers, and then I used this opportunity as an excuse to pickup a cheap random orbital sander and an even cheaper dovetail jig.

I had so few tools at the time, I didn’t even have a single chisel or a block plane. So any finessing of joinery was done entirely by means of bit, blade or sandpaper.

Like with the short chest of drawers the body and drawer fronts were built entirely of home center 1x pine, but this time, I decided to introduce a new material to my shop, plywood (construction grade plywood!)

As I did with the previous project, I built my drawer frames and routed dados into the sides, taking the extra step to hide them from the front. Since I didn’t have a chisel to square up the dados, I just rounded over the shoulders of the frames with a knife to allow them to fit properly.

Stopped dado for the drawer frame

Stopped dado for the drawer frame

Since I didn’t have access to a jointer or thickness planer at the time, there’s obvious gaps at the glue lines where I glued up two boards to make a wider panel. I can quite honestly say I didn’t wrap my brain around the idea of edges needing to be square for easily a few more projects. At the time, I just figured all I needed was to apply more clamp pressure to get everything aligned.


This project had two big step-ups for me in joinery and design aesthetics. The first is the fact I opted to skip using an overlay drawer front and go with an inset, which added an increasing level of difficulty to the build, and the second was to try my hand at dovetail joinery (because that’s what REAL woodworkers use right?)

The dovetails were complicated by two huge factors I hadn’t accounted for; 1) cutting dovetails into plywood with a router bit can cause chunks of veneer to come off in all the wrong places, and 2) I bought a really cheap and crappy dovetail jig that took longer to setup than it did for me to attempt to cut dovetails in all the drawer sides.

Construction grade plywood?!

Construction grade plywood?!

For whatever reason, I decided I could overlook the torn out chunks in the plywood from the router, but the idea someone could see the plys when the drawer was open meant I needed to apply a veneer tape to hide them. I’m not convinced this made it worse, but looking back on it, I can appreciate the effort to some degree.

Not obvious at all right?

Not obvious at all right?

The last thing I remember specifically about building the drawers was that they were originally to snug to fit in the opening. So to fix it, I broke out that new random orbit sander, loaded up a piece of 80 grit sand paper and went to town “tweaking” those sides. The result were drawers that open and close nicely, but at the cost of a lot of sanding and some numb hands.

Because there were obvious gaps at the top and bottom where I attached the top and base, I attempted to hide them by applying a trim piece. It worked for the most part, but once again my love for wood putty is quite obvious.

Obviously this project got painted, but that was my wife’s goal all along. She loved the idea of pieces like this and I was not about to stop her from possibly hiding my mistakes.

This lingerie chest of drawers has been standing tall in the corner of our bedroom for the past 15+ years. I see all the ugly joinery and cringe whenever she pulls out a drawer, but whenever I talk about building her something new she just shrugs and says something like “if you have too, but I love this one.”

Morale of the story? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or more realistically, building with a purpose early on is the best motivation for pushing us beyond on our current abilities.

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Comments (5)

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  1. That’s a wonderful project and I’m sure your wife cherishes it. You built something for her with your own hands and it’s way more solid and well-constructed than what she could have gotten at the big-box store. I dare say it will last a hundred years and still be serving a purpose for someone.

    I’m with you on building for a purpose. Most of the people we build for are young householders who really can’t afford decent furniture, so they buy junk that falls apart, and then they replace it and it falls apart, and this ugly cycle goes on for years. So when we build them something solid that will last, make a gift to them of something that looks like it has inherent hand-built quality, they are overwhelmed, and they start taking care of their things, and essentially they start to grow up and join the ranks of stakeholders in society.

    Maybe as they prosper they start picking up some nice antiques and well-built new items, but my guess is they will always keep the first hand-made pieces, and as they get more leisure, they might pick up woodworking themselves.

  2. Matt says:

    I love the story as it tells the story of reality woodworking.

  3. Harvey says:

    Hey buddy do you mind if I ask what kind of paint it was that your wife used? Can you use just any paint?

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