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Thread: Can we talk about bottoms?

  1. #1
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    Can we talk about bottoms?

    Drawer bottoms that is.

    I haven't built any casework with drawers yet, but I'm starting in on a dutch tool chest and I plan on putting a drawer (or pair of drawers) in the lower compartment. In the near future I'd like to build a blanket chest with a single drawer in it.

    My questions are what methods and tools do you prefer for bottoming drawers? I suppose we could expand that to materials as well. For grooved bottoms there are a couple of plane options for the groove that are made today, but they're pricey. Veritas plow plane for $259 and the Red Rose purpose built drawer bottom plane for $295. Is there another tool that makes will precisely make those grooves? Or a somewhat readily available vintage option that doesn't require lots of futzing to get it working well? Are there other joinery methods for drawer bottoms that are just as durable as a grooved bottom and don't require a specialty tool?

    For non-period correct pieces of furniture, what is your go-to material for drawer bottoms? 1/4" ply? Veneered hardboard? Something else? I suppose my biggest priority for this would be long term durability. I'd like what I make to last at least one lifetime, hopefully more.

    Thanks in advance for the discussion on bottoms.

  2. #2
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    Thereís lotís of ways to make a groove. If theyíre small drawers that wonít see a lot of weight you could even skip the groove and nail the bottoms on. You could saw out the edges of a groove and use a router plane. You could even march along in a line with a groove sized chisel and clear out the chips. The advantage of a drawer bottom plane is lack of required setup. A plow plane has setup but makes repeated results easier.

  3. #3
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    Pretty sure the sliding trays in the (English tool chest described in the) Anarchist's Tool Chest book have bottoms that are just nailed on. Since those trays serve pretty much the same purpose as your drawer, maybe look at their details.

    For drawers in general, slips are a solution for drawers with sides too thin to easily groove.

    It seems like there was a recent thread that covered a lot more options, though not specifically for a tool chest.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by David Zor View Post
    For grooved bottoms there are a couple of plane options for the groove that are made today, but they're pricey. Veritas plow plane for $259 and the Red Rose purpose built drawer bottom plane for $295.
    Lots of vintage plow planes out there for substantially less. I just picked up a Record 044 for about a third the cost of the Veritas. (I have the Veritas, and it's a great plane, but there are definitely vintage options.)

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the replies so far. David, I'm definitely considering making the drawers similar to the tills described in the ATC book, but I'm also thinking about using them as practice for future joinery tasks. I revied some recent threads and Derek from Perth obviously has a wealth of knowledge that he shares on here. Mighty kind of him.

    As far as slips are concerned, are they just glued to the thin drawer side? or is there a fastener or pin in there somewhere?

  6. #6
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    +1 on the vintage plow (plough) planes. I have a Record 044 and I simply enjoy using it. In fact, I used it earlier today to plow some grooves for drawer fronts and draw bottoms. I have nothing against the Veritas plow and it is highly thought of but itís expensive. The Record 043 is usually a bit cheaper than the 044 and just as easy to use. Both are easy to find with cutters. If you happen to find an 044 without cutters, I am fairly certain the Veritas cutters will work with the 044.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Zor View Post
    … I'm definitely considering making the drawers similar to the tills described in the ATC book, but I'm also thinking about using them as practice for future joinery tasks.
    Since this is going to be more than a one off proposition my suggestion would be to consider acquiring one of the previously mentioned planes or even a Stanley #45 or #50.

    Depending on your locality, the material for drawer slips might have to be made in your shop. That is likely possible if you have a table saw. You might even be able to cut slots in drawer sides with a table saw. My not having a table saw means my thoughts on this could be very wrong.

    For drawer bottoms plywood works for me. If you notice on a lot of drawer builds the back of the drawer is made to allow the bottom to slide in and out. It makes for easy replacement if or when needed.

    Another option is to make your own wooden plane to use a 1/4" chisel as the blade for cutting the slots for drawer bottoms.

    Here is an old post on that > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?205868

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 09-25-2022 at 5:57 PM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Zor View Post
    Thanks for the replies so far. David, I'm definitely considering making the drawers similar to the tills described in the ATC book, but I'm also thinking about using them as practice for future joinery tasks. I revied some recent threads and Derek from Perth obviously has a wealth of knowledge that he shares on here. Mighty kind of him.

    As far as slips are concerned, are they just glued to the thin drawer side? or is there a fastener or pin in there somewhere?
    Yes, Derek is a treasure and his generosity is amazing.

    As far as the slips, I think they're usually just glued. (It's long grain to long grain.) But I can't think of why you couldn't pin them.

    BTW- if making slips you'd still want a plow plane, or something to cut grooves.

  9. #9
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    Jim, like you I don't have a table saw, and I'd prefer to keep it that way. For machinery I've got a bandsaw, drill press and am in the process of putting together an old Delta/Milwaukee lathe from the 40's for turning spindles. I also recently bought a "lunchbox" planer since my closest source for lumber is a local sawmill that is almost exclusively rough sawn p. pine, fir and larch. I know it's not ideal for furniture construction, but it is available and very reasonably priced. Northwest Montana isn't exactly known for her hardwoods.

    I'll now be on the hunt for a Record 043 or 044. Thank you all for the suggestions.

    Now, on to the bottoms themselves... Is 1/4" plywood an acceptable option for non-period work? Is there a product at available at home centers that is a go-to for some of you?

  10. #10
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    David, there are basically three ways to attach a drawer bottom: grooves in the drawer sides, slips glued to the drawer sides, and nailed on.

    Nailed drawer bottoms are still often a feature of Japanese furniture. I see the value for fast production, but this method lack elegance.

    The choice is either grooves or slips. Slips are a choice when drawer sides are thin, say 6 or 7mm thick. They do two things: provide a groove for the drawer side without weakening the thin drawer sides; secondly, they add a wider registration/running surface to the underside of the drawer side. This extends the life of the drawer side and the drawer blades.

    Below is a drawer where the slips can be seen from the rear …



    All the drawers I build for chests, tables and other non-workshop furniture use thin sides as I find this more attractive that the more common 12mm thick drawer sides I find commonly in USA furniture. The thinner drawer sides are likely an influence from the UK.

    Drawer bottoms into rounded drawer slips. This was David Charlesworth’s favourite method …




    This is my method for making a drawer slip …

    Plane a groove in a board. This is Tasmanian Oak. The plane is the Veritas Small Plow. The board is held on an adjustable sticking board.



    Round the top with a beading plane …



    Then rip away the slip …



    It is not essential, but you can add a tenon at the end. This aids alignment with the groove behind the drawer front.

    I shall not go into this further here. Too many details. This is just the basics. Ask if you want more.

    Drawer bottoms are 99% solid wood, with the grain running across the drawer. This permits expansion towards the rear and not the sides (which would cause binding). I only use ply if the drawers are for the workshop.

    Drawer thickness, if planed down using a thicknesser/planer, is generally 1/4”. A 1/8” rebate may be used with slips to raise them level with the beaded top. Frankly, you can use whatever thickness you want (as long as it fits underneath the drawer) and then just chamfer the edges to fit the groove.

    Here is a drawer bottom rebate with a test slip …





    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Last edited by Derek Cohen; 09-25-2022 at 10:19 PM.

  11. #11
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    I use the Veritas small plow plane and really like it. Before I got it I cut the grooves for a couple of drawers using a chisel. That is do-able, but a plow plane (or some other solution) makes the job much faster and easier.

    I use 1/4” ply for almost every drawer bottom, unless I am being very fancy. Home Depot usually has decent grade ply. You do want to check it carefully though. 1/4” is not always 1/4”. If it is a little over you can plane it to fit, but it is really easy to go all the way through the outer ply. I got a 3/16 blade for my plow plane so I can use the stuff that is a little under-sized.

    I have a Woodcraft near me and I usually spring for some of their Baltic birch. It’s much nicer. I haven’t bought any in a while, so I have no idea about current price or availability.

  12. #12
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    Derek, love the adjustable sticking board. Is that on your site? Need to check later.

    Thanks, hope all is well.
    Kevin

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Adams View Post
    Derek, love the adjustable sticking board. Is that on your site? Need to check later.

    Thanks, hope all is well.
    Kevin
    Thanks Kevin. Here is the link: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/ShopMad...ingBoard2.html




    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  14. #14
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    Thanks, Derek, nice work as always!

    Kevin

  15. #15
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    Use slips so you don't have to weaken the drawer side by ploughing a groove into it.

    Slips are a perfect opportunity to use hot hide glue as well. You can add a little pin or two, front and back and in the groove, after the glue fully sets in a day or so. Punch the head of the pin down and make sure it's not so long it'll come out of the drawer side.

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