Hand Tools Rule! Fitting the Interior Drawer Frames

Hand Tools Rule!

Hand Tools Rule!


Some of you may have been worried in the last few dresser building posts that I may have rejected the use of hand tools. Well, this is definitely not so.

Hand tools rule in this part of the dresser build. I don’t know how I would do without them. In fact this part would be impossible without my trusty hand tools!

I am fitting the interior of the mortise and tenon frames; this is the part the drawers will slide on.

The frames are set in dados and notches that I cut into the legs. The process for cutting dados in a wide board are very much the same as the method I teach in our classes both online and on campus.

A knife is extremely useful for this operation to mark the location of the frames. It is extremely accurate and really the only way to accurately transfer the marks. I started by ganging up the legs and transferring the frame locations.

Scribing the frame locations


I start with a knife line and then create a knife wall using a skew cut with a 1″ chisel.

Creating a knife wall


I then used my new Lie-Nielsen Crosscut saw for cutting the sides of the dados. I would like to make one little interjection here.

Recently I received an email that I had a package from Lie-Nielsen coming my way. I wondered if there was some problem as I had not ordered anything from them as of late. The package arrived and it was two beautiful Saws, a tapered dovetail saw and this nice 14″ crosscut saw. The only problem is that they were sent from an anonymous donor! I stuck them under my bench as they were too nice to use, but recently pulled them out and have really been enjoying them. Every time I pick up one of those saws, I thank the anonymous person that sent them to me. I tried to find out who it was but I did not succeed. So if it was you, I am deeply thankful to you for making my work more enjoyable with some wonderful new tools!

Crosscutting the dado walls


Using a chisel to rough remove the waste, keeping the bevel down so that it forces the chip up and out.

Removing the waste with a chisel


I am using my trusty Stanley router plane to remove the rest of the material and to bring a consistent depth to the bottom of the entire dado.

Cordless router made by Stanley!


In the picture below you can see the notches that I cut into the legs to hold the frames in place in addition to the dados. You will also see that I have cut some notches in the frame as well; the reason being is so that I don’t remove too much material from the legs, thus weakening the legs.

Internal joinery complete

Internal joinery complete


It is very important to dry fit the whole thing together as I have begun to do here. The glue up is next and that can be a stressful time. In fact, I will glue up the two side panels to the legs first and let them dry, then it’s on to the whole frame glue up!

Case almost done dry fitting


Frank Strazza

Want to learn to make fine furniture like this yourself? See our Advanced Furniture Making Courses, including our 4 Drawer Dresser course. Be sure to check out our online woodworking courses as well for more on cutting dados and other joints.

2 Responses to Hand Tools Rule! Fitting the Interior Drawer Frames

  1. Nabil Abdo October 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM #

    Hey Frank,

    I have seen these frame and panel constructed chest with a shallow dado in the back frame and panel to that seats the web frame. Are these frames only held in by the side panel dado and the mortises in the posts?


    • Frank Strazza October 24, 2014 at 9:53 PM #

      Hello Nabil,

      Thank you for commenting on my blog. I only did the dados on the sides and the notches in the legs. The frames are quite solid, about 3″ wide and 3/4″ thick. I thought about screwing and plugging from the back or possibly putting a glue block in the back, but I think its going to be just fine with out these options.

      I suppose a dado would have been nice in the back but would have definitely made a complex case even more complex!

      Hope this helps.