Building the Drawers
The drawers on this case are constructed with (non-period) fitting strips glued to each side. These 3/8″ x 5/8″ hardwood strips are glued to both sides of the drawers for two reasons: First, they reduce the friction when the drawers are opened and closed, and second, their presence reduces the amount of material that must be planed to fit when installing the drawers. The presence of these strips means the rabbets on the back side of each end of each of the drawer fronts must be wide enough to accommodate both the drawer lip and the fitting strip.
The front side of each of the drawer fronts has a molded edge all around with a rabbet on the back side on only the top and each end. I assembled the drawers with half-blind dovetails in the front and through dovetails in the back.
The 9/16″-thick drawer bottoms are tapered to a 1/4″ thickness on the front and both sides. These 1/4″ edges are slid into matching grooves plowed on the inside of the drawer sides and the back of the drawer fronts. The bottoms are held in place with screws that pass through notches into the bottom edge of the drawer back.
Three of the drawers have locks with escutcheon plates integrated with their respective hardware. If you choose to include this detail, you must lay out the mortise for the lock on the back of the drawer face.
The lock will have a mortise and escutcheon on the adjacent rail to accept the bolt.
When the drawers are complete and fitted, attach the ship-lap back pieces and move on to finishing.
Sanding doesn’t begin after the piece is assembled. It’s an ongoing process that begins — in the case of this highboy — with the creation of the cabriole legs. After surfacing those forms with a plane, a drawknife, a spokeshave, scrapers and rasps, I sanded them with 100-grit paper, followed by 150- and 220-grit papers, each grit removing the scratches left by the previous grit. Similarly, every other part of the highboy was sanded before installation, and sanding of assembled parts occurred periodically throughout the construction process to clean up the inevitable dings and scratches that occur as a piece is constructed.
Then, when the piece was officially done, every surface was resanded, beginning with whatever grit was necessary, and progressing up through a number of grits, ending with 400-grit paper on exterior surfaces and 220 grit paper on interior surfaces like drawer sides.
I then brushed on and wiped off a blended poly designed for that style of application. When the first coat had dried thoroughly — at least 24 hours in humid Ohio — I sanded again with 400- and then 600-grit paper on exterior surfaces, 220 on interior surfaces. A second coat of finish went on next, followed by more sanding. I then applied the last coat of finish.
Once the finish has cured, I think you have earned a moment or two of proud reflection on a job well done. Like your predecessors in woodworking, you have crafted a significant project.