Painted Chest with Drawers

Here is an example of William and Mary painted chests of drawers. I have always liked the look of these painted pieces and wanted to try building something  with this feel for a long time.

William and Mary chest of drawers

Two years ago I acquired a pile of 9′ long 19″ wide white pine boards, actually it was a log I had a local saw mill saw for me. I had used all but the last 3 boards, I decided to build a chest with drawers using this pine for the case. Here’s how mine came out.

Chest with drawers


When I got this wood it was green,  The ends were coated with anchor seal, and it was stacked and stickered, in an out door shed with a dirt floor. These last 3 boards were too close to the ground and cupped quite a bit. The first step was to bring them into the shop, let them acclimate and see what happens. I stood the 3 boards against the wall, they tested at 14% moisture. They were left against the wall until they tested the same as other wood that had been in the shop all winter, that was 8%.

One of the three boards

When the moisture reached 8% I broke the boards down into their rough lengths. I cut the 2 sides, the top, the chest front and the drawer fronts out of the wide pine. The drawer divider, case bottom and the chest bottom were glued up from narrower stock that was rubbed together with hide glue.

The 2 side boards

Case bottom, chest bottom and 2 sides

All the pieces were flattened with a scrub plane, cleaned up with a jack and prepared for joinery. Some of the parts were too cupped and needed to be ripped, jointed and reassembled by rubbing together with hide glue.

Chest front being flattened


The case sides and bottom were dovetailed together. The sides received a stopped rebate to house the front panel and a full rebate to house the back boards. They also received a dado for the drawer divider and a half sliding dove tail for the chest bottom. All the joinery was cut with hand tools.

Sides and chest bottom

An additional dado was cut into the right side to house the bottom of a till.

Case bottom, right side, left side, Chest bottom, drawer divider

The half sliding dove tail was cut into the chest bottom.

Male portion of half blind dove tail


The sides, case bottom, chest bottom and chest front were glued together.

Case glue up

The final fitting of the drawer divider was completed.

Fitting drawer divider

Here is a picture of the case from the rear. The upper portion is the chest, you can see the dado for the till and the 2 spaces for the drawers below. I still have to put the dadoes for the till into the front board, which I should have done before the glue up.

Rear view of case

Next I prepared the half lap back boards using a moving fillister plane.

Half lap back board

The top back board is dado-ed to house the till and nailed on to the case installing the till at the same time. The till lid pivots on tabs cut into the lid.

Top back board and till

Till with lid closed

The remaining back boards are nailed on with rose head hammered nails.

Half lap back boards

Four corner blocks, 3 spacers and 4 feet were glued to to the bottom of the case. The feet were turned from chunks of elm branch  out of my fire wood pile. They were center drilled to keep them from splitting. The corner blocks and feet were drilled for dowels prior to gluing.

Bottom of case

At this point in order to be able to plane and clean up the exterior of the case I had to deal with 2 knots on the front and 2 on the top.

Knots on front

I routed out the knots and difficult grain around them about a 1/4″ deep, then glued in a 3/8″ plug and planed the plugs flush.

Plugs inlayed in front

Knot inlays in top

After the knots were inlaid all the surfaces were planed and readied for trim. The moldings used were a simple Ogee for the base and an Astragal around the drawers and arranged to simulate drawers on the front of the chest. All the moldings were made with hollows and rounds.

Making moldings

Case with moldings

Next 2 battens were made and attached to the top. The edges of the top were profiled and the top was attached to the case with snipe hinges.


Completed case

The 2 drawers were built next. The sides were half blind dove tailed to the front and through dove tailed to the back. The solid wood bottom was nailed into rebates in the front and sides, then slides were glued to the bottom. This is typical 18th century drawer construction. The pulls are temporarily installed.

Chest with drawers

Chest with drawers

In a future post I will cover the finishing.

About millcrek

This entry was posted in Case Furniture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s