Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Drawers for a Workbench

This time last year, I was building a 6ft long solid beech workbench on my drive way. Ever since I finished that build (and I’ll have a ‘reminder’ post for you, hopefully within the next week), I’ve been meaning to fit a series of drawers underneath. Well, I have more spare wood than every in my workshop right now. I’ve been so sick of stumbling and tripping over it lately that I decided, last week, to take a break away from my other projects and to get these three drawers done instead.

Not long after completing the bench build (end of June?), I produced a cutting list from my SketchUp drawing and initially roughed out some 1in beech for the fronts, which a load of tulipwood (poplar) that I had for the sides and backs. These boards were about 1ΒΌin and needed to first be ripped in two on my former SIP bandsaw, where I was aiming to get a finished thickness of at least 10mm. But, when I bought all this 2in ash in from college the other week, I decided that would be an even better – it’s harder, more durable and should last a lot longer than poplar, which is about as soft as hardwoods come. I was also thinking about buying some 1ΒΌin oak at one point but, the last thing my workshop needs is more wood!! πŸ˜€

Tulipwood or Poplar.

I don’t know what to do with these bits now so, if anyone’s interested, I’d be quite happy to sell it for a low price, bearing in mind that the average thickness is about 16mm, with one sawn face. Bear in mind, though, that those thicker boards underneath are beech and are not for sale! πŸ˜‰

That shot reminds me of how spacious my workshop after reorganising to fit my new bench in and having a small 12in bandsaw… As much as I love having a 16in saw that’ll happily resaw wood all day long, it still commands its fair share of floor space… One day though, I hope to be able to move in to a larger space… I don’t think I had a lathe back then, either and there’s now a cast iron bench top mortiser sat where you can see my disc sander in the background.

Some time between then and now [it might have been early this year?], I spent a couple of hours sawing up a sheet of 18mm exterior plywood, which would for the simple carcase for the drawers. Nothing particularly special about the way this unit was jointed (rebates, screws and lots of glue) but, I did choose to lip the front edges of the ply with 6mm thick brown oak, mitred at the corners. When you’ve gone to the effort of making a an entire workbench from solid beech, it just gives the drawer carcase (otherwise bordering on crude) that little extra touch.

Lipping the plywood edges.

The drawers themselves took only a couple of afternoons to make, with all corners jointed using hand-cut dovetails. After preparing the timber on my planer-thicknesser, I used the sides as a template to space the runners (more brown oak) correctly. These are glued and screwed in place from the outside; again, nothing fancy about this. No need for a front or back drawer rail, either. As the drawer fronts will overlap and hide the runners, I could set them back from the front edge of the carcase (20mm) and use them as a travel stop to prevent the drawers from going too far back and disappearing.

Spacing the drawer runners.

Before assembling the drawers, I gave all the inside faces a coat of Chestnut’s Lemon Oil, for a change. I’m hoping this will reveal a pleasant aroma when each drawer is opening (and, perhaps also, to help the fight against depression…), as other oil finishes are renown for smelling “horrible” and even “rancid” once they’ve been cooped for long periods of time… The smell wasn’t initially as strong as I was expecting but, this was another one of those finishes I purchased back in 2008. Oils don’t last for ever and, even despite the fact that I hadn’t opened the tin until recently, there’s a chance it may have ‘gone off‘ slightly in all this time… I’d say it smells more like lemon-flavoured boiled sweets, rather than lemonade or similar. It is quite pleasant and I will try to use it again in a real project. πŸ˜‰Β  It does darken lighter timbers but not quite to the same extent as Danish oil (which I used for the outsides). You may also be able to see, in the photo below, that the first coat was quite “blotchy“… Well, it certainly soaked in to the beech very quickly; more so in some areas than in others. Ash was much more consistent. One downside is that it takes a good twenty-four hours to dry properly – we’re not talking raw linseed oil-drying times here but, I found that my rags were still soft (and dry) several days later.

Using Chestnut's Lemon Oil.

I glued each drawer up in turn, checking that they were roughly square. Using Titebond I gave me a real advantage here, as I could free up my short supply of sash cramps after only half an hour for each drawer. There’s a central muntin and two drawer slips in either side to take the 6mm plywood I’m using for the bases. All the edges were rebated for simplicity, rather than to do it the traditional way; grooving the slips and muntin and then rebating the base edges to suit. It also allowed me to be ‘economical‘ in using up my plywood offcuts. πŸ˜‰ When gluing the other components in, I used a sash cramp to pull the diagonals in to place, meaning the muntin, once glued in, would hold the drawer perfectly square until the glue dried. 😎

Squaring up the drawers.

I did get to use my drawer planing-jig again, which I made last summer to assist in the construction of a pine chest of drawers.

I’m quite pleased with the way these drawers came out. I rushed them a bit but, the dovetails still look very good. I fear that using oak would’ve been a bad choice as it would ultimately have meant the sides would be the same colour as or darken than the pins from the drawer fronts.

Grain-matching” of the drawer fronts wasn’t perfect but, on something like this (for the workshop!), it really doesn’t matter. I’ve already begun filling these drawers and I’m thinking of buying some rubber mats to line the insides. That should stop some of my chisels and things from rolling about so much, each time the drawers are opened or closed.

You’ll have noticed the handles, by now… πŸ˜‰

These also turned out very well yet, as I’ve said before; whenever I’m building something with at least one drawer, this always feels like the hardest part, to me; getting the hardware right. As woodworkers though, I believe we should aim to be as creative as possible [although, I am going to contradict that statement, next week… :roll:], instead of buying something off the shelf.

What you won’t have seen, though, is the little touch I added to the rear of each drawer muntin…

Yes, I do like to think that these drawers, along with the workbench, will be around for decades and generations to come. With technology increasing all the time, they should be able to find out who I was!! πŸ˜€ A bit like in that film, A.I. …Only, without the aliens!

Already, they’ve helped to ease the congestion of tool storage in my workshop and I’m kicking myself for not doing this much sooner! It’s also freed up some valuable space within my secure filing cabinet (which is where my valuable hand planes will remain). Though, I will endeavour to make as much use of the tool well boxes as possible (these were also finished with lemon oil, just for your information).

As I said at the beginning; I’ll be briefly revisiting the Summer 2009 build of my workbench, for those who missed it the first time around – stay tuned for that! There are still a couple of other alterations I’d like to make to my year-old workbench but, I’m sure those will come, in time.

Thanks for reading.

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6 responses to “Drawers for a Workbench

  1. correawoodworks 13/06/2010 at 03:10

    Nicely done. The half blind joints are done very well. I like the hand cut joints and the date stamp is very cool. How is the chair coming along?

    • Olly Parry-Jones 13/06/2010 at 10:02

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for your comments.

      The chair is almost done, I just don’t have the time to work on it at the minute as we’re in the middle of a practical exam at college right now (remember the sketches of a wall cabinet I put up a few weeks ago? That’s what I’m making). I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to photograph it without the clamps on!

      Stamping my initials and date is something I try to do with just about everything I make now (mostly furniture). Most of the time, they’re pretty well hidden (top end of a table leg, for example) but, it’s nice to no they’re there and I like to think someone will find them in decades to come… πŸ™‚ I would like to get a proper stamp made up but, for now, I’m quite happy using a cheap set of letter and number punches (at least, until I can come up with a logo or similar).

      Thanks also for putting a link to this blog on your site – I’ll have to return the favour! πŸ˜‰

      Olly.

  2. James 14/06/2010 at 01:40

    Lovely Olly, to nice for an under bench, your workman ship is impeccable!

  3. Ben Plewes 14/06/2010 at 14:38

    Nicely done Olly! Dovetails look cracking.

    Does the location of the drawer unit limit your use of bench dogs and holdfasts?

    • Olly Parry-Jones 14/06/2010 at 18:10

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your message.

      That rail you can see about the drawer unit is a good six inches below the top of the bench – I used that space to store my shooting boards and other workbench jigs (it also gives plenty of clearance for the big Record vice). So, no, it doesn’t interfere at all. Unlike some of the jigs, however…! πŸ˜€

  4. Ben Plewes 16/06/2010 at 13:02

    Sounds like you’ve thought it all through Olly. It’s a great idea – I might have to follow your example on this…

I welcome your thoughts.

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