Finishing Touches on the Dresser Project

Completion and Finishing Touches

Final Drawer Alignment

The drawers are inset by 1/8″. This is done by having them held in place with squares as shown or a wooden jig. It is important to have both front corners held in place at once as it is very easy to accidentally move the drawer while gluing and pinning the stop blocks in from the back. I prefer to use pins rather than brads to secure the blocks while the glue dries.   The blocks are rather small and brads will often cause them to split.  I also typically use thick superglue for this step.

Hardware installation

When marking the drawers for the hardware you can either make dedicated jigs or mark each drawer. For this I use masking tape and a fine point Sharpie. The reason for the sharpie is that no pressure is required and there is not a chance of a line telegraphing through the tape into the finish as with a pencil, especially for softer woods. Also if there is an errant mark on the drawer from the Sharpie, it is easily removed with xylene and does not harm the finish.

Note that I have also placed marks on the square so I have a firm reference and avoid mistakes.   For the vertical alignment I run the marker along with a square set tot the correct distance from the bottom of the drawer- direct transfer rather than more measuring.

Each of the kids wanted a different style of hardware.  Jessie selected glass knobs. These have screws permanently attached which are too long. Rather than measuring and marking each one individually, I made the spacer block shown below. This made the cutting much easier and helped prevent them from turning while cutting on the bandsaw. I plan to use this trick when cutting other screws on the bandsaw in the future.


The backs are covered with  1/4″ plywood. The oak plywood shown was actually quite reasonable.

The notches in the back are hand holds. They line up with the bottom of the 2nd row of drawer supports. Each is about 1.5×5″. This makes moving the dressers much easier, especially up and down stairs.



The tops are screwed on from below with #10 1 1/4″ flat head screws run up through the front and back rails.

Front Leveling Feet

When placing dressers against the wall on carpeting, they will typically lean forward. This is due to the rear feet being on the perimeter tack strip under the carpet. Adding screw in leveling feet in the front corners allows you to then raise the front until the back is again parallel to the wall.

Final results



Actually it is for Sawyer’s room. He sure seems pleased.


In this shot I am still waiting for the rest of the handles and next time I need to remember to dust before shooting photos.


This has been quite the project and it is nice to have it completed. Now I just have 2 more deliveries to do and then straighten up the shop for the next project.

Beef Stew (a.k.a. Beef Bourguignon)

Beef stew

One of our favorite mid-winter dinners is a hearty beef stew accompanied by fresh baked bread.   The bread of choice today is a Sourdough Baguette but almost anything freshly baked will do.


The meat is a chuck roast of about 3 lbs. Break apart along the seams and trim off all of the visible fat.  Cut into 3/4″ cubes

Dredge the meat pieces in flour which has some salt, pepper and granulated garlic added  . About 1c flour, 1/2 tsp salt , 1/2 tsp black pepper and about 1 tsp granulated garlic mixed.

With your largest and widest deep pan such as a dutch oven , melt 1.5 Tbsp bacon grease. Dredge 1/2 of the beef in the flour mix and then add in a single layer to the pan. Now on medium to medium high heat (it should not be smoking much if at all), let it sit for 8 minutes or until well browned on the lower side. Flip and let sit another 6-7 minute until browned. Now remove form the pan along with all of the delicious scrapings and set aside on a plate.  Add another 1.5 Tbsp bacon grease and do the same for the rest of the meat.  The careful browning of the meat is one of the most important steps in making the stew. The caramelization of the meat adds flavor and color. This step is the biggest contributor to the final results being a rich brown color rather than grey.

At the end of the cooking push the meat to the side, add 1.5 Tbsp sweet Paprika and continue cooking for another 2 minutes stirring after 1 minute.

Now add the rest of the ingredients below.

Potatoes and veggies

4 lbs russet potatoes peeled and cubed to about 3/4″

3 lbs carrots peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks

3 large onions diced to about 1/2″

1 bulb of garlic finely chopped

Herbs & wine

2-4 Tbsp dried French Thyme

4 or 5 Bay leaves

1 tsp Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp dried Oregano

1 liter burgundy

1 Tbsp Better than Bouillon vegetable base

1 small can (8 oz) tomato paste

1.5-2 c water

1/4 c flour  (balance of the flour used to dredge the meat)


Cover the pan and bake at 300F for 4-6 hours. Stir every hour and be sure to taste the scrapings.

Serve with the fresh bread you baked in the meantime and more of the wine.

Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Stuffed thighs are better than stuffed breasts

You will find many recipes for stuffed chicken breasts. However stuffing chicken thighs produces a taster and juicier dish.  A few years ago we were set to make stuffed chicken breasts and only had a package of thighs on hand.  It takes a bit of a lighter touch as the meat is not as uniform but we won’t go back. They are so much more tender, juicy and flavorful (as well as less expensive) .  I use boneless , skinless thighs which are typically found 4 per package.

Prep the meat

Remove the fat and butterfly any thick sections slicing form the center outwards and then folding the flap out. Pound out under a piece of plastic (the top of the package they came in works well) until about 1/4″ thick.  They will be irregular and have holes – don’t worry.

Prep the stuffing

1.5 cups net of frozen spinach thawed and wrung out well. You may need 2-3 cups to start with before wringing out the extra juice.

1 c shredded cheese . We like 4 cheese mexican blend

1/3 c finely chopped onion

3 cloves garlic finely chopped

Microwave the onion and garlic for one and about 90 seconds and let sit for another 3 minutes covered. You want them to be translucent and not browned.

1/2 tsp dried oregano – roll in your palm to crumble

1/2 tsp dried basil  – roll in your palm to crumble

Mix all of the stuffing ingredients, being sure to break up the lumps of spinach.   Having the spinach and cheese well mixed helps keep it from leaking out while baking.

Coating mix

1c Panko crumbs

3 Tbsp pine nuts crushed

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese (“green can cheese” is ideal for this)

Stuff, roll and coat

Place 1/4 of the stuffing mix on each thigh, fold over and roll lightly. Place 1 wrap of string in each direction (along the roll direction and across like putting ribbon on a package) .

Dredge in flour, then in a beaten egg to which salt and pepper has been added.

Roll in the crumb mix and pat down to set the crumbs. Let sit for 10-20 min.  which helps the coating stick better.

Pan fry and Bake

Heat 1.5 Tbsp bacon grease in an oven proof pan

Brown on 3 sides , roll to the 4th side  and then place in 350 degree oven on convect for 25 min. Internal temperature should be 160F when done.

Variation – Greek style

Instead of shredded cheese blend , substitute feta cheese.

Leave out the basil and double the oregano

Add  grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon  to the stuffing mix

After baking, squeeze juice of  1/2 lemon over the tops



Staining the dressers

Finishing for “pop”

With the quarter sawn oak, I want to enhance the grain figure while also making the mix of white and red oak piece blend together.  Additionally the finish requests were for 2 different colors.  David and Elyse wanted a traditional Mission Oak style color and Jessie wanted a “Cherry” finish. This matches the colors of the beds and dressers I had made for them previously.   The technique borrows from one that I had learned from Jeff Jewitt of at a Wisconsin Woodworking Guild class a number of  years ago.


The finishing schedule uses a base coat of dye, a barrier coat that locks in and protects the dye which is then sanded, a gel stain and top coats. I prefer to spray the finishes as the dyes can be tricky to do by hand  and it goes a whole lot quicker.  However if you are heavy handed with the coats they will tend to mottle. Go lightly and build gently – more coats is better than 1 heavy one.  RESIST the urge to touch up the dye. It WILL appear to be uneven when initially drying but trust that you have laid it on evenly ant it will turn out in the end.

For David and Eyse’s:

  • Transtint medium brown dye in alcohol (1 oz to 1 qt)  – 2 light coats
  • Blond shellac 1.5 lb cut – Zinsner seal coat dewaxed  diluted by 50% with alcohol.  Apply 2 light coats.
  • Sand 320 grit  – full scratch – no glossy spots
  • Minwax Bolivian Rosewood Gel stain. Wipe on, let sit 10 min and wipe off (hard)

After the shellac  (this was a bit heavy, leading to some splotching prior to sanding)


After Sanding . 320 grit full scratch.

After gel stain

For Jessie’s

  • Behlen Solarlux dye – Golden Fruitwood – 2 light coats
  • Garnet shellac (hock or 1.5 lb cut – 2 light coats.  Garnet shellacs vary in color a lot.  I use a “red” garnet vs a “brown” garnet
  • Sand 320 grit  – full scratch – no glossy spots
  • General Finishes gel stain – custom mix – 2 parts CandleLight to 1 part Georgian Cherry

For all

Apply finish coats  – typically 4 coats sanded after 2 coats and then final 2  – all sprayed

If spraying indoors in the winter I use General Finishes Endurovar Pre cat Urethane.  With 2 coats gloss and 2 coats satin. If you do all satin it will appear cloudy. All gloss and it is too shiny and I have not had great success rubbing this one out to satin.

If spraying outdoors I use Sherwin Williams Pre-cat Lacquer  Hand rubbed satin finish.   This stuff is wonderful.


All of these have some level of toxicity or at least particulate damage to your lungs. Spraying indoors is hazardous.  Any flammables (including alcohol) in the finish pose a fire and explosion hazard and lacquer certainly is a good way to make your house go “BOOM” which is why I only use it outdoors.     Relying on open windows or doors is not enough and in our wisconsin winters it is a serious problem (low temps and high winds on my west facing shop door).    For this project I was finishing while it was -5 to +8 F outside.

Wear a respirator and make sure the filter cartridges are fresh.  I sometimes forget with shellac and end up with a headache and decreasing finish quality during the session  – typically getting too heavy as the alcohol takes hold.  Not recommended. Water based finishes still have solvents in them and the particles are nasty lung irritants.   I also run a ceiling mounted air cleaner when finishing (box with a furnace blower and filters) which helps a lot.

Drawer ends

With the dovetail ends, the question arises of: “Where do you end the stain?”   Stopping at the edge of the top leaves light lines in what should be the shadows of the drawer edges and ruins the separation effect. Just swiping down the sides is ugly. Trying to stain all the individual dovetails is madness. So I mask off at the top of the dovetails and stop staining there. It makes for a nice transition.


All of the photos are without the final finish coats which will add yet more depth. However, I need to let the stain cure for at least 3 days and a few above zero days to apply the finish (to allow for reasonable ventilation).