Baby crib design start

Now that we have a starting point for the design, it is time to start gathering dimensions from the photos.   Traditionally, I have done this by printing photos at half or full sheet and then scaling it manually.  My goal when borrowing from an existing design is not an exact replica but rather using the original as a model to start for overall proportions.  I am not into doing reproductions. Additionally, in this case I am making improvements in the design.

First, I will note the major known dimensions. In this case it is overall height width and depth. This is done on each photo. Do not assume (or forget) that the scaling will be different in each  image.  Next the actual size in the photo for these is measured and the scaling amount calculated. I will normally do the actual measurements in mm to make the math easier (avoiding fractions). You can use a caliper or ruler – I like using a caliper.

I double check that the X&Y dimensions yield similar results.  If all you have is an angled or isometric view then this gets more complicated. Now I take measurements of measured features and do the math in a spreadsheet so I have a listing of my measurements and can easily double check for errors in case of a conflict.    I will also do the actual photo measurements in one color and the final scaled in another to avoid mix-ups

I will typically start on paper and make sure that the dimensions make some sense before transferring to Sketchup.

You can also import a photo into sketchup and then start drawing your components on top of it.  For rectilinear pieces it is better to use it to set a few lines and then draw as you normally would. Trying to match the photo underneath will otherwise lead to errors and out of parallel edges.

Here I have started with the curved end pieces. With the rudimentary curve drawing tools in Sketchup (arcs, lines and bezier curves) it took a lot of tries to get something that looked decent. I wish I could have gotten the NURBS lines to work which offer much more control.  At this point I will lay down a couple of lines to mark the lower rails and then hide the photo. So now I can move into 3D space.  each of the parts show becomes a component so I can mirror them for the other end and all of the modifications transfer as I work back and forth.

The top and bottom rails are then fit to the end posts.  Now I mirror the ends, and set them approximately the right distance apart. I am still not sure if the end top and bottom rails will fully or partially overlap the legs.

Next come the bottom rails and I then draw guide lines up the leg posts to show where the top rail should line up vertically and the  offset for the spindles from the inside edge.  The inside spacing is an important dimension as you are only allowed 28 +-5/8″ by CPSC guidelines so you don’t have too big a gap around a standard crib mattress.

The front top rail is next. It took a few tries to get something that is not too thick.  I may still make it a bit taller. Lets see after the rear top rail is in place. 

Now with the the back rail placed, and the frame colorized you can see the shapes better. I think it looks better with the taller top rails, but lest see what the girls say tomorrow.

Baby Crib Project

Baby Crib Project

My daughters, Jessie and Elyse, are both due at the end of March 2018. Jessie still needs a crib. So the question of: “What is the next project?” has been decided, and I have a rather short timeline. However, if push comes to shove, she can use the same cradle that she slept in as a baby that my dad made, while I finish the crib.    This is another project where I am following in my Father’s footsteps making things for the grandkids.

Basic requirements:

  • Solid back – avoid little fingers finding outlets and easier cleanup after dinner gets launched. Flat panel rather than raised panel per Jessie’s preference.
  • Adjustable mattress height
  • Convertible to a bed.  This will make it last, rather than be a 2 year item.   Appearance as a bed will take precedence over appearance as a crib.
  • Follow CPSC guidelines for safety.  This includes no cut outs – so much for Mackintosh style slats I had wanted to do on the CNC router (besides Teal and Jessie are not fans).
  • Design needs to complement the other furniture I have made for Jessie which is of a craftsman style and have the same finish

So we have been digging through many Google Images, Pinterest, LumberJocks and many other websites looking for ideas as a launch point.  There are a lot of ugly cribs out there! Besides, many designs that look OK as a crib  do not look very good as a bed.  On top of it you have the predominance of MDF and particle board based junk that is on most of the web sites.

Given that Jessie is expecting a girl, I was hoping for a sleigh crib / bed sort of design. However, many “sleigh cribs” have weird lumps for curves that seem to have been tacked onto an otherwise square leg. I want something that will be smooth and flowing.  Plus, this will give me another excuse to play with the CNC router. Although, a band saw and spokeshave or template and router would probably work well, too.  For Elyse’s queen size bed, the curves were laid out on a template and then pattern cut with a band saw and router.  Her bed (ca. 2009) is shown below.

Now, I want to do something that is more “organic and flowing” for the end posts rather than ending squarely at the floor.  This is a tall order for an engineering mind.


Much has been said about the changes in safety standards for cribs. The slat spacing requirements have changed, no more drop fronts (yeah!). However I was still worried about safety and started more research. The primary resources I used are:

Where to start?

After several evenings of web searches and IM messages back and forth with Jessie, a leading candidate for the basis of the design emerged.   It is the “Franklin and Ben Mayfair Crib”.   For an example see:  Mayfair Crib  This was the first site that it popped up on. Others sites list it as discontinued.

This is just a starting point. As on many projects, I will look at multiple designs and then take the pieces I like and modify for more robust construction and the techniques that I prefer.

Things I like in the design:

  • The outside sweep of the posts – especially the inward curving feet and no “lumps”
  • Curved top rails (teething deterrent). These will end up looking more like Elyse’s sleigh bed
  • Looks nice as a bed
  • Nearly solid back
  • Openings at the ends of the back panel

Things that must be improved:

  • Flat panel in back looks like it was tacked on
  • Lots of fasteners and holes showing
  • Flat inside edges of the legs when viewed from the side
  • Extra side and bottom parts hanging on when converted to a bed
  • Front bottom rail – likely will be removed as this will not be a day bed  but rather converted to a full size directly (pending approval)

So now I need to gather basic dimensions and start the new design.

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).

Bison Rump Roast – Sous Vide


3 lb bison rump roast split lengthwise

1 bulb garlic roasted at 375 for 20 min with tops cut off and some olive oil.  The goal is to bake them without much browning. Then squeeze out the cloves and mince them.   Note that raw garlic does NOT work well for sous vide as all of the wrong flavors come out. Roasting changes the flavor.  It should have a “sweet” garlic aroma, not sharp and pungent like raw garlic.

Spice blend

1 tsp sea salt

1.5 tps fresh ground green peppercorns

1.5 tsp dried thyme (or a bunch of fresh but now my thyme is buried in snow)

1.5 tsp dried shallots

Grind the spice blend finely in a mortar and pestle

Prep & sous vide

Smear the garlic and sprinkle the spice blend on the roast pieces. Place in vacuum bag – flattened out.

Place the bag in the water bath at 130F for 22 hours (basically you are making this the night before serving). This will give a rare to medium rare center.


Over hot coals brown on each side for 60-90 seconds. The meat is extremely lean and browns (or burns) quickly.  I overshot the perfect medium rare somewhat and ended up with medium. So much for grilling when it is minus 3F .  I was not as attentive to the grill as usual.

Slice and serve

Yum. Leftovers also make great Philly Cheese Steak style sandwiches. Teal especially likes hers “wit”  (with Velveeta).

Making the Dresser Tops

This time I am using White Oak veneered MDF that is 3/4″ thick. I ran a cross a deal on some sheets that were edge damaged at Alpine Plywood when I was picking up the plywood for this project. The wood figure is beautiful.  Something to remember is going to a commercial plywood vendor will get you stock that is an order of magnitude better than at the home improvement store.  At Alpine they bring the skids of stock to your truck on a forklift and help load it in. The only seeming downside is not being able to sort and pick your sheets, but overall, again compared to the big box stuff they are beautiful with thicker surface veneers, thinner core veneers (more plies) and fewer voids and without the typical “potato chip” shape seen at Home Depot in the winter.

The MDF sheets are very heavy – about 95lbs. So this required help to maneuver them onto the table saw.  Since I needed glue ready edges, the first piece was ripped about 3/4″ wider than required. Then I flipped it around and  moved the fence and take a second pass at the final width and remove the edge dings. I use this technique a lot with sheet goods as it is very hard to get a perfectly straight cut on the first pass out of a full sheet, especially with something as heavy as this and the edges are always somewhat damaged in handling.

The MDF edges need to be banded. I am using 1/4″ thick oak on the long edges. The long edges are simply glued on and clamped with cauls to hold them flat.  At times folks will wonder about the pile of narrow sticks (1-2″ wide I have by the jointer. They are used for edge banding and later for supports while spraying the finish.  David and I got all 3 of the tops glued up with the long edge bands on in the morning. However, I nearly exhausted my clamp supply in the process.

The edge banding was quickly trimmed flush with a 1/2″ laminate trim bit in my trim router. The keys to doing this well are:

  • Light weight router – I favor my old Porter Cable.  Larger routers have a tendency to tip and gouge the edge banding
  • 1/2″ flush laminate trim bit  with the bearing set to run about 1/8″ inside of the edge of the edge banding. Laminate bits typically seem to have have a very slightly oversize bearing to leave a little of the edge for clean-up by hand vs a template bit which is more often exactly flush.
  • Moving in sections about 2 ‘ long. Don’t try to do the whole 5’ length in one pass  – you are asking for divots. As you restart the pass, alwasy keep the router moving forward to avoid burning
  • Make sure the cord is clear of any obstructions. A cord catch almost always causes a downward tip and divot the edge banding. I drop the cord  down from the ceiling when doing this.

Then finish up by scraping the edge flush with a card scraper. Take off any glue along the joint as well. Doing this 2-3 hours after initial glue up is usually best. The glue is firm, but not yet rock hard.

Adding a slight angle in the direction of travel over the veneer towards the edge banding seems to minimize tear out.  Plus angling the scraper helps you scrape off any bumps in the banding due to glue blobs deflecting the router bit. Anything from 15-60 degrees can work.

For the “breadboard ends”,  2 1/4″ oak  pieces are glued on on using 3 biscuits per end. The biscuits help with alignment as the ends are only .005-.010″ thicker than the panel as well as adding some strength in case someone attempts to pick up the dresser by the top when moving it.  Pipe clamps are needed due to the length and as you can see I even had to extend them. I keep a variety of pipes and couplings on hand in the range of 3, 4, and 5′ long. This provides a lot of flexibility on larger glue ups.

Yes, there are burn marks on the edge banding where I changed grip on the piece as I ripped it (and it liked to cup as tension was released), these will come out in the finishing passes. Plus the front black pipe is actually kinked – not a figment of your imagination.

The ends are cut only about 1/8″ longer than the top is wide. What is the left end / rear edge as viewed on the bench has the end set inwards just slightly. This will allow for the first of the clean up passes on the table saw without catching on the fence.

Note the anvil on the floor below the bench. It is a good surface to pound out the biscuits. Old biscuits will swell due to humidity and this will hinder assembly.  A few taps with a hammer thins them back out, making the assembly easy again.

The top of the ends is nearly flush and just needs some scraping. Note how the scraper is angled and I also angle the stroke of the cut towards the end.  I often switch as needed between a push stroke or pull stroke (as shown here) with the scraper.  The bottom side of the end board still needs some planing as the end boards were slightly thicker than the rest of the panel. The reason for difference top vs bottom is using the biscuits. They are referenced to the top surface  when cutting the slots.

After scraping. Can you see the joint on the banding or end???

The bottom needs to be planed to thickness and then scraped. I made the ends about 0.010-0.20″ thicker than the panel.  Be careful to keep the plane blade only on the end. You don’t want to cut into the veneer , even though I am taking very fine shavings at this point.

Final scraping on the ends. At this point, angling the scraper is mandatory. If you simply scrape across the ends, you will end up with ugly tear out which will show up when you stain. Angle the scraper and direction of your cut into the end piece. These are much less prone to tear out than the veneer of the plywood. However adjust based on the wood you have and how it is behaving.

A side note on the trim routers. Several years ago I was teaching a class on inlay work and a laminate trimmer was one of the tools needed. There was a wide variety. However as we ran them we saw the old Porter cables (metal body) & Bosch Colts ran coolest. The Dewalts got quite hot as did the newer Porter cables (plastic body) .


Fixing some defects

Defects happen

With any project there will be defects to fix, for a variety of reasons. With the batch of drawers assembled there were a few that had some gaps in the dovetails. It appears that these were mostly due to cupping of the face boards due to the rapid humidity change. Here in Wisconsin, we were getting our first cold weather over the last month and this meant a drastic drop in humidity.  Some of the drawer fronts cupped unnoticed prior to cutting the dovetails. This lead to some gaps to fill .

When I was young, and learning woodworking from my father,  he would say “A craftsman knows how to cover his tracks.”  Often for small dings and gaps he would use elmers glue and sawdust. However these fixes had to wait a day to proceed with further work and often had nasty splotching when finish was applied.  Now we have better choices of adhesives but wood as the primary filler, whether as a powder, thin strips or veneer is still the primary component.

When fixing small defects like these, as well as corner chips, I typically use thin cyanoacrylate adhesive (super glue or CA).  The bottle of glue and squirt  bottle of accelerator are always at hand when sanding, planing and scraping the parts near the end of a project.

Filler materials

In filling the gaps, it is handy to have wood flour also known as sanding dust on hand. I have multiple colors of wood flour that I have collected over the years, notably: White ash, white oak, okoume, mahogany, cherry, walnut.   Each is a match to woods I have used. Here are a few of the choices on hand. The finest are from sanding, coarser are from the band saw.   To collect a given color based on your current project, clean the air filter of the shop vac well  and then attach the vac to your sander. With a random orbit sander you will have enough for many projects after wearing out a few disks sanding. Now you just tap the sawdust off the filter  onto a piece of cardboard or into your container.

Adjusting the color

When using wood flour, the material will often be a bit darker than the background wood. This is most noticeable with epoxies which also will add their own amber or reddish tint. To lighten the color, use some high density silica powder such as West Systems 404.  I often will use 1/3 as much as the wood flour to get a decent match.  If you only need a bit of lightening colloidal silica such as West Systems 406 will work. The wood flour and high density silica was used on almost all of the fillets on the inside of the boat: . White coloring in the epoxy was used for the contrasting deck stripes:

When you need something a bit darker than the wood flour on hand, powdered “earth pigments” provide the easiest answer. I have a set of powdered pigments that I got from Lee Valley a number of years ago but these no longer seem to be available.  The powdered pigments work well whether using super glue or epoxy.   I have heard of others using powdered tempera or milk paints as colorants but have not tried them myself.  When using epoxy, then you have added options of: Universal Tinting Colors (UTCs) such as Tints-all, Mixol or Transtint dyes.   Unfortunately the Tints-all tubes crumble / fracture after a few years.

Small and tiny gaps

For tiny gaps you have 2 primary choices. Ignore them and then fill after finishing with colored wax or use the sanding dust and CA method. For the sanding dust and CA, apply a small amount of CA into the gaps and then start sanding with your random orbit sander. The sanding dust will naturally fill in the gap and the glue will harden in the power. You may have to do this a few times. If you are overzealous in your glue application you will ruing the sanding paper in short order.  If there are mixed or contrasting woods, I will often sand from the lighter wood towards the darker.

Above is an example of some tear out that would qualify as a small gap. Certainly too small to insert a piece of wood as filler.

The wood flour has been applied. Ready for the CA.

Now the CA glue has been applied. I have tried to keep the overflow on the side plywood rather than the face endgrain as much as possible.

At first, the CA and wood dust mixture will seem dark. However, it is approximately the same color the surrounding wood will darken to once coated with a clear finish.


Medium gaps

Medium gaps (1/16″ to 1/8″) can be filled with solid wood, wood flour and glue or epoxy. It varies with the background and your schedule. Here are a couple of examples.

Sawing a solid wood filler. Wedge shaped pieces offer a better opportuity for a tight fit than straight. I like cutting shallow crescents out of matching stock as this gives a nice taper and 2 filler pieces from each cut. Remember you must visualize this from the standpoint of the end grain of the piece rather than the face. 

The  cut does not need to be very shallow. I am using a 1/4″ 3 TPI blade in this photo. Yes, the blade guard is way too high but it makes for a better photo.


Here is the piece inserted into the gap in the drawer and the glue applied on the plywood side. Adding the glue on the face side makes for too much CA in the end grain and potential splotches when finishing.

Cutting it off with a zero tooth set Japanese saw. These are GREAT for cutting off not only filler pieces but also bungs for screws and many other uses.  No scratching of the surface.

The completed repair.   Nearly invisible. If I had dug a bit deeper in the scrap bin I could have yet a better match.   (yes I have a split to fix to the right of it.)

Large gaps, knots and splits

This is really a category of its own, but with tinted and filled epoxy you can have spectacular results.

This really falls into more categories. Those that are irregular and need a liquid filler or those that are small and straight and can be patched with a matching piece of wood.  I will focus on epoxy filling.  The epoxy is mixed and tinted to match the gaps appropriately. Blue masking tape works well for dams to prevent the epoxy from running out. Careful application of heat with a propane torch brings the bubbles to the surface . However practice first on scrap!

Yes it is a big project when you have to crawl on it to sand it.

And who says finishing is not fun?

Here is the rustic ash table top (7 feet long) that had knots and cracks filled with tinted epoxy.  It nearly filled my shop as you can see tools nearby on both sides. Great fun!


Trimming and fitting drawers

Design and construction elements

This design uses “flush” drawers that fit closely into the frame. Final fitting is fussier than if you are using overlay fronts. The drawers need to fit allowing for wood expansion in the summer, yet have an even appearing gap around the front edge with respect to the frame.

There are several keys to making this work:

  • Having raised runners inside of the dresser. The runners tops are about 3/32″ above the bottom of the opening. With flat drawer bottom edges this distance will set the gap below the bottom of the drawer.

  • The sides and back are cut 1/16-1/8″ shorter than the drawer fronts. This means that when doing the final trimming you only have to plane the drawer front rather than all 4 edges. This also leaves a little extra gap on the sides to eliminate binding in the summer.

  • Drawers were calculated to be a 3/16″ narrower than the opening width including plus the over cut for the dovetails on the fronts. This means that when the faces have the dovetails trimmed flush they are nearly at the correct width.
  • The drawers and dresser frame must all be square. Any out of square makes for large gaps around the drawers or drawer fronts that won’t sit flush in the frame.
  • Making sure the seasonal wood expansion does not eat up all of the vertical gap and make the drawers stick. Using quarter or rift sawn wood minimizes but does not eliminate this problem.
    Fitting and trimming

For the final fit up, slide all of the drawers into place. With this technique, every drawer will have a distinct location unless your joinery has been absolutely flawless up to this point.  In addition, with this design the grain of the drawers flows across the front from drawer to drawer. This is your last chance to check that you have the placement correct. Some will not close and others will have uneven gaps.    On the back or bottom mark them as to their location (and in this case which dresser they are for as I am making 3).

Now you can trim the sides to make each drawer slide in smoothly with a good 1/8″ gap between the top of the drawer and the runner above. Next the drawer front is trimmed for height.  Push the drawer in too far and scribe with a pencil against the rail above the drawer aiming for an even gap of about 1/8″.  Now trim with the table saw (if the cut is straight) or hand plane to adjust for a slight angle or bow of the rail.  If you have a slightly bowed rail this will require trimming of the drawers above and below the bow. After a few trimming passes  the gaps top and bottom should be equal.

Now check that the drawer can be set in flush with the rails. The final stops will be set in place after finishing. At this point you simply want to see if the drawer face can be perfectly flush with the front. If not, then the drawer or frame is out of square. To address the problem. the back edge of the drawer sides must be beveled to allow for clearance around the rear frame and angling of the drawer so that the front can be flush. Alternatively the drawer front can be planed to adjust the fit. However, if done on the inner ends of the face, this will cause the grain flow across the front to not match as well.

Next is final adjustment of the side gaps. With plywood sides, this is not easily done in an invisible manner. If the side is a bit off, then there will be the layers of the plywood and the glue lines showing through. I prefer to avoid this. Scribe the sides as you did for the top, now take a sharp hand plane and bevel the side back from the line to the start of the dovetail.  This will leave an even gap as seen from the front.

Here is one of the dressers with all of the drawers fitted and ready for final sanding and scraping of the drawers and frame.

The sides and edges will be sanded and the corners broken slightly. The fronts are scraped to make the quarter sawn wood flakes really pop when the finish is applied.