I’m in the middle of a project to build my own modified version of Ana White’s Kendal Extra Wide Dresser. Actually, I’m concurrently building 2 dressers at the same time, but that’s a story for another post! In this post, I’ll cover cutting the wood and building the frame.
Cutting Your Wood
I recommend that you have the store make initial cuts on your plywood when you buy it. This makes the work at home much easier (unless you have a table saw large enough to handle a full sheet of plywood!) and also helps with transportation.
That involves ripping* the 3/4″ plywood sheet into 2 strips 15 1/2″ wide. That will leave a strip slightly shorter than 17″ (that’s because the saw blade is around 1/8″ thick… this is important to remember when you’re working on your own cuts & measuring your stock). The folks at Home Depot or Lowes will do this for you, but make sure that they measure carefully and get the cuts exactly… you don’t want that pesky saw blade to turn your 15 1/2″ strip into a 15 3/8″ strip! These will be your dresser top and the sides.
*Ripping wood means cutting it in the direction of the grain. Cutting against the grain is referred to as “cross-cutting.”
Next, rip your 1/2″ plywood into 6 strips 5 3/4″ wide. These strips will be used for your drawer boxes. Again, have the folks at the store cut your strips and then do the cross cuts at home. I’ll go over the way I do that below. Pay close attention to these cuts because it’s easy to get confused with all the panels. You can always cut something too long, but if you cut it too short, then there’s not much you can do about that!
I would also suggest that you wait to do your cross cuts until you’ve built the dresser frame and measure them individually. This won’t matter for the drawer box panels that are 16″ (the depth of the drawers) but it will for the panels that comprise the front and back of the drawer boxes. Even the best measured plans are dealing with wood which can contract or expand slightly based on humidity. Measuring the drawers individually takes a little longer but may save you some work in the long run.
The 1/4″ plywood sheet will provide your drawer bottoms and the back of the dresser. You’ll want to have the store rip a 15 1/2″ strip from your sheet, but you’ll need to do the other cuts at home. You’ll have 4 large drawer bottoms and 3 smaller ones.
Constructing the Frame
Before we get started, here’s a vision of the frame so you can see what we’re going for. I’ve added measurements so you can make sure you cut your 1x2s and 2x2s appropriately.
Once you’ve cut your plywood sides, the 4 2×2 legs and the frame (which consists of your 2x2s and 1x2s), you’ll want to drill your pocket holes all together. This takes a little while and I’ve definitely found it helpful to knock all this out at one time.
You’ll use pocket holes to attach the plywood sides to the legs as well as to the dresser top. For the top, the screws will actually attach to the trim, so that’s why my plan has additional cross supports to attach the dresser top (more on that later).
You’ll notice that my wood looks really different in these pictures. That’s because I used a good bit of “reclaimed” wood to build this particular dresser (you can see my other one in the background!)
A note on the hardware… when attaching the 3/4″ boards to other 3/4″ stock, you’ll use 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. When attaching 2x2s to other 2x2s, you’ll use 2″ pocket hole screws. Make sure that when you are drilling your pocket holes that you measure and make adjustments to your Kreg Jig and the drill bit itself or you’ll end up drilling a hole in your jig (like I did!)
Also, don’t get so caught up in drilling your pocket holes that you end up drilling some in your dresser legs (again like I did!). These won’t have any holes at all. You’ll see on one leg that I had to add plugs where I drilled holes. What would a project be without a bunch of mistakes? That’s what wood filler is for!
Here are a couple tips on assembling the frame.
First, sand your wood before assembling everything. Sanding is the biggest pain and I like to try and knock it all out at once. It makes a total mess in the garage/workshop/basement/wherever. You’ll inevitably want to do a little more once you get the whole thing put together where you find some right edges, but try to do as much as you can up front.
Also, sand after you drill your pocket holes since drilling them will leave some rough edges around the holes.
Second, glue all your joints with a good quality wood glue.
Third, notice that the inside of the side panels – the side you drilled the pocket holes on – attach flush to the edge of the 2×2 legs. Be careful here! This can create some aggravation when you’re trying to clamp the sides to the legs to attach. Don’t make the mistake of assembling with the outside facing side of dresser panel flush with the edge of the legs. The inside facing side of the panel should be the side flush with the edge of the legs.
You may also find that you like certain sides of your legs and want a particular face to be more visible, especially if you’re staining the dresser, so take care to make sure that the legs are attached such that the best faces are visible.
Forth, go ahead and spring for the Kreg clamps, both the right angle clamp and the face clamp. These are so handy and once you get the screw set for the right tension, you can manage them one-handed which is a big plus!
At this point, you should have the sides and back assembled and your dresser should look like this:
Next, assemble the face frame 1x2s.
Next, add the facing for the drawers and the top supports (3) and bottom support (1).
Here’s another view with measurements. Note that the top supports are slightly shorter than the bottom support. This is because the top supports are joining 2 2x2s and the bottom support is joining a 2×2 to a 1×2.
Fifth, check to make sure that your joins are square often! Because the Kendal Extra Wide Dresser has “inset” drawers that are set into the face frame (vs. “overlay” drawers in which the drawer face slightly overlaps the frame), you don’t have a lot of room for error. There should be about a 1/8″ gap around the drawer faces between the face and the frame, so if your frame is not square, that will give you fits when you’re making your drawers. Use a speed square to quickly tell if your joints are square.
Next Step… Cutting & Assembling the Dresser Top
Check out the other posts:
- How to build a Kendal Extra Wide Dresser Introduction
- Cutting & Framing
- Making the Dresser Top
- Constructing the Drawers
- Attaching Drawer Slides
- Assembling the Dresser and Attaching Drawer Faces