July 2016

I have just completed a build of a tall, five drawer dresser for a bedroom!  The final dimensions are 37″x20″x52.5″.  The dresser was made from 3/4 red oak plywood for the case and drawers, red oak edgebanding, solid red oak slats to divide the drawers, 2/4 birch plywood for the drawer bottoms, walnut harvested from a farm in Blacksburg, VA for the top and pedestal, and 16″ soft-close full-extension drawer slides.  The drawer pulls came from Knobs ‘N Knockers in Lahaska, Pennsylvania–near where I grew up.  The faces of the drawer fronts are veneered with walnut to show a continuous grain vertically between the five drawers.  The case is finished with homemade chalk paint and dark wax to provide a clean, but vintage looking effect not fully captured in these photos.

My goals for this project–like all my projects–were to minimize the use of traditional fasteners, cover up mistakes well, draft the original design in SketchUp, be a good steward of materials, and to ask myself at every crossroads, “will this last 100 years?”  I was lucky to be able to meet my goals for this build and come in under budget as well!

This isn’t to say that I didn’t learn some valuable lessons from this dresser build.  If I were to do this project again, I would definitely do some things differently.  Firstly, just because I could make the drawers to 1/64″ tolerance, I probably shouldn’t.  This made it really tough to get the drawers to slide cleanly and evenly.  Another thing, 3/4 material for drawer sides and faces is too thick.  I think 2/4 sides and 1/4 bottoms would be sufficient.  This would also reduce the weight and add a little more capacity to each drawer.

Following is a mostly complete chronological series of pictures of the build.  Now to finish my next project, a pair of mobile six foot see-through dry erase boards I’m being commissioned to build!

I have a very small shop so wall space is at a premium.  I also highly value mobility and rearranging as my needs, tooling, and projects change.  Due to these factors, I’ve really enjoyed installing a French cleat system along one wall in my shop.  The benefits of French cleats are tangible.  They’re easy to make, cheap, infinitely configurable, and strong.  French cleats would warrant a post of their own!

In the constant fight for balancing the triple-point of organization, accessibility, and physical volume, I’ve modified ideas I’ve seen elsewhere to create a clamp rack that can hold 60 clamps and sit on three French cleats.  This clamp rack has three layers that each hold up to 20 clamps.  The first layer is 10” tall, the second layer is 20” tall, and the third layer is 30” tall.  This clamp rack works perfectly for bar and F-style clamps, but what really makes it excel is that it can hold those really deep ratchet clamps on the 10” and 20” layers due to the space between the outside and middle layer and the wall.  Traditional clamp racks that just rest along a wall are often designed only to hold bar and F-style clamps.

I was able to use up a lot of scrap material to build this clamp rack so my actual version differs slightly from the version I recommend you make in terms of material usage but I wanted to be a good steward of resources and knew the compromises I made would still be adequate for a shop project.  For instance, I used plywood for the 4” corner braces and the 2” wide vertical support braces in the back-middle of each section whereas lumber would have been a better choice due to glue bonding strength and solid wood is better to screw into.  However, use whatever material you want, my only guideline I suggest you definitely follow is don’t make the slotted pieces out of solid lumber!  Use plywood, otherwise you risk breaking off the fingers especially if the grain isn’t parallel to the slots (which if using dimensional lumber is almost guaranteed since the grain runs lengthwise).

The finished project is 39.75” wide, by 30” tall, by 11.25” deep.  I used four heavy duty hinges, two for each layer of the clamp rack.  Each hinge costs a little under $5.  The hinges easily support the weight of the rack loaded with clamps when fully opened.  The hinges are secured using 1.5” flat head screws.  Even though I don’t own 60 clamps (yet) this suits my need well for today without having to redo my clamp rack as my collection grows.

I have published the SketchUp plans on GitHub if you’d like to make one for yourself!