08 February 2013

The 'Feel Good' Factor...

How do you fit yours?..drawers that is. T'interweb is awash with all manner of excellent blogs by talented makers, not to mention innumerable tomes from the year 'dot' about making the things, but there seems to be very little information about how to fit them.

For example, to make one,  the rear cabinet opening should be fractionally larger than the front, sides should be slightly tapered and shot in around half-way, the back and front should be just the merest gnat's wotsit larger than the front opening and the sides, when fitted, ought to be just a fraction proud of the front...again, the merest gnat's todger.  If they're under, then you could be up a long, sticky creek with no means of propulsion!

All this is common knowledge...once you've made the thing with beautiful lapped dovetails at the front, immaculate joints at the rear and a lovely, aromatic Cedar of Lebanon bottom, how do you go about fitting it to get that elusive, one-finger-pushing fit?

When I was at Shoreditch College, I asked one of my tutors, Gordon N. Aldersley... "how do you get a really good fit?"  His reply..."you need to make a few"

Many drawers later and a vast amount of practice have enabled me to almost get a half-respectable fit. For your delight and further edification, I share my method (for what it's worth) with you here.

First and foremost, get a nice sharp...and I really do mean sharp, blade in your favourite smoothing plane and once the drawer has been glued, clean off the rear dovetails, taking off the absolute minimum til they're flush.  The grain in the sides ought to have been orientated so that it can be planed from front to back...but you knew that already!

Second and foremost, with a really finely set plane, level the bottom so it's true and out of any slight 'wind'...again, take off the minimum.  If it's been made properly of course, there shouldn't be any!

Thirdly, start to remove etherial, wispy shavings from the top and sides...every few shavings, keep  offering the drawer to the opening to check for a fit.

But the big and over-riding question, that took me ages to solve is this....

How do you know where it's binding as it goes in?

The answer, like all the best things, is very simple.  Apart from a good straight edge (to check that the drawer sides are flat) get hold of set of decent feeler gauges and extract the 0.1mm blade.  The insertion of the feeler blade as the drawer is fitted will soon highlight, with remarkable accuracy, exactly where the drawer is sticking or binding.  It's simply then a question of removing the offending 'high spot' with a wispy shaving or three and re-testing the fit.

Eventually, after some very careful work, the drawer will just sliiiiiiiiiiiiiide smoothly into the opening with the barest minimum of 'waggle'.  Once you've achieved a fit like this, the feeling doesn't get much better!

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