Saturday, June 5, 2010

Drawer Fronts - Attaching Handles

If you've read previous entries, you know that I've been working on some interesting drawer fronts for a closet built-in.  Work and onset of summer lethargy kept me away from it, but tonight I sliced the drawer fronts from the large coved panel and attached the handles.  Attaching the handles was an interesting project as I wanted no visible means of attachment.  There are some interesting steps involved so I thought to share.

The drawer fronts were cut from a single panel that was coved.  I hand-shaped 5 handles that were custom-sized to the spread of the cove at their attachment point.  I created a shallow recess where the handles sat so they could be better placed.  In the picture to the left, the handles are just sitting in the recesses and are not yet attached.

First step was to mark the locations of the cuts to separate out 5 drawer fronts.  I did this by clamping the drawer-front panel to the front of the cabinet and marking directly off drawer locations.  Since I'll need to line up the drawer fronts dead-straight or risk the cove staggering, I put a strip of blue-tape up the middle so visually I can line up the edges of the tape to the adjoining fronts when applying them in-situ.  Yes, I could use the outside edge, but the cove is the key; the outside edges can be faired later if any deviations happen.

I placed the drawer front across a gap I have between two co-planar benches.  I took a 1/4" brad-point bit and drilled a hole at about 45° in the recess through the board from the top.  I did this to both pads with the holes angling inward.  The goal is to insert dowels in these holes to mechanically lock the handles in place (besides epoxy).  These are applied drawer fronts so the hole in the back where the dowel will be inserted will be hidden.

The tricky part is to get holes bored into the handle without going too far and that have next to no play.  Since these dowels are going in at an angle, if the hole is off the mark, it won't work at all or it will lift the handle to get the holes to align.

I inserted the drill bit into the hole from underneath and sighted the maximum depth I want the hole.  Marked the bit with blue tape to indicate the depth.  This step needs to be done for each hole.  Normally I tried the same setting on the other hole for the same handle and it would be correct, but from handle to handle, it tended to be slightly different.  Mind the projection of the brad and spurs.

I clamped the handle in place so it wouldn't move at all.  Use the existing hole in the drawer front as a drill guide and bore the hole in the handle.  Go slowly so you don't risk it wiggling away or you punching through.  Only do one hole.  Why?  Because the cove is the thinnest part and as soon as you apply any pressure to lock the handle in place, it flexes.  If you bored the second hole now, you would be locking a flex in the back.

Here I inserted a dowel to lock one side of the handle then backed off the clamp until a straight edge showed no flex.  Now you can bore the second hole.

Here you can see two dowels dry-fitted in the holes and the handle was rock solid.

I use West System epoxy to attach the handles.  There'll be some in the recesses and the dowel will get covered before insertion to fill the hole.  I'm using hardwood dowels for doweling jigs that have glue recesses on the sides; I think a tight-fitting smooth-sided dowel wouldn't work as well.  I also added a little TransTint Medium Brown dye to the epoxy to better hide it.  I also used the 404 filler for the epoxy since it needed to gap-fill; the dye masks the milky color of the epoxy with the filler.  If I had to do it over, I would take plane shavings from the drawer fronts and grind them in a whirlybird coffee grinder and use that to fill the epoxy as it would be nearly identical in color.  Eh, next drawers.

The glue-up was essentially applying epoxy to the ends of the handles, to the handle recesses, and slathering the dowel before inserting it.  I did this over the gap between benches so the drip of epoxy landed in the garbage can.

The end result of the glue-up.

After 4 hours, I cut off the nubs of the dowels with a flush chisel and Japanese ryoba (the one I use for cutting casings, not the one from Bridge City!!)

Ready for install!


  • Dyami said...

    Very nice drawer fronts. Could you elaborate on the construction of the fronts? What are they made of? How did you make the recesses?

    Also, based on your last photo, nice push stick! did you find the inside corner on the bottom slightly rounded as I did? A few quick cuts to eliminate the round over and better than new!

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, Dyami! The fronts are made of quarter-sawn ("ribbon") mahogany and the handles shaped from canarywood. Under the 'shaping' label are a couple posts along the way of making the handles.

    The panel back was jointed flat and thicknessed by hand plane due to its size and the ribbon mahogany's tendency to tear-out.

    The tapered progressive cove was done with a jig and software program I created. You can clearly see it is a tapered cove, but the 'progressive' part is because the center line is all the same depth meaning the radius of the cove changes progressively through the length of the cove. I taped the process with my webcam and edited the result; I'll see if the resulting video is coherent enough to post :)

    The jig guides the tablesaw through, in this case, 77 cuts; that sounds like a lot, but it went pretty quickly. The resulting cove is smoothed with a Veritas in-shave and drill-mounted sanding pads for bowl turners. Aside from creating the jig and software for it, the cove took about 2-2.5 hours to create.

    Lastly, there's a flat band 2" wide on each side of the tapered cove then from there to the outside it bevels down to 1/4". That was done with hand planes as well.

    The recesses you asked about were pretty simple to make. I put the panel on the MFT to use the guiderail as a big square and placed the handles in position. I traced the outside edge of the handle (the part on the "flat" outside the cove) with a marking knife then used chisels to set the recess 1/16"-3/32" deep.

    As for the push stick, I don't remember it having a rounded corner there or I think I would have it it with the dozuki as well!