Believe it or not, I’ve wanted to get these dresser plans finished for over two years! Almost three years ago I had read of a local homeless shelter needing dressers for families who were transitioning into more permanent housing. Since then it has been my desire to build a dresser to donate to the shelter.
I’m sure a ready-to-assemble dresser could be purchased for much less than what it cost me to build this one. However, I wanted to develop dresser plans that would result in a much sturdier design than is available from a "big box" type store.
This dresser has a secret
identity. It’s really just a five drawer
base cabinet at its core. Take a look at
the details of base cabinet designs elsewhere on the site. By adding drawers, an
extra top (think like a countertop added to the top of a base cabinet), and
legs, an open base cabinet easily becomes a dresser!
In this case I made some changes to my typical base cabinet design. Here I’ll try to just highlight the things that make this cabinet different from others on the site.
Keep in mind that the "dresser" drawers shown here can be adapted to nearly any size cabinet and be used in kitchens, bathrooms, garages, laundry rooms, etc. In addition, the changes I made to the base cabinet for the dresser plans can just as readily be applied to any cabinet design.
As you go through the drawings for the dresser plans, note that there is a hierarchy of assemblies, sub-assemblies, and parts that make up the dresser. Sheet 2 is the top level assembly that brings together the dresser case (or "base cabinet"), drawers, top, and hardware. Following that are sub-assemblies of the case and two drawer sizes.
One of the first major
differences between my usual cabinet design and the dresser case is the use of
materials for the back. Ordinarily I
would dado a 1/4" thick back into the sides, top, and bottom, adding a
3/4" nailer at the top and bottom.
For the dresser I changed to a 3/4" back, with a fairly shallow rabbet into the bottom. My primary goal was to consolidate my material list into only one material type. Initially, I simply didn't want to have a bunch of leftover 1/4" sheet. But several other benefits arose by using the 3/4" back.
I was also trying to simplify construction and the 3/4" back allowed me to reduce the back assembly from three distinct parts down to one. This meant fewer parts to cut and keep track of. In the same spirit, I also switched from two separate top stretchers to a full top with a cutout for weight reduction.
The rabbet between the back and bottom isn't strictly necessary for a base cabinet. I included it because I wanted to see how it would work if I opt to build an upper cabinet with the same 3/4" back. The rabbet joint eliminates an exposed edge from being visible underneath the cabinet.
An additional advantage is that the rabbet will hide any slight errors made when cutting the back. If the length of the back is off slightly in either direction, it will be hidden at the top. In the same respect, by cutting the bottom, back, and top out of the same rip, you should avoid issues with gaps when assembling the case.
The two major disadvantages to the changes I made for the dresser plans are weight and material costs. By using 1/4" material for the back and drawer bottoms you can save quite a bit of weight. Also, 1/4" material is generally much less expensive than 3/4". Nonetheless, I was pretty happy with the changes.
Cabinet drawers are really pretty simple to build. A fairly standard method is to dado a 1/4" bottom into 1/2" or 5/8" sides, back, and sub-front. In keeping with my efforts to simplify the materials list, I used only 3/4" for all of the drawer parts.
Similarly to the cabinet, any minor cutting errors can be hidden by extending the drawer back past the bottom and by cutting the sub-front, bottom, and back from the same rip.
There is a bit of science behind sizing the drawers. Most drawer slides require a 1/2" space between the drawer and the cabinet end. As such, the drawers are 1" smaller in width than the inside cabinet opening.
The height of the drawer face is an exact increment of 32mm minus 3.2mm (approximately 1/8") to allow for a small gap between drawers. The width is the overall case width minus 3.2mm as well.
Although it doesn't conform to any particular standard, I've found that sizing the drawer box height to an even 32mm increment plus 16mm (half of an increment of 32mm) makes a nicely modular box. This also allows room for a drawer stretcher between drawers.
The stretcher is optional, but I included it on the dresser plans between all drawers for a couple of reasons. First, it covers the gap between drawers. This reason is purely personal preference. Many people don't notice the difference, but I like having the gap covered.
The other reason for having a stretcher is to allow for adding locks. A dresser is unlikely to need locks, but for other types of cabinets they may be desirable.
Sizing drawer faces and doors to 32mm increments is a standard part of the 32mm cabinet system. In order for this to work, the case also needs to be sized to an exact increment of 32mm. You'll notice that this is the case with the dresser plans.
As part of my experimentation with this type of cabinet, I also changed the way I bored the system holes. In this case, I started drilling 62.4mm from the bottom. This was figured by two full 32mm increments minus half the drawer gap (1.6mm).
The reason for this spacing is to allow the drawer face to be installed flush to the bottom of the case. Subsequent drawer faces will then split exactly on a system hole. The top drawer will end 3.2mm from the top of the case and there will be a 3.2mm gap between adjacent drawers.
The legs and knobs on the dresser plans are pretty straightforward. Nearly anything can be used, depending on the look you want to achieve. The other major hardware choice will be the drawer slides.
To accommodate nearly any type of slide, I show every hole being drilled. This isn't strictly necessary, but until you select a slide you won't know exactly which holes to use. Incidentally, the 352mm spacing between the front and rear holes is designed for an 18" drawer slide.
As far as choosing a slide, you have a vast array of options from which to choose. I went with the standard, widely available, and inexpensive Blum 230. However, nearly any similar cabinet slide will work.
A nice upgrade from a roller bearing slide like the 3/4 extension Blum is a full extension ball bearing slide. Although more expensive, they usually have a heavier weight rating and allow the drawer to be fully extended.
I have personal experience with both the Knape & Vogt KV8400 and Accuride 3832. Both are excellent slides. I also have used inexpensive imitations of both these slides and don't recommend them at all.
Since I wanted the sides to remain free of exposed fasteners, I used glue and Kreg Jig pocket hole construction for the entire case and simply screwed the drawers together. Normally I would consider screws overkill for drawers, but since I wasn't using a dado for the bottom I figured the added strength couldn't hurt.
Install the drawer slides according to the manufacturer's instructions. In general, you will install the cabinet part of the slide to the system holes, adding screws as recommended by the manufacturer. The drawer part of the slide is then attached to the drawer box for proper fit and alignment.
Something to keep in mind when installing drawer slides is that you want to use the close stop built into the slide as much as possible. It's a common mistake to mount the slide to the drawer box in such a way that the face of the drawer contacts the cabinet when the drawer is closed. All of the slides I mentioned have built-in stops that should prevent this from happening and hold the drawer shut at the same time.
I actually prefer to mount the slides so that the drawer face is about 1/16" from the cabinet when closed. This is very important when building a cabinet with a mix of a door and a drawer so that the faces all align properly.
Attaching the drawer faces to the drawer boxes can be done one of several ways. One method is to install a sub-front on the drawer box, then screw through the sub-front into the drawer face. This method is very simple and works quite nicely, but I find it makes it more difficult to install locks and pulls.
A couple of other options are to use angle brackets or pocket screws to fasten the drawer box to the face. I happened to use a rather complex combination of ready-to-assemble fasteners, drawer front adjusters, and screws, with no sub-front. The reason for this was some experimentation I was doing with my CNC router and don't really recommend it.
I'm excited to finally have these dresser plans available for those who have been asking about cabinets with drawers. Whether you choose to build just the dresser, or incorporate the design elements into a much larger cabinet project, you can view the plans either by clicking on the image to the left or just clicking here. If you would rather download a copy to your computer, right click then "save-as". Either way, you'll need the Adobe reader to view the file.