Next cut the tenons on the ends of the side and back rails and back stiles. I again used the table saw to make these cuts. The tenons are centered on the pieces and offset from the center to match the grooves.
Cut rabbets on all four sides of the side and back panels. As these are 1/2″-thick pieces, a 1/8″ rabbet forms the tenon easily so that the inside faces of the panels and the rails will be flush on the inside. By setting your table saw’s rip fence to 3/8″ (with the blade set at 1/2″ high) the rabbets can be easily cut on the saw by running the panels on end.
To add a nice detail to the piece, put a beading bit in your router and run a 1/4″ detail on both edges of the side center rail and on the inside edges of the top and bottom rails. Cut the notches for the drop leaf support in the top back rail according to the diagram, then assemble the back and rear legs. Use glue on the rail and stile tenons, but don’t glue the panels so the wood can move.
While the glue is drying, turn to the drawer supports. There are four side supports and two center supports for the upper drawers, and four side supports for the lower drawers.
To attach the upper drawer supports at the rear of the cabinet, mortise and then nail two support battens in place on the back legs.
You’re now ready to assemble. Test fit the side panels and rails in the back legs, and check the fit of the front frame to the sides. If everything fits well, lay the face frame on your work surface and glue the side rails to the front legs (again leaving the panels glue-free) then glue the drawer supports into their mortises in the front frame. Lower the back into place, leaving the tenons on the drawer supports glue-free. Check for square and clamp the cabinet until the glue is dry.
The drawer supports provide support for the bottom of the drawers, but to get them to move well they also need some guides to control side-to-side movement. These 3/4″ x 7/8″-wide strips are simply tacked in place to the drawer supports to guide the drawer sides.
While you’re still working on the inside of the cabinet, cut the leaf supports and the four brackets to support them to size. Each pair of brackets is rabbeted 3/8″ x 7/16″ on one side, and the leaf supports are rabbeted on both sides to form a stubby “T” cross-section. Then notch the support as shown in the photo and chamfer or round the end to avoid sharp corners. Later you will screw the brackets to the underside of the top with the arm protruding through the notches you cut in the back rail.
Drawers and Details
The drawers are of standard construction (by 19th century standards, that is) with hand-cut dovetails and a solid wood bottom. Cut a 3/8″ x 1/2″ rabbet on three sides of the drawer fronts, then use the same beading detail as on the side rails to dress up all four edges of each drawer.
It’s now time to get to the rule joint that attaches the drop-leaf to the top. First glue up the large top, leaving it oversized for length until after the top and leaf have been attached by the hinges so the lengths will match perfectly. Use the information at left to cut the rule joint. I use standard hinges for my drop-leaf. If you purchase special drop-leaf hinges, then you won’t have to rout a recess for the barrel as shown.
The top is attached to the cabinet by using rectangular wooden “buttons” that have a short tongue. The tongue slips into grooves cut in the side rails with a router and a slot cutter. If you don’t feel like making your own buttons, you can purchase metal clips through most hardware catalogs. Cut the slots wide enough to allow the top room for wood movement. Attach the leaf supports to the top at this time.
After a good sanding, the cabinet is ready to finish. If you’ve read any of my earlier pieces in Popular Woodworking you may have noticed I have a favorite finish for curly maple furniture. I used that finish again on this piece. (Moser’s Golden Amber Maple, a water-based aniline dye, available from Woodworker’s Supply, 800-645-9292 as item #W14904.) After the dye is dry, lightly sand the entire piece to remove any raised grain, then top coat the piece with lacquer or your favorite choice of protective finish. PW Click here to download the PDF for this article.
Glen Huey is a contributing editor for Popular Woodworking.