Gamble House Drawers

crnr41.jpgOne of the best parts of my job is meeting talented woodworkers, getting to know them and seeing some amazing work. I first met David Mathias by e-Mail. He got in touch with me through my website with some questions about a bow arm Morris chair he was building. He shared some pictures of the finished chair, and I was impressed. After I landed here at Popular Woodworking, I kept running into him at the Greene & Greene group on Yahoo!

This is a pretty interesting group, started by furnituremaker Darrell Peart, author of “Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop” If you’re a fan of Greene and Greene, you’ll want to get the book, and be sure to check out the rest of Darrell’s website, furnituremaker.com

David’s table turned our very well, so well in fact that I encouraged him to write about it for the magazine. Here’s a brief excerpt from the article, along with some pictures that we didn’t have room for in the magazine. Be sure to check out the February issue for the entire story.

crnr11.jpgThe dominant feature of this table is the finger-jointed drawers, as shown above. Greene & Greene finger joints share little more than the name with more common versions. There are two major differences: First, the fingers are quite large. Where fingers in a typical joint are about 1/4″, here they are variable in size ranging from 1 5/16″ to 1 1/4″. More important, the fingers stand proud of the adjoining surface and are decorated with ebony pegs. The result is beautiful, unusual and challenging joinery. The drawers hang from ebony runners attached to the tops of the drawer sides with mating receivers attached to the underside of the tabletop. The top edges of the drawer fronts are also capped with solid ebony.

Due to the variation of finger sizes on the drawers, it wasn’t obvious how to best cut the joints. I considered a table saw jig but couldn’t think of a design that would give accurate, repeatable results for fingers with sizes 1 7?32″, 1 1/4″, 1 5/16″ and 1 3?32″ from top to bottom. Ultimately, I settled on using the router table.

crnr21.jpgEbony pegs are synonymous with Greene & Greene designs. In some cases the pegs are functional , hiding a screw or pin that reinforces a joint. In other instances they are purely decorative. While this table includes both types, the pegs in the drawers are functional; each conceals a screw that strengthens the joint.

Virtually all edges on Greene & Greene furniture are rounded, sometimes heavily.To round the drawer fingers I needed to work the edges without affecting the fit of mating surfaces. The pegs are also slightly rounded, or pillowed, on the exposed end. This effect is critical to achieving the right look. Gaps will result from rounding too much at the corners. In addition to pillowing it is important to polish the face of the peg to a warm glow.

crnr31.jpgEbony caps on the sides of the drawer overhang the drawer and serve to hang the drawers from above. The runners meet ebony caps on the fronts with a half dovetail. Caps and runners are attached with brass “pins” giving a striking contrast in materials. The caps and runners are attached to the drawers with 1″  x #6 solid-brass screws. Part of each screw head is removed giving the appearance of a brass pin.

It is important that all countersinks are the same depth so that the “pins” have a consistent diameter. At the drill press, set the depth of the countersink so that the entire slot in the screw head is above the surface of the runner.

I considered several options for trimming the screw heads , nervous work since correcting any mistakes would be difficult , and I settled on the router table . . .

Congratulations to David for his superb workmanship and for an excellent first article for Popular Woodworking.

Robert Lang

3 thoughts on “Gamble House Drawers

  1. Karl Rookey

    So it is. Even though I know brass is much softer than steel, I couldn’t believe you were going to run the metal screw tops up against a spinning router bit. I don’t think I would ever ever have had the guts to do that one.

  2. David Mathias

    Karl,

    The method for trimming the screws is described in the article (along with a picture).

    David

  3. Karl Rookey

    I trust the method by which the router table trimmed the screws is included in the article? I’m trying to picture how this would be done and not coming up with anything I would have thought was safe (?)

    Thanks for the extras!

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