A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (67)

Work has slowed to a crawl on the cabinets of late. With a newborn, spare time tends to be more limited. In fact it passes most peculiarly at times!

Our son is now a month old:

Getting to the point where he can make eye-contact and is making facial expressions of all kinds. It’s cool to see this unfold.

I manage the odd 2-hour block of time at the shop here and there, and have moved the drawers along a bit. In the previous posts in regards to the BCM Maker Faire, you can see that I managed to get one drawer dry assembled to bring along as an example of joinery work. I thought I’d post up a few more details about the process of putting the drawers together.

One of the seeming more mundane tasks is drilling holes to mount the drawer handles. These are spaced 65mm apart, and are offset 15mm up from the centerline so as to place the handle in a centered position overall. I used the mill to position and drill the holes from lay out marks:


It’s simple enough drilling holes, and with a brad point drill and backing piece, no issue cropped up with blow out. However, given that there are three different drawer heights and two different drawer widths, it was paramount to keep vigilantly organized so as to not place any holes in the wrong position. It would be all too easy to do, especially given my rather ragged sleep patterns of late, and one mis-placed hole would mar what is a whole bunch of work already completed. I managed to get through all 18 fronts without any mishap thankfully.

I had used the mill to rout both the dadoes and the mortises for the drawer side connections, and employed the hollow chisel, sans auger, to square up the mortises:

The mill allowed great positioning accuracy in cutting the dadoes and mortises, and following with the bare hollow chisel made for an elimination of the off-center auger holes that can occasionally occur when using the hollow chisel+bit as per normal. Not the most efficient process to be sure, but the results were as I desired so all good.

Once the drawer side connections were complete, I then did the same mortise squaring for the drawer rear wall connections, except that I completed that work entirely by chisel.

Here’s the first completed dry-assembled drawer being test fitted to the carcase:

This type of drawer has greatly reduced areas of contact on the sides, and the high precision offered by the mill when cutting the joints meant that these went in snugly, not too tight, not too loose, the first time:

The other side:

Should the drawer side runner ever bind to the carcase due to swelling from moisture gain, adjusting the fit would be very easy as compared to a regular drawer in which the entire drawer side is running against the carcase. If the fit became overly sloppy somewhere down the line, sistering on a small strip of wood to the side of the runner and re-establishing a perfect fit would be straightforward. The drawer runners, being wide, nearly triple the area on the loaded portion of the drawer side, ensuring considerably extended durability for both drawer and carcase.

I’m totally sold on my adaptation of the NK drawer design and plan to employ it in all future cabinetry projects involving drawers.

A view from above:

A couple of sample timber joints are laying in the drawer, not forming part of the assembly of course.

A view of the dry-assembled drawer before the handle holes were drilled in the front:


The tenons on the drawer rear wall are yet to be kerfed and (double) wedged, hence the gaps at the sides where the mortises are flared following cut out. As the drawer sides do not rub on the carcase, I can leave the wedged tenons long without any concern that they might scratch the carcase in passing.


A slot will be cut in the drawer floor directly under the mid-point of the drawer rear wall’s lower edge, so as to fit a screw which will hold the drawer to the rear wall. I’ll tackle that work when all the drawers have been dry assembled and fitted.

With the handle fitted to the front, and the drawer front fitted into the cabinet opening, the drawer can now go all the way in;


Fitting the drawer front took very little time, and I found feeler gages most helpful for that process. The drawer front lower edge also clears the carcase by about 0.01″, as the drawer itself rides on the runners, allowing the drawer front to pass the carcase rail without rubbing.

Another view:

One more for luck:

I’m looking forward to seeing how the entire blank of drawers will look when in place.

The handles come from a specialty tansu hardware supplier in Japan and is in a shi-bu-ichi finish. The drawer front will be finished with tinted Enduro Var in the same manner as the rest of the cabinet. The remaining drawer parts will be left without finish, though i may swab something on the end grain portions to slow moisture transfer. Everything is quartersawn as it is, so movement should be absolutely minimal.

All for this pass by the wicket. Hope you enjoyed your visit to the Carpentry Way. Post 68 is next in this series.

8 Replies to “A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (67)”

  1. Hi Brian,

    yes he is a cutie, but watch your fingers when they are near his mouth or you might find them suddenly under attack!

    Glad you like the drawers in terms of appearance. They're slowly coming along.


  2. Thanks for all the photos of the drawer, I have done (and loved) NK drawers in the past but the lower frame/box attachment has been via glue. This looks fun.

    Also, dang cute kid there.

  3. Awesome! There is certainly an added challenge to avoiding mistakes when the work can only be done here and there. The drawer construction you have developed it especially intriguing to me, I love seeing the details and look forward to trying it out sometime. Thanks for sharing as always!


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