Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to Build a built-in Dresser - Part 1

Since we're on a built-in kick, our next remodel project we wanted to share with you is how to build a built-in dresser. Because we share these projects in hopes that they actually help some of you build your own, this tutorial is pretty darn detailed, so we're breaking it out into three parts. Today we'll talk through Part 1: Building the dresser frame & case.

As part of our Master Suite Remodel, we Justin built us two built-in dressers. His dresser is located in the cubby behind our sliding door, which is what I'll be showing you photos of today, and my built-in dresser is in the closet, which you saw a little bit of in yesterday's How to Build a Custom Closet post.

How to Build a Built-In Dresser

But first, lets get some terminology cleared up.

Terminology for Dresser Face Frame

Now that that's clear, our instructions will make a little more sense to you!

First cut all of your pieces for the face frame of the dresser. This means determining how tall & wide you want the dresser and how many drawers you'd like.

For this dresser, we have four drawers so the face frame was made up of two stiles (vertical pieces) and five rails (horizontal pieces). For the rails, cut them 1" longer than the actual dimensions to allow for a 1/2" tenon on each side. Our rail was made of 1-1/2" pine.

Cutting the Tenon for the Frame

Next, after you have your stile's cut to the dimensions of your dresser, mortise holes in the inside edge of each piece. Since we don't have the proper tools to do this, Justin made a jig to go with an adjustable shelf bit to mortise holes.

In both of the stiles, cut a 1/4" dado on the back side for your side pieces to slide into.

Cutting the Mortise and Dado for Frame

Using wood glue, put a bead of glue in the mortise and slide the tenon in place. Repeat with all of your rails to build the dresser face frame.

Gluing the Dresser Frame

Tighten the joints using clamps. These clamps will also hold the face frame in place while you confirm that it's square.  Then nail using your brad nailer with 5/8" brad nails.

Photo 6
Nailing the Dresser Frame

This is what our finished face frame for the dresser looked like.

Dresser Frame

Then move onto the side panels and base of the dresser. We chose to use MDF for the side, top and bottom pieces of our dresser because it's a cheaper option than plywood. We started by cutting the side pieces 1/4" wider than needed for the rabbetted side to slide into the dado you made earlier on the face frame. Rabbet both side of these side pieces. One for the face frame, the other for the plywood which attaches to the back of the dresser.

Rabbeting the Side Pieces of our Dresser

Put a layer of glue in the dado of your face frame and along the edge where the side board will hit. Then slide your side piece of MDF into the dado, secure with your clamps and nail in place using your brad nailer & 5/8" brad nails.

Gluing and Nailing the Side Board to the Dresser Frame

This is what the joint looks like between the three pieces (stile, rail and side piece).

How to Build a Built-in Dresser Details

Then, cut your MDF piece to size for the bottom of the dresser. Glue all three sides and slide into place. There is no dado in these pieces. They are held together by your nails and screws.

Gluing the Bottom to the Dresser

Once you have determined your dresser is square on the top, place an angle block in all four corners to help hold it square. These pieces are also used for screwing the top piece of the dresser down.

45 blocks to secure the dresser square

Cut your 1/4" plywood to fit the back of your dresser and staple on using a soffit stapler and 1/2" soffit staples.

Nailing the back onto the dresser

Here's what our dresser looked like after this step.

How to Build a Built-in Dresser

Slide your dresser into the space. In our bedroom, it was into a little closet nook behind our sliding bedroom door. First, make sure the dresser is level by placing shims under the side pieces wherever needed.

Then screw into the studs of the wall using 3" screws.

Securing and leveling the Dresser

And lastly for today's part of the tutorial, cut your top piece of MDF and secure to the top of the dresser by gluing and nailing to the sides and face frame with your brad nailer and 1-1/4" nails.

Nailing the top on the dresser

And for some added inspiration to get you through these tedious steps, here's what it looks like when it's finished! Love, love love. Tomorrow we'll be sharing Step 2 - how to build dresser drawers.

DIY Built In Dresser

Built In Dresser Final

And this is what my dresser looks like in the closet! It was build similarly just larger since we had the shelves above the dresser as well.

Custom Built Dresser

And there you have it!

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  1. Super nice, totally love how this turned out Kayla!

  2. I love this, Kayla!!! You guys did an awesome job!

  3. Beautiful! I love how you used mortise and tenon joints, something I don't know how to do yet. It really makes for a classy finish. :)

  4. You all are so kind! Thanks for the compliments. :)

  5. Great job. I would love to do this in my son's room. FYI...what color is the wall color?

  6. What are the inside dimensions of your bigger drawers please?