Building a Chest of Drawers

A wooden chest of drawers again a white background.
  • 6-10 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 160-360
What You'll Need
Straight edge
Table saw
3/4-inch plywood
1/4-inch plywood
Drawer slides
3/4-inch L-brackets
Decorative supports (optional)
1/2-inch plywood
Wood glue
Brads or finishing nails
Bought or made drawer fronts
Paint or stain

For an amateur woodworker, a chest of drawers is a surprisingly simple project that can be completed by someone with only basic skills. It helps to think of a chest of drawers as being a box with smaller boxes inside of it, rather than a large piece of furniture. Here are some step-by-step instructions for a simple model.

Step 1 – Decide on the Size

Make a sketch or to-scale drawing of the chest of drawers you would like to make. Include measurements of the outer box and decide how many drawers you will have. Measure the drawer area and mark the approximate depth and width for each drawer.

Step 2 – Cut the Outer Cabinet

After careful measurement, use a straightedge and a pencil to mark the pieces for the exterior cabinet. Cut a bottom piece and a top piece of the same size, and two side pieces of the same size. You will want to use 3/4-inch plywood with a furniture finish on one side for the front and sides. For the back, cut a piece of the 1/4-inch plywood.

Do a quick layout of your pieces to ensure that they will sit together properly. Then, following your measurements for the height of your drawers (specifically your drawer fronts since this will be the widest part), figure out where to position the drawer slides. Align them exactly, one on each side, and screw them to the cabinet.

Step 3 – Construct the Exterior Box

Using the L-brackets on the top and bottom pieces, attach the sides to the bottom. Use the drywall screws and wood glue to secure it well. You can add legs or decorative supports to the bottom of the chest of drawers at this time, or you can add something later if you choose. This chest can sit on the floor as well. Also make sure that both sides have been attached correctly with the drawer slides right-side up. Lastly, attach the back panel with finishing nails.

Step 4 – Construct Front Panels

If you want to have spacers between the drawers, you will want to cut them from your 3/4-inch plywood. Carefully measure the space between the two sides, and cut a piece of plywood to fit, nailing them in place with finishing nails. It is possible, however, to construct a chest where the drawer fronts create the front of the chest with no panels between them. It comes down to personal preference, so decide how you want your drawers to look.

Step 5 – Build the Drawer Boxes

To allow the drawer to fit in the slides, make the total width of the box one inch smaller than the width of the space of the opening of the dresser. Cut your 1/2-inch plywood for the back and front of the drawer 1 1/2-inch smaller than the width of the drawer to allow for joining the sides and backs.

Use a router to create a joint in for attaching the backs and fronts. Then, cut a 1/4-inch groove for the drawer bottom 1/2-inch from the edge on each side of the drawer. Finish securing the back and two sides to one another with wood glue and finishing nails.

Measure the inside dimensions of the basic drawer frame and add the depth of the groove you cut. Mark this out on a piece of 1/4-inch plywood and cut it to the correct size. Coat the inside of the groove with wood glue and slide the drawer bottom in place. Finally attach the front of the box to the rest, followed by the decorative drawer fronts.

Step 6 – Finish the Chest

Use decorative molding on the sides, front, or bottom of the chest of drawers, and add a finish to the wood with a paint or stain. Make any fine tuning adjustments as needed.