One of my good friends is having a baby (essentially a zero sperm count is not the same as a zero sperm count) and I asked if I could build something for the new baby. This is the same one I asked about a scotch recommendation for, and thanks to all that replied. Ended up with Macallan 18 year. Anyway, they asked for a changing table so I did some research into a design and came up with a 3 drawer dresser topped with a tray that holds a changing mat and sections for diapers, wipes, ointments, and anything else they may need to grab.

Off to the lumber dealer I went for some slabs of poplar:

Lumber from a lumber yard typically isn’t in your standard 2×4 or 1×8 format. It’s sold in board feet, where 1 board foot is 12 inches by 12 inches for a 1 inch thick board. The thickness (or thicc-ness if you prefer) is measured in quarters, so a 1 inch thick board is 4 quarters, 2 inches is 8 quarters, and so on. So now you have to do some math (math is hard!) and figure out how much board-feet you need. The boards pictured are sanded and trimmed so that they are 13/16ths thick and about 10 to 11 inches wide. Knowing this I figured I would need about 50 board feet.

The lingo would be “I need 50 board feet of 4 quarter poplar in 8 foot lengths.” Basically a dime bag.

Step one is to cut up the boards into widths I needed for the frame. Then a few passes through the planer to get it to 3/4ths of an inch. I check with a caliper and can get it close, and I think I planed the boards to 0.745 inches. I didn’t want to use screws so I cut a bunch of tenons and figured out where I needed a corresponding mortise. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have a problem with screws, and love a good screw as much as the next guy. Something like a 4 inch cabinet screw for example will really hold. But I thought mortise, tenons, and glue would hold it just fine. Here is the frame and one of the side panels:

Then I added the other panel and frames and glued everything together:

The sides are recessed panels, and the spaces for the 3 drawers are 8 inches tall – enough for a good 7 inches of drawer depth.

The top was made with 5 to 6 inch wide boards with tongue and groove joinery, because every groove deserves a nice fitting tongue. It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose, it should just slide right in. Here it is being glued with the frame in progress:

The top for the changing mat was the most difficult to figure out since it was all dadoes, rabbets, and glue:

Everything needed to be precise and when I dry fit the pieces it went together great:

But something happened when I put the clamps on it and when the glue dried it ended up with little bit of a warp to it. Not enough to make me want to redo it, but it’s close.

The next step was to make some trim for the base that coordinated with the panel sides. I made a jig that would allow me to make repeatable cut outs with a router, and I used a ½ inch dado bit set to a ⅛ inch depth. Basically just the tip. They came out really well and only needed a little bit of sanding and some squaring of the corners with a chisel:

The next step was to make the drawers taking into account the thickness of the drawer slides. I used a bunch of 3/4 inch plywood scraps I had lying around and used a type of locking rabbet joint to hold everything together:

Somewhere through the course of time ¾ inch plywood stopped becoming ¾ inch plywood and became 0.7 inches thick. This ended up making the drawer box a smidge short. Basically, I cut the depth of the groove at ⅜ inch when I should have made sure the remainder of the groove was ⅜ inch and the groove depth was more like 0.32 inches in depth. What sucked is that the process of cutting the rabbetts was one of those “1 hour of setup, 5 minutes of cutting” jobs with the table saw. Rookie mistake and I used some flat washers to shim the drawer slides out a bit.

Since the plywood edge would show I glued a thin strip of wood on it so it would look nice. They make these long rolls of thin veneer strips with glue on one side that you just iron on. I used a chisel to cut the ends at 45 degree angles so it looks like the box was made with mitered corners:

A note on chisel sharpening – sharpen your chisel as often as you can. If you can get someone else to sharpen your chisel that’s fine too. Maybe on days when you’re home with nothing to do, whip it out and give it a good sharpening. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll be really glad you did when you’re finished. Don’t rush the job either, just nice, slow strokes.

After some sanding and trimming of pieces that were a little too proud (proud is woodwork-ese for “sticks out too much”) it was time to spray the first of two coats of primer. I use a shellac base primer that you can spray right out of the can – no thinning needed. I also use a cheap Harbor Freight HVLP sprayer for everything. The 1.4mm tip leaves a smooth finish and it only costs  $15. I have used siphon feed and pressure feed guns but I felt the finish wasn’t as good. If the Harbor Freight gun ever craps out I will just buy a new one, but I clean mine in between uses and it’s worked great for a few years now. The first coat will often lift the grain and create a rough feel to the surface so I give it a little rubbing with some 200 grit sandpaper. Just a little rubbing as you don’t want to take off what you just put on. Just enough to leave a smooth surface. Here is the final result:

The frame and drawers are a cream color and the blue color is hopefully a cheese eating surrender monkey, I mean French Country tone. I’m not good with colors, but this is pretty close to what I envisioned the final product to look like. Time to go work some more of my wood.