Monthly Archives: February 2010

Shop Tip: Router Dado Sled for the Thomas Walnut Dresser

I got about 2 hours of shop time tonight. I was working alone so I wasn’t going to try to push any big pieces through the saw. I need to cut the top, back, and bottom to their final sizes, and also rip the front into the strips that will make up the front for the drawers. I’ll have to do that when I have help.

Knowing that I’ll have to make some dados in the sides for the drawers, and knowing that I’ll want those to fit the dust frames perfectly, I made a Router Dado Sled. Basically, I can set the cutting width of this to match the material thickness exactly, clamp it to the piece, and let the router do the work.



Here you can see the sled, from the bottom. One sled rail is fixed square to the cross rails with glue and screws. The other floats free in two grooves. You can see the grooves in the cross pieces that let me adjust the width. The knobs that lock in the floating sled rail are on the bottom so that they don’t interfere with the router.



Set the sled face down on the workbench, and put a scrap piece of the material that will be going into the dado in it. Push the material against the fixed sled, and the free sled against the material, tighten the knobs. The Router Dado Sled is now set for your material.



Now turn the sled right side up, clamp it to your piece, and rout the dados. Probably best to minimize tear out by putting the back cross member up against the piece. I’m also going to check for square before making cuts, but this could also make angled cuts for shoe racks, louvers, etc.



Here you can see that the bolts for the knobs have flat oval heads. They are recessed so they won’t get in the way, and I cut oval holes for them so they won’t spin.


This sled will be used on this project to cut four dados, and I’m sure I’ll use it on other projects. Now I need to get the perfect router bit for it.

Thomas Walnut Dresser: Project Progress

Yesterday I went into Seattle after lunch and picked up the materials at Crosscut Hardwoods. The guys there are helpful, and they did most of the labor when picking out the materials, loading them into my trolley and pushing that around, and loading them into my truck. When I got home I was on my own though, and I had a lot of heavy sheet goods to move into the garage myself.

This morning before everyone woke up I made pretty detailed cut lists in sketchup. I had done some on graph paper but I wanted to double check some things and think about the order of cutting. A little time thinking saves you a lotta time working. I noticed a part of the design that was a bit unclear, shot off an email to the customer, and got confirmation from them about which way to go.

My in-laws came over and made breakfast and then I made a short trip out to do some errands. I started in the shop at noon, it’s now 3pm and I’m showered and sitting at the computer. Let’s see how I did.


Real Progress

In the three hours in the shop today here’s what I accomplished:

  • Back cut to rough width and height after best section picked out.
  • Drawer box sides cut to final length, rough height, and stacked.
  • Drawer box fronts and backa cut to rough height, not crosscut to final width, and stacked.
  • Sides of carcass picked, matched, and cut to rough size.
  • Top picked from best section and cut to rough size.
  • Bottom cut to rough size.
  • Drawer front piece picked and cut to rough size.
  • Solid stock for trim and bottom frame rough dimensioned (ripped on bandsaw, face jointed, edge jointed, planed, cut to rough length).
  • Shop cleanup.

Breaking Down Sheets

All the big 4’ x 8’ sheets are broken down. This is one of my least favorite parts. The sheets are big and heavy, hard to move by yourself, and unsafe to push through the table saw. So I put a piece of insulating foam on the garage floor and cut them down with the circular saw. When I have the sheets broken down, they are much easier to manage and push through the saw safely.



These big hunks of walnut came as one piece. I’ve cut off the checked end, the end with the knot and twist. This will trim out the piece and be used to build the base.



This is how easy a checked end can split.


This is why you buy more material than you need. Wood is a natural product and there a pieces that you just can’t use.



All cleaned up and ready to acclimate for a few days before final dimensioning. After ripping it on the bandsaw, cutting it down to rough lengths, face jointing, edge jointing, and planing the wood will move. The stresses that were exerted on it by the pieces I removed are now gone. It’s been cut into two shorter pieces, and the knot which exerts stress is now gone. Moisture content will continue to drop, when I run this through the process again to get to final dimensions – it will be much less likely to move. Those chalk squiggles mean that face or side is flat and can be considered a reference face.


Here are the sides of the dresser. I love that they match, and I’m really glad I was aware of this during the cutdown of the sheets. When these pieces have a finish applied they will rock. The pieces for the top, back, and drawer fronts are behind.

Based on the time estimates in my last post, I feel like I’m on track or maybe a bit ahead.

Thomas Walnut Dresser: First Estimate Lessons Learned

Today I finally got some prices on the materials I’ll use for the Thomas Walnut Dresser, and submitted my first estimate for customer approval!


Things learned

  1. Quickbooks is widely used, but not that easy to use. UI needs polish!
  2. Washington State has a Reseller Permit that I can use to get great prices on materials without being charged sales tax. When I buy wood, turn it into furniture, and sell the finished product I charge sales tax – charging sales tax on the materials and the finished goods would be double-dipping.
  3. I registered today with the Department of Revenue – meaning the Washington Tax Collectors. I’ll need to pay a minimal B&O tax, transfer any sales tax that I collect to them, and get my small business tax credits!
  4. My prices might be high, but I’ll get better at estimating over time.
  5. Printing to a PDF file is useful, and you can do it for free with a product called from Bullzip.

Project Information – The Inspiration

I thought I’d include some information here about the project and the bid, while keeping the customer information confidential.

The first project is a dresser for a former co-worker who is about to be married. He would like it complete and delivered by March 15th. I call it the Thomas Walnut Dresser. It is inspired by a design from West Elm. The West Elm piece is imported and made of wood except for the metal base, has wood drawer slides, and requires assembly. I couldn’t find information on the type of wood they use, where it is harvested, and where this piece is made.


Project Information – The Sketchup Based on Customer Design

The couple-to-be has specific requests for overall dimension and drawer dimension. His fiancé sent some sketches and dimensions, and here’s what I came up with. I’ll build the base out of solid walnut, and I need to see if they want the face of the dustframes showing, my sketch below doesn’t show that. I’ll need to ensure that this doesn’t sag, so there may be a prop in the center of the base.


I then broke this down into cut lists and parts lists so that I could figure out how much material I needed. Then I called around to my favorite suppliers. That’s when I got the tip from Crosscut Hardwoods about the Washington Reseller Permit.

Project Information – The Task List

Here’s how I break down the build tasks and time estimates for each.

Task Estimate
Break sheets down 1 hour
Prepare solid stock for dustframes and base 1 hour
Build carcass
rabbit for top, and bottom, dadoes for dust frames, groove for back
1 hour
Build & install two dust frames 1 hour
Build & install 8 drawers 2 hours
Build & install base 1 hour
Trim out carcass and drawers 2 hours
Sand & finish, multiple coats over a few days 4 hours
Total 13 hours

Project Information – The Estimate

My materials and parts lists, along with their prices and my estimate of hours was entered into Quickbooks, and I created an estimate. I used to show the estimate right here but after a lot of insightful comments, I removed it.

But wait! You can see that I reduced my estimate here by subtracting out 5 full hours of labor. Am I crazy or just bad at math? Well, here’s the reasoning.

  • This is my first estimate. I’ll use this experience to refine future estimates.
  • I just couldn’t see adding another $250 to this project. I need to remain competitive.
  • I like this guy, he’s taking a chance on me being my first customer and this is for his fiancé.
  • The price at West Elm for the similar piece is cheaper already (damn you cheap rainforest wood and foreign labor).
  • He helped me move once, and all he got out of it was pizza.


Let me know what you think, please comment on this post.