How to Build a Modern Dresser.

I searched around Youtube and found one of the top videos showing all the steps to build a Modern Dresser. This custom dresser was needed for a kids room and was built to suit the specific needs.

Hey, I’m Bob and I like to make stuff. Today, I’m going to make a modern dresser.

We’re back up here in the room where my three boys stay and we worked up here a lot. We renovated the room, we made some bunk beds, we made a climbing wall, but now we’ve got something more practical to do.

We’re going to combine three separate dressers into a single dresser to save some floor space and we’re going to put it right here below the window. We’re going to make it really wide and have three separate columns of drawers, one for each of them, and I think we’re going to cover it with a really nice hardwood on the front. Let’s do it.

Measure The Size Of The Space Your Putting The Modern Dresser.

This piece was going in a really specific spot, so I measured out the area, making sure to account for the trim that was on the floor. I wanted it to sit on the inside of that baseboard, but still take up as much space as possible.

Cut Your Materials To Size To Start Building Your Dresser Frame.

After that I started cutting down some plywood, I ripped it down into some big pieces and for the cuts I made with the circular saw,

Pro Tip: I put down some blue tape first. This helps keep the top layer of veneer intact and so it doesn’t splinter when you run the blade through it.

The carcass for this dresser is pretty much like every cabinet ever made. There’s a top and a bottom piece and two side pieces. There’s also two dividers in the middle of a piece that are a little bit more shallow because the drawer fronts are going to sit in front of them.

Drill Your Pocket Holes To Attach The Materials Together.

As I often do, I use pocket holes to put this carcass together. You can go the route of doing it in a more complicated way with specialized joinery, but you’re not actually going to see the outside of this. You’re only going to see the front face of this piece, so it doesn’t matter how it’s put together. I often get some complaints about using pocket holes, but honestly it doesn’t matter. They’re fast, they’re easy, and they do the job just fine.

Assembly Your Cut Materials To Build The Frame Of The Dresser.

To start assembling this screw down a cleat to my work table and then push the pieces up against that. It gave me a hard stop for the bottom and the side piece. This lets me glue them, hold them in place up to my speed square to keep them at 90 degrees and then put in the screws.

After getting the outside box put together, it was time to put in the two dividers in the middle. I measured in an equal distance from the outside and then used a big T square to draw some lines. After I got both of these drawn, I flipped the whole piece over and did it again so that I have those matching lines on the top and the bottom of the inside.

Mark Out A Place On The Top Of The Dividers To Add A Brace Before Assembling The Dividers.

This will make it a lot easier when putting in the pieces and getting them lined up, but before I put those pieces in, I marked out a place on the top back of each one of them so that I could cut out an area to put in a brace.

This brace is going to go edge to edge across the entire piece and make it a lot more rigid. This is going to help it from being able to collapse if you pushed on one corner. Now the lines I drew, are actually just to show me where to put the glue, so I put some glue down in between those and then I used a scrap of wood as a spacer against the outside edge to actually set the divider.

By using this one spacer it’s consistent in every position, so I put it in every time before I put in a screw, making sure to push against it so that everything ended up in the right place. Of course on the top, I had to clamp it to the piece so that it didn’t fall down, but this is a great way to space things really evenly across several different openings.

At this point it was pretty strong, but if you pushed on the top corner you probably could collapse it. I added some glue in the notches that I’d cut out and along the top of this one by four before pushing it in place. After I got it in place, I counter sunk some holes from the outside and drove in some screws just to hold it in there really good and solid.

I use some wood filler to cover these up. This entire thing is going to get painted, so when it’s all said and done, you won’t see that at all. I also drove in a couple of screws through the middle spacers just to be safe.

Add Edge Banding To The Edges Of The Plywood.

After that, it was time to add some edge banding to the plywood. This is a great way to make plywood look a lot more like solid wood, but I said before that this is going to be painted so that doesn’t really matter. What matters here is that the ingrain of plywood, all those different little plies soak up paint differently. And you have to use several coats of paint to get it to look uniform.

By putting down some edge banding here, you’re painting one solid surface and it makes it way easier to get a nice clean look. So I iron down all the edge banding and then trimmed it with a knife and sanded it to be nice and flush before painting this entire thing white with the sprayer.

Cut Your Material For Your Drawers.

Then it was time to make 12 drawers. The top nine were exactly the same. The bottom three were the same size but a little bit taller, so I set up a stop block to cut all the pieces for all of the drawers at one time before assembling anything.

I finally got all these pieces cut down to length and so now I need to add a dado so we can slot in the bottom. And I’m going to put a rabbet on the end of each one of these pieces. That’s a whole lot of rabbet cuts. 

I put on my dado stack so that I could cut a slot that was three-sixteenths. That’s the same size as the material I wanted to use for the bottom of each of the drawers. After I got that in place and set to the right position with the fence, I cut a dado into each one of these pieces. This dado is cut into all four sides so that the bottom panel of the drawer can fit in and be locked in from every direction.

After those were done, I put on a sacrificial piece of wood next to the fence so that I can move it all the way up to the blade. This makes it so you can cut all the way to the edge of the piece of wood without the blade touching your fence and messing it up. So I made a rabbet cut on both ends of each one of these pieces half the thickness of the material.

This makes the corner of the drawers a little bit stronger because there’s more surface area for the glue. After that was done, I cut down several sheets of three sixteenths plywood to be the bottoms for the drawers. I get all the panels cut and all the drawer pieces cut, so now we’re going to assemble them.

Assemble Your Materials For The Drawers.

Everything is going to be glued together and I’m going to use these really short brad nails to hold all of the rabbets in place while the glue dries. The glue is definitely going to do all of the work in keeping these things strong.

Got the drawer boxes already, but we can’t install them yet because I’m waiting for the drawer slides to show up. There’ll be here in a couple of days.

Add Legs To The Base Frame Of The Modern Dresser.

So we’re going to move on to putting some legs on the bottom of this. Originally, I was going to turn some tapered wooden legs on the lathe. I decided against that and then we moved on to getting some of the steel pipe. This is the same stuff that we use for the bunk beds up in my boys’ room where this piece is going to go, so we got this to use. But now that I see it in place, it actually doesn’t really have the look that I want. So we’re going to use some 3D printing to make some covers that will go over these. And then we can make the legs look like anything that we want.

The first important step here is to make an accurate model of the piece of pipe and the flange together. I use some calipers, measured it out and recreated that as a 3D model. From there you can draw any profile shape leg that you like and rotate it around the same center point. The shape doesn’t matter.

You just have to make sure that the section in between the floor and the bottom of the pipe is printed solid, not hollow.

Cut Your Materials For The Drawer Faces.

While those are on the 3D printer, we’re going to move on to milling up some of the wood that we got for the drawer faces. We’ve got these big pieces of cherry and they’re going to run all the way across the piece on every row of drawers.

So first we have to run these through the joiner and clean up the edge and then plane them down to the right thickness. Actually, before that, I cut them down to basically the rough length, a little bit extra so that I didn’t have to plane any more than necessary.

The widest of the board was actually too wide to go through the planer. This gave me one clean edge so that I could cut it down to roughly the right length before ripping it to the right width and running it through the planer.

I planned all these boards down to three quarters of an inch, which is what I had planned for when building the carcass and the drawers. Then I rip the widest piece, the one for the bottom drawers down to its final width. This made it so it just barely fit through the planer to get it down to its final thickness.

The 3D prints were done at that point, so I tested one of them out and it worked pretty well. All of the cherry was plane down to its correct thickness, so I ripped all of the pieces down before cutting them to length.

I got to admit, I’m a little bit nervous to cut these down to length because they’re beautiful boards and they cost a fair amount and if I screw it up it’s going to be wrong, can’t undo it. But we’ve gone over the number several times. I think we’ll be good.

These are measured out so that they would fit on the inside of the carcass frame with an eighth of an inch space between the frame itself and between each one of the drawers. And if that gap was different from place to place, it would just totally look wrong. So it was really important to make sure to cut on the correct side of the line and get all of the cuts exactly in the right place.

Add The Drawer Slides To The Dresser Frame.

Then it was time to put in all the drawer slides for all of the drawers. This took a long time to mark out, but taking your time to get everything marked in the right place makes it a lot easier to get them installed correctly.

I got these templates that clamp on to hold the drawer slide level while you screwed it in place. That was a big help. We also met a little template for the side of the drawers, so the rails always got put in the same place.

Add Your Drawer Faces.

Even after getting these installed, I had to do a little adjustment to get the front of the drawers all flush. That was really important because the next step was to put on the new drawer fronts made out of cherry. And to get those drawer fronts installed. The first step was to add some double sided tape to the front of all of these boxes. I put some eighth inch spacers around the outside before setting each one of these pieces in place.

This forced the gap to be the same between the outside and in between each one of the drawer sets. I wanted these to be permanently locked in place before I cut them down into individual drawer fronts. We pulled out an entire row of drawers at the same time and use some clamps to hold the cherry against the drawer boxes. With that held in the correct place, I counter sunk some holes from the inside of each drawer and drove in some screws.

The holes and the screws give me a place that I can reposition each one of these drawer fronts after they’re cut into individual pieces. After that we moved down to the next drawer and then did the exact same thing for the other rows. And I actually really liked how it looked to have one solid piece running across an entire row at a time. I considered leaving it like this, but then decided against it in the end.

Next I needed to draw the line so I knew where to cut. I did this while everything was still in place. I laid it on its back and drew one line from top to bottom. From there I took out all the screws and then peeled off the tape for each row. Then using the cross cuts sled on the table saw, I cut each one of these pieces down into the individual drawer fronts.

Cut Out Handles To Open And Close The Drawers.

Rather than adding hardware I wanted to make a cutout for you to open and close each one of the drawers. But I also wanted them to be all exactly the same, so I made a template out of a piece of scrap. I drew it out marking where the center point of the opening was and then cut it out on the bandsaw. Then I marked the center of each one of these pieces and lined up those lines.

I traced the shape onto each one of the drawer fronts and then cut it out with a jigsaw. I could have used the bandsaw as well, but I actually had better luck with the jigsaw in this case. Finally got all, of the drawer fronts done and they turned out great.

Apply Your Finish To The Drawer Faces.

I’m really happy with how they’re looking and the shape that they’re in now starting to finally put finish on them. I did some tests with finish and tried several different things. I tried Danish Oil; I tried Polyurethane, Shellac and some Tung Oil finish.

And they all looked pretty good, but I ended up deciding on Danish Oil because it kind of adds a protective finish once it hardens. And so we’re going to use this and do probably one coat, maybe a light sanding, and then a second coat on all of these.

First step is to do a tack cloth to get rid of all the dust on the surface and then we’ll lay down some finish.

Cut Out A Piece On The Drawers Slightly Larger Than Your Drawer Face Cut Out.

The drawer boxes were just slightly shorter than the drawer fronts, so because of these cutouts I also had to make a cutout on the boxes. I marked where those needed to be on each one of the drawers and then cut it out with the jigsaw. These shapes were much bigger than the ones on the drawer fronts so that you wouldn’t see any of this plywood when you looked through.

After cleaning up those cutouts it was time to put on the drawer fronts for good. I drove the screws back into the box with the tips just barely sticking out the front edge. These gave me registration points so that I could drop the drawer faces down and get them right back in the right position. Holding those down and drove in the screws and it pulled everything together.

Remove The Drawers And Move The Modern Dresser Frame To It’s Final Position.

I finally got the piece put into place and it was supposed to have legs, but I decided not to put them on. The original idea was to make the leg out of this flange and steel pipe and then cover it with this 3D printed tapered leg.

This would actually work out really well and I want to use this in the future, but on this particular project it actually just doesn’t make any sense. It looks fine as it is sitting on the floor, plus if we lift it up, we just have to clean underneath it.

Add The Drawers To The Dresser.

So for now we’re going to leave it as it is. Go ahead and put the drawers in and call this one done.

But in the future, if we ever decided to move this anywhere else, we can always add the legs to it later. And another cool thing about this leg idea is that you could scope any shape that you want and 3D print it and just make it to fit over this.

And here it is. It’s all finished. And I absolutely love the way it turned out, but I got to be honest, it was a long road to get here. There were a lot of problems that we had building this that I didn’t put into the video because they’re not really relevant.

But I’ll let you know now. We had to completely replace the outside plywood box because the first batch of plywood we got had a lot of warp in it. And the gap all the way around these drawer faces looked awful. We went back and forth on drawer slides and had to end up getting the more expensive ones.

Overall, this project cost way more than I thought it was going to. In fact, the cherry on the front of this was actually the cheapest part of the project because we got that from a local sawmill.

But given that I needed to build a dresser to fit a specific space and a specific set of needs, this turned out great. I’ll also be very happy if I don’t have to make any drawers for a very long time.

Kevin Nelson

I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10' base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.

Recent Posts

STOP Making Out-Dated Table Saw Sleds, Do This Instead