White Brothers Drawer built for the Grove Park Inn

 

 Greene & Greene Drawer

 Roycrofter Drawer

White Brother's Drawer

Roycroft Drawer

Greene & Greene Drawer

 

When you think of designing and building an Arts and Crafts drawer for a bedside or end table, what do you think of? Half-blind dovetails in the front, through dovetails in the rear; perhaps a solid-wood bottom grooved into the side, sticking out the back with room for expansion? 

If you’re thinking English Arts and Crafts, you’d be right on track; but American Arts and Crafts, you’re a little off. American Arts and Crafts relied more on mass production than hand-work, even the higher end Greene and Greene drawers would surprise you.

“…the drawer fronts are secured to the sides with blind tongue-and-groove joints that were easily and tightly cut on a table saw. The backs were simply butted against the inside surface of the drawer sides and screwed in place. For bottoms, plywood was floated in machine-cut grooves along the inside of the drawer front and sides. The bottom was screwed to the underside of the drawer back…”

This excerpt is taken from Edward S. Cook, Jr. essay An International Studio: The Furniture Collaborations of the Greenes and Halls writing about the drawers for the Pratt Desk in A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Crafts of Greene & Greene edited by Edward R. Bosley and Anne E. Mallek.

The three images above are of drawer fronts made by the White Brothers–builders of the Grove Park Inn’s furniture, a drawer built by the Roycrofters; and a drawer build by the Halls for Greene and Greene. This isn’t to say that there aren’t examples of American Arts and Crafts drawers with dovetails–because there are. But if you’re looking to be historically accurate you should consider the locking rabbit for the drawer fronts and a simple dado or groove for the rear.

The images below show how the drawer backs were constucted on the White Brothers’ and Roycrofters drawers.

White Brothers Drawer BackRoycroft Drawer Back

White Brothers Drawer Back

Roycroft Drawer Back

Finally, a couple suggestions on cutting these joints.

Click here to see a ShopNotes video on cutting a locking rabbet on a router table.

Click here to see a table saw procedure for cutting the locking rabbet.

Finally, in his book The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery, Gary Rogowski calls this a “half-blind Dado Rabbet.” He discusses how to cut it on a router table and table saw on page 96.

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