Dresser Top and Apron Movement Issues

A solid wood dresser top needs room to move, or the piece will tear itself apart. June 17, 2009

I'm building a dresser for a client and the top is solid 3/4" purpleheart. The dimensions are 40" x 24" with roughly 6" laminations. The costumer would like a walnut apron 3/4" x 2 1/2" on the front and sides. If I biscuit and glue the apron to the top, will the top be able to expand and contract enough by not having an apron on the back, or is this a bad idea? The customer is very set on a solid top and not a veneer.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
You would have to make a sliding dovetail on that return or a long mortise and tenon joint and peg it, only gluing at miter... It would destroy itself if you tried to glue it up without allowing it to move across the width. The sliding dovetail is actually very easy to do. Years ago Christian Becksport wrote an article in Fine Woodworking using this on a dresser top and I have used it ever since - never a callback with this method.

From contributor J:
Sliding dovetails could work, but they're not necessary. Biscuits are a non-starter. Look into various methods of attaching solid table tops to their bases, as these face the same challenge. You can use screws through slotted holes, or brackets that pivot a bit, or little wood cleats that move in a slot milled near the top inside of the skirt... There are lots of ways to skin this cat; biscuits just aren't one of them.

For what it's worth, there are some designs that should only be veneer whether the customer likes the idea or not. Sometimes it's your job to be an educator.