Wood Movement in Solid Wood Drawers

will movement cause trouble? A furniture maker receives opinions and advice. June 20, 2005

I am currently working on a cherry post and panel shaker style dresser, and I have some concerns about the drawer fronts. The dimension of the drawer fronts is going to be 9 x 26. Because of the height, I will have to glue up the fronts. I would like to book-match the fronts and laminate them.

Basically what I would end up with is a drawer front 3/4 x 9 x 26 consisting of a 3/8 x 9 x 26 birch, (inside drawer) and a 3/8 x 9 x 26 cherry outside face laminated together. Is this asking for trouble with wood movement and possible splitting?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor M:
You could be setting yourself up for trouble, especially if you mismatch the grain in the two species. The radial shrinkage of birch is nearly twice that of cherry. The tangential shrinkage is fairly close, so if you do choose to glue up the two different species, pay close attention to grain direction.

From contributor C:
Instead of gluing the front to the box, try pinning the fronts with brads and then use screws to hold it in place. I've done this successfully with cherry drawer fronts to poplar boxes with no problems.

From the original questioner:
So if I want to laminate cherry to cherry is there still a problem? Here is a little more background on the piece. It is being constructed entirely of solid wood. The dust panels and web frames are birch, and everything visible will be cherry. It is important to me to be as close to period construction as I can be, but I do not have the option of re-sawing 8/4 cherry to achieve my book match. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

From contributor C:
To the original questioner: Not sure if it is an option or not, but I have had good success with my wood supplier in finding 4/4 shorts (5-6 ft boards) that are up to 10 inches wide. I would look to avoid doing any laminate work, and use a harder wood like maple or ash for the sides and back of the drawers that will more closely match the cherry fronts.

From contributor M:
To the original questioner: There shouldn’t be any problem, as long as you do not laminate flat sawn with quarter sawn. I have built hundreds of lipped drawers with applied fronts this way with no problems.

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Comment from contributor T:
I would not recommend gluing two different species together. Although the type of cut may help reduce differences in expansion, you will always have enough variation to cause your drawer fronts to cup slightly. This is similar to what happens in solid wood when it cups, slight stress variations within the one piece will cause cupping, warping and everything else. I have done what you are talking about with poor results, probably not noticeable to the average person, but you will notice it will look "off" to the average person. Unless you have very nice hand cut dovetails with close spacing near the edges, expect the edges to curl. Mechanical fasteners are your best bet in this situation. Even better, use a solid cherry front, or laminate two pieces of cherry together if you need to book match.