Chests of Drawers: Outstanding Projects from America's Best Craftsmen

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by: William H. Hylton

Topics include: top web frame, vertical drawer dividers, tablemounted router, clear white pine, runner tenons, twin mortises, bottom drawer rail, bottom front rail, side rail mortises, loose tenons, waist molding, loose tenon joints, lid molding, drawer rails, each drawer front, till lid, intermediate stiles, dovetail keys, bracket foot, blind dovetails, top back rail, mortising jig, drawer partition, joinery cuts, matching mortises

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Disappointing compared to the rest of the series: I consider myself an "advanced beginner" as a woodworker. I own Desks, Bookcases, and Beds in this series (and have completed projects from the latter two). Chests of Drawers does not live up to the high standards of these titles for two reasons: 1. Intentional difficulty-It almost seems as though the author tried to come up with the most complex solution to any joinery problem. For example, is there not an easier way to do the joinery for the Contemporary Chest (a beautiful piece, by the way) besides making 180 loose tenons and 8 dozen mortises? The triple dresser is gorgeous but I am not sure that could be made to the same quality outside of the Thomasville factory. 2. Lack of variety-I am sure that many of these projects can be modified but if I wanted to substantially modify them, I would just design something myself (something I don't feel comfortable doing yet on a project of this magnitude) and wouldn't need the book. The Pennsylvania Dutch chest, though nice (I mean, I am Pennsylvania Dutch) probably isn't something that needs to take up space in a book called Chests of Drawers. Something in the Arts and Crafts style would have been nice as well as a true Shaker project. Beyond that, one or two variations of a simple, but well constructed chest would have been helpful. I was disappointed in this book and cannot recommend it. I probably would have given it one star, but most of the projects are truly beautiful. I am sure someone can make 'em!

This book has nothing the other Taunton books have: 1. Most of the projects in the book are for the very experienced craftsman. The projects seemed complicated just to be complicated. I'm not saying they should be super simple either but I think Taunton missed the mark on these. 2. These projects are for the woodworker who has a full set of power tools in their workshop. I also purchased Tauton's "Tables" book and loved the fact that many of the projects where done with minimal power tools. In this book the concept of "hand cut dovetails" are dovetails done with a jigsaw and a router. Way too many expensive jigs, routers, biscuits and pocket joints. Since my next project is a chest of drawers for my son, I was really hoping to find inspiration in this book based on my other purchases of Taunton's books. Unfortunately I found none in this book. The ultimate test for me is to show my wife projects from books to see which one(s) she likes. She also found nothing in this book that we would want to build. Hopefully further book's released by Taunton can avoid these mistakes and make a book which most woodworkers can enjoy.

Excellent instruction with adaptable plans: I'm new to amazon, but do a column of book reviews on Wood for woodworkers. My reviews are a little different, because I take time to really read the volumes I select to write about. Reading Bill Hylton is like having him in the room beside you while you are learning. He has a down home, friendly writing style that anticipates the beginner's deficiencies and guards against errors that might become costly. I bought this book instead of waiting for a review copy to come my way, because I know Hylton's work from his router and cabinetry books. 'Chests of Drawers' is one of a series of 'Projects from America's Best Craftsmen' by Taunton Press. It includes seven projects, which doesn't sound like much, but in those seven projects, Hylton succeeds in getting across the basics of a variety of chest constructions, including bowfronts, triple dressers, blanket chests, tall chests, a Queen Anne chest on cabriole legs, and sheet-goods casework. It would be easy to take any of the seven projects presented, and adapt their construction to a wide variety of chests of drawers. The discussions of built-up moldings and how they are made is a lesson in woodworking in general. These ideas would be usable on other types of furniture pieces, as would the instruction in bent laminations, string inlay and shop-made pulls. Hylton is an authority with the router, and in this book he gives many hints and tips on using it to complete drawer construction, mortises, base moldings, and dovetails. Not all the projects are centered around expensive solid hardwoods. One double dresser, which could be adapted to a single chest, uses veneered sheet goods with biscuits, pocket-hole joinery and commercial drawer runners to keep down the cost, but you wouldn't know it to look at it. Simple, clean lines in an understated style lend it a spare elegance akin to Shaker furniture. At the opposite end of the scale is the Qeen Anne chest on stand, with dovetailed case sides, dovetailed drawers resting on web frame infrastructure, and molding attached with sliding dovetails cut to allow for wood movement. The stand is an ogee profile, spline-mitered frame with pinnned tenons attaching rails to the bandsawn legs. When I'm ready to attempt that project, I'll be glad Bill Hylton is within reach. His step by step guidance through the complicated procedures is easily understandable, and well illustrated with clear color photos. Of the many, many books I am offered to review, this one is definitely a 'keeper.' It is clear enough in its procedures to encourage a beginning woodworker, and has enough advanced pieces in it to serve as a skill-building exercise for the more experienced woodworker. I give it five stars. Written for the serious woodworker wanting to improve his or her skills, this book deserves every one of them.

Substandard entry in an otherwise great series: This is a review that I hate writing. I own many, many of the books and magazines published by Taunton Press, and have been almost unfailingly pleased. I own all of the "Outstanding Projects from... " books in the series that they have published and have been very impressed with the quality of, and the wealth of information contained in, "Beds," "Desks," "Tables," etc. Unfortunately, "Chests of Drawers" falls well short of its siblings, for the following reasons: 1) Fewer projects. With the exception of "Desks," which also has seven projects, the other books have from 8 to 11 projects each. This isn't a huge deal, except for the fact that many of the projects are virtually identical (see below) and there is not much coverage of the many design options that a reader could use, going forward, to make his or her own, unique chests of drawers. 2) Projects advertised on the cover aren't in the book -- a real problem, in my mind. The back cover says "The projects range from a Shaker four-drawer dresser to a chest-on-frame or chest-on-chest." Well, unless I'm missing something the book does not contain a four-drawer dresser in any style (although one or two, because they have simple lines, could be seen as Shaker-influenced) and there is no chest-on-chest at all. (However, there is a brief, two-sentence reference in the opening chapter on the use of molding to keep a top chest in place on a lower chest.) There is a Queen Anne-style chest-on-frame, but one out of three advertised projects is a terrible percentage. Perhaps the cover was written before the book was completed; the author himself admits, in the "Acknowledgments," that he wrote this at a very slow pace. 3) Minimal project variety. Of the seven projects in the book, four are more or less variations on the same theme. With the exception of the above-mentioned Queen Anne, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and the bow-front cover chest, the rest are simple boxes with very little unique detailing or methods: one each of a "contemporary," double, triple and tall dresser. The tall dresser goes a bit further than the other three, with some raised frame-and-panel construction and stylized hardware... but they're really just variations on the same theme. (Now, one could argue that chests are very simple objects, just boxes in boxes. But the same argument of "simplicity" could be made for tables, beds, desks, bookcases, etc. -- yet this didn't seem to stop the authors of those books from choosing unique and interesting projects that provided new learning opportunities and a variety of styles to choose from. Further, Taunton has published another book, "Treasure Chests," which -- although focusing more on chests similar to this book's Pennsylvania Dutch chest -- is chock-full of novel pieces. Note: this is NOT a complaint about the craftsmanship that went into designing, and goes into building, the pieces. There's just very little variety.) 4) Somewhat sloppy, poorly edited writing. Burr-under-the-saddle phrases such as "It's got"; references for further information that either take you to the wrong page or -- when you get there -- don't provide you with the information you expected to find; and instructions that read "Decide how you'll join the corners of the inlay," without explaining the advantages and disadvantages -- if any -- of the subsequently offered methods, are fine in a first-draft document. In later drafts and the final, published version, these sorts of errors and inadequacies should have been corrected and/or edited away. Again, I'm fairly distressed at having purchased this book and at feeling compelled to write this review. The rest of the books in Taunton's series are excellent, well-written and offer many design styles and project levels to choose from. I purchased this book, "Chests of Drawers," on the strength of that series, and I'm sure others will, too. In the future, or in a re-issued version of this book, Taunton should not only make sure that the cover promises are fulfilled in the book itself, but it should also go back to what made the other books so successful: crisp, solid writing and great projects in a variety of styles and skill levels. Taunton generally does a great job of providing great information and education for woodworkers at almost all levels; it just fails to do so here. I'm still deciding whether or not I'll send the book back.

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