View Full Version : Preferred drawer materials?

Ross Faneuf
07-29-2002, 11:58 AM
I'll shortly be building drawers for Ceol Mor, and I'd like to know what more experienced builders are using for drawer construction - sides, back, bottom. I probably build false-front drawers with a decorative (spalted maple) front on a basic drawer box.

Thanks in advance...

Dave Fleming
07-29-2002, 12:07 PM
Gonna put a 'sea lock' on 'em? If so probably best if you use a good grade of ply* for the sides.
If you use solid wood, nothing wrong with that either, the wood has a tendency to split at the aft end of the notch. And requires the extra step of inserting a dowel vertically in the drawer sides just aft of that notch when making the drawers.

* My all time absolute favourite plywood for many things is genuine Finnish Plywood NOT baltic birch. Many grades all with good glue and almost zero voids in any sheets I have worked with. There is a Marine Grade but it has one drawback that that is the face grain runs the short way on a 4x8 sheet. No big deal in interior joinerwork.

07-30-2002, 09:14 PM
dave has godpoints but i must sayi prefur the balticburch ply it has no voids and comes in a 5 foot square sheet and is very nice to work with takes stain and paint well as well is more stable due to the many many fine layers and being a square sheet you can oreient the grain any way you like and just scraps of good luan ply is great for bottoms depending on how big a drawer you may want to fogure for a stiffener across the bottom (also makes a good track fora slider or guide ) have fun and good luck

capt jake
07-30-2002, 09:19 PM
balticburch ply Must be what we call 'apple ply'. Sounds like the same stuff. It is wonderful, and wonderfully expensive too. smile.gif

Dave Fleming
07-30-2002, 10:31 PM
This is sorta a fictionalized account of what I understand as the origins of Finnish Plywood.
Apologies to all for any and ALL inaccuracies in my Tale.

From out of the dark night comes a fat balding fellow. He is about 63 years
of age, not really fat but with that belly that seems to come with age and lots of good food. His eyes are clear, a piercing blue. He holds
himself with confidence. Confidence that his wife, SWIMPAL, will not let the rum bottle run dry.
He sits down in front of his computer and and hitting the keyboard writes....

FinPly is the original and BEST variety of what is generically called
Baltic Birch.

We step back in history to the years just before WW II and what is
known in Scandinavian countries as 'the Winter War'. The USSR under
Stalin was concerned with the nearness of the border of Finland and
the major city of Petersburg. He concocted a story and in the dead of
winter invaded small and, in his eyes, undefended Finland. He was
after what is called the Karelian Peninsula, a densely forested area
along side the border with Petersburg. Unfortunately for Stalin and
the troops he sent to 'roll over the Finns'. The Finns did NOT roll
over. In fact they kicked Stalins butt!
He smarted but retreated and licked his wounds and bidded his time.
Comes the start of WW II and NAZI GERMANY invades
Finland. The Finns, being a practical pragmatic people who speak a language that is like no other in Northern Europe,welcome the NAZI not as conquerers but as allies, there is no problem during the occupation in Finland.
The tide turns for the NAZI machine and they withdraw from Finland and the Finns brave to the last finally surrender to the Soviet Army.
The result of fighting Stalin and siding with the NAZI's is, Finland looses the Karelian Peninsula and signs a treaty with the Soviets that
puts them in virtual bondage to the Soviet Union for a long time.
The Finns are a smart well educated people and as time goes bye the world changes and so does Finland. The level of skills and work ethic
mean the Soviets are so impressed with the Finns that in the maritime field for example, the Finns build a number of the most sophisticated
ships in the Soviet fleet. Icebreakers are amongst the vessels,built in Finland.
But I digress.
Europe after WW II is hungry for building materials needed for the enormous rebuilding of the war ravaged countries. Finland blest with
huge Birch and Spruce forests is in a position to be a prime supplier of lumber and sheet goods. Quality is primary in the Finnish mind and the
production of the sheet goods and the mills and plants producing a variety of plywoods made of those woods. Shows such ethic.
For many years Finply is a well known product amongst european wood workers and cabinet makers and slowly it trickles over the pond to
North America.
The Finns made sure that all the producers of plywood met specific
standards. Standards which are still adhered to today.
The Soviet Union saw the market for Birch plywood too but, lacked the ability to produce it to meet world market needs.
A strange coincidence occurred at about the time of the collapse of
the Soviet Union or shortly before. The Finnish mills collectively decided to upgrade their facilities for plywood production.
They realized that they would have a huge amount of surplus machinery on their hands and with the economy of the former Soviet Union in
utter collapse the Finns took advantage or perhaps we should call it
REVENGE of the Soviet confusion.
They sold their old machinery to them!
The agreement included training of the now, Russian workers, in operation of the outdated machinery. But, as we all know quality in production of consumer goods is not a
strong point with Russians. There are other countries in the region
who have extensive Birch and Spruce forests and they too saw the opportunities for world commerce. Unfortunately they too lack quality
control principles.
It is the Opinionated Opinion of this writer that he would not touch any plywood from that region unless it was FinPly, period.
No argument that it is more expensive but, anything I make is In My
Opinionated Opinion, worth it.

To find a source of FinPly in your region get in touch with the
nearest Finnish consulate, most big North American cities have one.,
Ask for the business office and pose your question/interest to them.
If things have not changed too much there are suppliers on both east
and west coasts of the USA.
AND the Finnish Consulate has a nice web site from its Washington DC
headquarters with e-mail service too!

Plywood and Door and
NorthAmerican Plywood
are two names that are still in this addeled bald pate as suppliers of the real article.

PS: there are many grades of FinPly, ranging from the low BB-BB Grade
to the top A-B Grade and is available in marine grade quality too.
Some are all Birch and some are Birch faces and Spruce inner plys.
And it is available in 4x8 sheets BUT the grain runs the short way!

PPS: My parents had domestic servants, is that PC these days?
The couple were from Finland and Esther was very talkative
about life in Finland during and just after WW II. I recall
they started with my parents in about 1947. That is how I
became aware of Finland and Finnish history.
Some famous folks came from Finland an architect Aalto and a
composer, Siebelius (sp) come to mind.

Alan D. Hyde
07-31-2002, 09:48 AM
A great posting, Dave.



P.S. to Ross--- I'd use black walnut: a pleasure to work, rot resistant, and it can be had cheap around here via the WoodMiser route. Use thick drawer sides, dovetail front and back, screw and glue on false front (overlapping actual front) and notch drawer sides at the front so that the drawer must be lifted to slide open (Dave's right about the tendency to split, a squared peg glued well in place can be used to cover the end grain at the back of the notch). Drawer bottom should rest in an adequately deep surrounding groove like a well-made panel does (Tom Moser's Shaker Furniture book [Dover] has a good panel-making procedure in it).

[ 07-31-2002, 11:11 AM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

Matt Middleton
07-31-2002, 10:02 AM
Hey Dave- could you 'splain "sea lock?"

This is a project I'll likely tackle this winter.

Dave Fleming
07-31-2002, 10:30 AM
It is a notch cut in the drawer sides below the drawer bottom panel up close to the front it fits over a cross bar and locks the drawer in place when in a sea way. There are other ways to secure a drawer but they usually entail an external fitting and IMOOP detract from the look of the interior Joiner Work.

That dowel that is inserted vertically into the drawer sides just aft of the notch is nothing more than a length of dowel of appropriate diameter and long enough to span the height of the notch cut and a bit more to prevent the solid wood sides, if that is your choice, from splitting at the sharp corner OR one could, using a small radius bull nosing aka round over bit bull nose the notch prior to assembly or insertion of drawer bottom panel.. But the dowel is the easier of the two as I see it.
You have some guest onboard that is new to boats and he/she/it is looking for the bottle opener or cork screw and goes to open a drawer and give a pull as if in an on land kitchen and when it doesn''t open well then they just pull or yank harder now ya see the reason of that dowel?

Keep in mind that in many materials a sharp interior corner is a possible stress crack area.
Formica, Aluminum, Steel all don't do well with sharp corners and neither does wood.

[ 07-31-2002, 11:37 AM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]

Matt Middleton
08-01-2002, 11:07 AM
Thanks Dave. I was imagining a dowel protruding below the side behind the notch.

Dave Fleming
08-01-2002, 11:14 AM
No we were speaking of the dowel and a reinforcement for the aft/back corner of the notch cut into solid wood drawer sides. It should be installed flush with the bottom of the drawer side. Ya folla?

Andrew Craig-Bennett
08-01-2002, 11:16 AM
I wonder if I dare post this...but the most satisfactory drawers on Mirelle are the ones in the forepeak, and they are not drawers at all. They are painted plywood boxes, with cutouts for handles, shaped to fit under a bunk and retained with a 1/2" square strip of hardwood on the inboard side. You can lift them right out and carry them round if you want to. Not my idea - came from Alan Staley. Brilliant.

Matt Middleton
08-01-2002, 11:18 AM
I gotcha now, I think. The dowel keeps a crack from happening because the crack would have to propagate across the grain of the dowel while running with the grain of the drawer side.
That right?

Dave Fleming
08-01-2002, 11:23 AM
Bye George, Laddy Buck ye have it!!!!

Matt Middleton
08-01-2002, 11:24 AM
ACB- my wife came up with an idea similar to that to hold some of our clothes when we move aboard. Could you detail the method to hold them in place a little more?

Dave Fleming
08-01-2002, 11:27 AM
Andrew, nothing wrong with that version of doing a thing. In fact sounds kinda neat for a utility drawer and a hell of a lot easier to bring the drawer into the main salon with, chances are better lighting to hunt and seek that elusive 'blurfl fitting' than crouched down in less than optimum conditions doing it.

Evan Showell
08-01-2002, 09:18 PM
I prefer silk in the Winter -- superior insulating properties keep you warmer -- and cotton in the Summer -- just seems to be more comfortable -- silk can get too hot in the Summer.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
08-02-2002, 01:25 AM
Matt - this is a case where, had we not dropped our digital camera in the drink, a picture would be worth 1000 words. However, under the bunk is a painted ply shelf, about 9" below it, which extends to the side of the boat, outboard, and which is vertically in line with the inboard edge of the bunk. On the inboard side of the shelf is a low fiddle of half inch square hardwood.

Being in the forepeak, the bunk is very far from rectangular, so if we had conventional drawers we could only get two drawers in, and we would waste a lot of triangular space at the ends.

What we have are four plywood boxes, rhomboid shaped to use the full space available. They sit on the shelf and are retained by the low fiddle; to lift the middle ones out you lift them over the fiddle just as you would a normal ship drawer. The end two can only be accessed after a centre box has been removed, but since the space would otherwise be wasted that is no hardship!

They are much easier to get at, clean out and clean behind (SWMBO believes that Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness!)

If the box fronts were made up in a nice hardwood with the fiddle set back like a normal sea drawer retaining rail they would look exactly like normal drawers and could be used in the saloon. I am minded to add some more...

Matt Middleton
08-02-2002, 07:40 AM
Thanks- I think I get the idea. Our situation sounds similar to yours, with the odd-shaped space to fill. We almost have a rectangle, but not quite. Michelle has been looking at rectangular woven baskets, since they will be visible and she likes the look. Since they're not rigid, maybe they can flex to fit the space a little better- but that still depends on us fining the perfect size, so custom fit boxes may be the answer.