Tag Archives: small apartment woodworking

Secret Project D – a Custom DIY Dresser

Secret Project B has been so on my mind that I totally forgot to write up my Secret Project D!


Sam had been talking about wanting a dresser, but none of the ones we found really fit where we wanted to put one. We liked West Elm’s Hudson dresser. Clean modern style, but it was too deep to fit our space. Sounds like a job for me!

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I made measurements and decided that the best way for a nerd like me to proceed would be to make a sketchup design. I found a sketchup model of the thin hudson and made my dresser model based on that.
I started working on this last August on nights and weekends.

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Afterwards, I dropped by a West Elm to see how they put theirs together. That’s when I realized that I didn’t have to make the stretchers in the carcass solid – I could make them a frame and they’d be just fine. Also – less weight in the furniture will be helpful when we move it around.

Then life gets in the way – the project was on hold for months. After figuring out what I wanted to do I bought tools, and got started in December.

I decided to go with a furniture grade plywood. Not all plywood is crappy – some looks really nice. I went with Baltic Birch. It’s good looking, the beveled edges on the drawers have a sweet pinstripe on them and I could get it nearby at the Brooklyn Dyke’s Lumber1.


Plywood has a couple of other sweet properties for small apartment woodworking. The cross-grain layering of plywood makes it very stable with regard to moisture. This means I don’t have to have a jointer or planer to flatten the wood. In addition, the sheet of plywood has a continuous grain veneer – so you cutting the drawer fronts from one sheet of plywood preserves that grain across the drawers.


When you buy lumber, you have to know how to order it, and you need to know how much you want. The sales folks are used to dealing with people who order very large amounts, so not knowing makes you an irritant. You won’t get what you need. Fortunately, if you build your model in Sketchup first, there’s a handy plugin that calculates how much lumber to buy and gives you a cutlist based on your model. It even gives you a plan on how to get the most out of the wood with the least waste. That’s so helpful!

Armed with my cutlist, I grabbed a truck from zipcar and brought back three huge 4’x4′ sheets back to my woodshop in the sky.

After many nights and weekends of cutting, swearing, panicking, gluing, screwing, sanding and shellacing I got the dresser done. My woodshop in the sky has turned into a baby room, so I’ll have to find a new place to make any future furniture. If any folks are interested in either how I made it or what I’ve learned about small apartment woodworking, I could write more about that.


  1. I cannot imagine the creepy search terms those folks find in their server logs  (back)