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How To Make A Modern Dresser & Changing Table

How To Make A Modern Dresser & Changing Table

I built a modern dresser and changing table for my newborn son out of solid Walnut. This piece would look awesome in any mid-century modern themed room and would provide lots of great storage. I also have plans available for this project, in case you're interested. 

Thanks to the sponsors of this week's project, Powermatic and Arrow Fastener. Learn more about Powermatic's full line of power tools here, and check out Arrow Fastener's full line of tools and fasteners here.

Modern Dresser & Changing Table Plans

Modern Dresser Dining Table Plans

The Modern Dresser and Changing Table plans include a 12-page detailed PDF document, including a detailed cutlist. The plans also include a SketchUp file (upon request) so that you can adjust the model to fit your needs. 

Materials Used On The Modern Dresser & Changing Table (affiliate):

Tools Used On The Modern Dresser & Changing Table (affiliate):

Voiceover Script : 

I started this project as I do with most of my projects, breaking down rough lumber, which was Walnut in this case. I decided to use solid wood for this project, mostly for a bit of a change of pace, since I’d been working with a lot of plywood here recently. 

I started at the miter saw, breaking down the boards into their rough lengths. 

Next, I moved to the jointer, flattening one face and one edge of each board. 

With one face flattened, I moved to the planer and brought the other face into parallel with that flattened face.

I usually do this process at the jointer and planer in two stages, allowing the wood to rest a day or so between millings, to make sure it doesn’t want to move after the final milling. 

Finally, I headed to the table saw and ripped each board to final width. 

If you wanted to simplify this process, you could use plywood for the panels, or buy pre-milled lumber, but the process of milling rough lumber is one of the most satisfying parts of a project to me. You never know what is going to be hiding under the rough surface, and it’s always really satisfying seeing the boards come through the planer for the first time.

After milling, I arranged the boards into panels, laying them out in their final orientation based on any defects I wanted to hide or how the grain patterns of the individual boards flowed together. 

Next, I marked out locations for biscuits, which I used for alignment. You could also use Dominos, dowels, splines, or any number of other alignment methods, but I went with biscuits on this project.

With the locations laid out, I cut all of the biscuit slots, making sure the biscuit joiner was well seated on the board each time.

Next, I glued up all of the panels, which went pretty smoothly since I had the biscuits for alignment. I still got a little bit of unevenness, probably due to the biscuit joiner being a little skewed when I was cutting the slots. 

I let the panels sit in the clamps for about an hour then removed the clamps and scraped off any glue squeeze out. 

After letting the glue dry overnight, I ripped all of the panels to their final width of 18 inches at the table saw.

To smooth out some of that unevenness between the boards, I passed all of the panels through my drum sander a few times to get everything nice and flat. At this point, I was basically to the point I would have been had I started with plywood, so if you want to simplify things, definitely use plywood.

Next, I cut each of the panels to final length with my crosscut sled. First, I cut one panel to size, then marked the second panel based on that first panel, to ensure they matched up perfectly. On cabinets like this, it doesn’t typically matter exactly how big the cabinet carcasses end up, what’s more important is that each matching piece is the exact same length so things stay square. 

With the pieces cut to length, I swapped over to a dado stack on my table saw, setting it up for the final thickness of my panels, about ¾”. I set the height of the dado stack to ½”, and then set the fence so it was just touching the blade. 

I use a sacrificial fence when using my dado stack like this, and the fence is just a piece of scrap plywood. 

After doing a few test cuts to make sure everything was set up correctly, I started cutting the rabbets on the ends of the top and bottom panels. 

Next, I moved the fence over and cut the dado for the center shelf, first setting the height of the blade to ⅜”. This height wasn’t super critical, since I cut the shelf to final length after assembling the cabinet carcass.

With all of the dados and rabbets cut, I could assemble the cabinet, which went pretty smoothly. I used a few corner clamps to make sure everything was square and then added basically all of my clamps to tighten up all of the rabbets. 

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t cut the center shelf to length until after the glue up, so next I measured that length and then cut the shelf to length with the crosscut sled. The fit was a little tight on the thickness of the shelf, so I sanded both ends off camera a little bit, just to shave off a tiny amount of thickness, and then once the fit was right, I glued the shelf into place with a little glue and a few clamps. 

When cutting the rabbets into the top and bottom panels, I made sure to cut them a little wider than they needed to be, just to make sure the panels were fully seated in the rabbets, so next I needed up flush up the ends of the top and bottom panels with the sides. I used my low angle block plane for this, and it was the perfect tool for the job. 

I made sure to work from each end, stopping in the middle. If I went all the way across the panel, the other end would have the tendency to chip out. 

Once the ends were flush, I added a slight chamfer to all of the outside edges, again using my block plane. There is something extremely satisfying about this process, and it’s so much more enjoyable than using a router. This is just a cheap Stanley block plane, nothing fancy, and I haven’t even sharpened it and it works flawlessly out of the box. I’ll have a link in the video description below in case you’re interested.

I wanted to add a little bit of reinforcement to the rabbets in the form of ⅛” brass pins, mostly for looks. I decided to create a little jig to make this process a little simpler. I measured the distance from the top corner to where I wanted the center of the pins, about ⅜”, and marked the measurement on a scrap piece of plywood. I also marked the center of the piece of the plywood, both where I was drilling the hole as well as on the end of the piece.

Next, I drilled an ⅛” hole through the plywood at the drill press, to make sure the hole was perfectly square. 

To complete the jig, I added another piece of plywood with some CA glue and added a few brad nails.

To use the jig, I hooked it over the corner of the cabinet and lined it up with the edge of the cabinet. I then drilled a hole, using the jig to ensure the hole was square. I drilled the hole about an inch and a quarter deep.

Next, I marked the center of the side panel, aligned the center mark on the bottom edge of the jig with that center point and drilled another hole. Finally, I repeated the process on the back edge of the cabinet. I repeated these steps on all four corners of the cabinet.

I bought this brass rod at my local home center, and cut it into pieces using some pliers, although a hacksaw might have been a little easier. Brass is pretty soft, but it still took some force to make these cuts, but my pliers might just be a little bit dull.

Next, I roughed up the brass pieces using some 80 grit sandpaper, so the epoxy I used would have something to hold onto. I then glued the pins in place with 5 minute epoxy. 

I used acetone to clean up the excess epoxy and then let it dry for about 20 minutes. 

While the epoxy was drying, I worked on adding the back panel to the cabinet. First, I sanded the back edge to remove any glue squeeze out, and then set up a ½” rabbeting bit in my router. I set the depth to match the ½” plywood I used for the back panel. I only used ½” plywood because I had a scrap piece that was the perfect size for this, but ¼” plywood would have been just fine here.

Next, I went about the messy process of routing in the rabbet. Make sure to wear some kind of dust mask if you’re going to create rabbets in this way, because dust gets everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I had Walnut dust in my ears after this.

After vacuuming up the dust, I cut the back panel to size at the table saw, and then cut the corners to fit the rounded corners left by the rabbeting bit.

I cut the excess off with the jigsaw and then used the random orbit sander to smooth out the corner. This process only takes a few minutes and is a lot faster than chiseling out the corners of the rabbet. 

With the back panel cut to size, I attached it to the inside of the rabbet using wood glue and 1” brad nails. 

The epoxy was dry at this point, so I cut the brass pins flush with my flush trim saw, which cut right through the brass, and then sanded it smooth with my random orbit sander. The final look was really subtle, but I think it adds a lot to the final piece.

Finally, I filled any cracks or knots with wood filler and than sanded the cabinet up to 180 grit.

With the cabinet done, I started working on the drawers. I’ve had this 2’ by 4’ piece of ½” Walnut plywood hanging around for awhile, and it turned out that it was the exact size I needed for the two drawers on this piece. When I say exact, I mean that there was literally nothing left over but dust, it worked out perfectly. 

I cut the drawer box pieces to size at the table saw, and then swapped over to the crosscut sled to cut the rabbets into the ends of the drawer sides. I’ve actually never assembled drawers using rabbets like this, but I really liked how easy it made the assembly process. The rabbets were ¼” deep by ½” wide, and I probably should have switched back to my dado stack but I was feeling a little lazy.

Next, I cut ¼” by ¼” rabbets into the bottom edges of the drawer pieces, to house the drawer bottom. 

After cutting all of the rabbets, I dry fit the drawer box and measured the exact size for the drawer bottoms, then cut the pieces to size at the table saw out of ¼” plywood. 

With all the pieces cut to size, I assembled the drawers using glue and ¾” brad nails. 

I used 14” full extension drawer slides for this build, which were leftover from my assembly table project. To install them, I used the Rockler drawer slide jig. Since I was using inset drawer fronts, I needed to offset the slides in the jig, and I used an offcut of the drawer fronts to set this offset. 

To install the drawer slide on the cabinet, I clamped the slide and jig to the side of the cabinet, pre-drilled a few holes using a self-centering drill bit, and then drove in a few screws. 

To install the other half of the slide onto the drawer, I marked out a few layout lines using a combination square, lined up the drawer slide, pre-drilled holes and then added screws.

The drawers slid right in and were spaced perfectly, although there was one thing I didn’t account for when designing this project.

With the drawers installed, I could make the drawer fronts. I used rough Poplar for this, but I’d probably use plywood or MDF if I were to do this again. The drawer fronts were 8 ½” wide, which is just wider than my jointer, and this Poplar was a little twisted, which caused some issues. 

Anyway, I milled the rough lumber to size, cutting it to rough length at the miter saw, skip planing it at the planer, jointing one edge at the jointer, and then ripping it to final width at the table saw.

Next, I marked out where the handle cutouts would be, and in case you’re wondering, all of the exact measurements of all of this are in the plans, which I’ll link to in the video description.

I cut the handle cutouts at the bandsaw, first ripping the long edge of the handle. If you don’t have a bandsaw, a jigsaw would work fine here. 

Before cutting the handle cutout to length, I remembered that I hadn’t cut the drawer fronts themselves to final length, so I did that first over at the miter saw.

I crosscut the handle cutout to length at the bandsaw and then cleaned up the cutouts with a chisel for the inside corners and a card scraper for the flat areas, over at the bench. If you don’t have a card scraper, I highly recommend getting one and learning how to use one properly. They make quick work of tasks like this and are dirt cheap.

Finally, I prepped the drawer front for paint, sanding it up to 180 grit and breaking all of the edges. 

After sanding, I sprayed on a few coats of flat white spray paint onto the drawer fronts. Also, if you guys have any recommendations for spray paint, I’m all ears. I usually use the stuff available at the home center and I’ve never been particularly satisfied. I don’t like to use my HVLP system for paint, since the clean up is a pain and I don’t paint that much, so I’d like to find a better rattle can option. Let me know if you have any recommendations in the comments.

For the finish on the cabinet and drawers, I used a wipe-on poly, wiping on three coats with a cotton rag. I just love the way those brass pins popped once I got the first coat of finish on there.

The final bit of finishing to do was spray painting the hairpin legs I used for this project. I went with gold on the legs, which I think played off the brass pins and matched up nicely with the Walnut.

Once all of the finishes dried, I could get the drawer fronts installed. I used the playing card trick to space them evenly, clamped them in place, then added a few 1” screws through the inside of the drawer, making sure to pre-drill and countersink the holes first. 

Finally, I could install the hairpin legs. I marked in 1” from each side of the of the cabinet using a speed square, pre-drilled the holes, and then added the screws.

With the legs added, the changing table was done! 

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