How To Build A Dresser From Scratch

If you only have one piece of furniture in your bedroom aside from your bed, let it be a dresser. A dresser isn’t just for clothes. It can hold anything that you want it to and can be shared by multiple people.

How To Build A Dresser Tutorial 

View in gallery

Now, this tutorial will take you through the steps to build a dresser but it isn’t necessarily for beginners. The tutorial isn’t great for a first project. You will need a little bit of experience before building this dresser. 

What You’ll Need to build a dresser:

Before getting started, you need to cut all of your boards. It is easier to have all of your pieces ready than to cut each board as you need it. Here is a list of every board that you need, cut to size already.

Wood For Frame

  • 3/4″ thick project panels or 3/4″ plywood: Two (2) 16” x 50-1/4” for the sides. Three (3) 16” x 29-3/4” for the interior horizontal supports. Two (2) 16” x 8-1/4” for the interior vertical supports. Two (2) 16” x 31-1/4” for the top and bottom.
  • 1×2 lumber: Four (4) cut to 29-3/4”. Four (4) cut to 21-1/2”.

Wood For Drawers:

  • 1×6 lumber: Twelve (12) cut to 14”. Four (4) cut to 5”. Eight (8) cut to 27-1/4”.
  • 1×3 lumber: Eight (8) cut to 14”. Eight (8) cut to 19”.
  • 1/4″ plywood: Four (4) cut to 14” x 20-1/2”. Four (4) cut to 14” x 28-3/4”. Two (2) cut to 14” x 6-1/2”.

Wood For Drawer Faces:

  • 1×4 lumber: Four (4) cut to 21-1/4”.
  • 1×8 lumber: Two (2) cut to 8”. Four (4) cut to 29-1/2”.

Extra Materials:

  • Right angle clamp + regular clamps
  • 1-1/4” pocket screws
  • Ten (10) sets of 14” European style bottom corner mount drawer slides
  • Wood glue
  • 5/8” and 1-1/4” brad nails + nailer

How To build a dresser – step by step tutorial guide:

Step 1: Plan The Dresser

View in gallery

Before you begin, it’s important to plan everything out. First, find out how big you want your dresser to be. Draw out a dresser first. Then turn it into a plan by adding measurements that will actually work.

You can get help from someone with experience if you can find someone to help. Or you can use another dresser to copy. You can find dresser plans online or simply measurements which you can use as plans.

Step 2: Label Your Pieces

View in gallery

First off, you want to label all of your pieces. Write on them which direction they go, which piece they are, and so on. You can always sand out any writing later so feel free to write as much info as you want.

The more info, the fewer mistakes you may make. You can even write full paragraphs with marks for screw holes and hardware at this point. It all depends on how detailed your plans not how much you will remember. 

Step 3: Mark Your Panel

View in gallery

Taking one of the 50 1/2″ panels, you need to mark all of the lines on your inside side panel for horizontal supports. This is where you will use the sketch of your plans to find all of the right measurements. 

View in gallery

Always use a square to get straight lines. If you don’t have a square, buy one. They are universal and definitely worth it. You can get a standard square for cheap or pay a bit more and get the useful quick square. 

View in gallery

It’s also important to put x’s on which side will be the top. Trust us, this is easy to get confused about later. You may think you will remember but after so many measurements and marks, it can get very confusing. 

Step 4: Add Pocket Holes

View in gallery

Now, you need to take your 29-3/4” panels that will offer horizontal support. It’s time to add pocket holes in them. Pocket holes are diagonal holes that are easy to cover up and can be drilled at an angle. 

View in gallery

Take your two smallest project panels and add pocket holes to them as well. Add the holes to the longer side of these short panels. It can be tricky to drill pocket holes without a clamp but you get used to it. 

View in gallery

Step 5: Mark Your 30″ Panels

View in gallery

Take one of your 29-3/4” panels and place it pocket-hole-side-down. Then draw a line that is 7-1/2” from one side. Place your Xs on the far side of the line. Do the same for the other one and mirror it.

Step 6: Glue First Board

View in gallery

With the pocket holes facing the short end, place an 8-1/4” panel onto the line of your 29-3/4” slab. If it seems right, then add wood glue to the shortboard and place it back again. This is the exciting first glue!

View in gallery

After you glue it down, then you can clamp it and screw it down. Screwing at this point is easy with a drill. Just use the holes you made to drill the screws in. Don’t go too far in, just enough that you feel resistance. 

Step 7: Add First Drawer Slide

View in gallery

It may seem odd to add drawer slides at this point, but it is best to start them now for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s nice to have a visual and second of all, it is impossible to do so after you cover the area up.

View in gallery

Take a 3/4 inch board and make a mark that far in from the end of the dresser. Then, take the 14” European bottom corner mount drawer slides and install the first one to this corner you’ve just made. 

Step 8: Install Other Slide

View in gallery

Now, take that other 50-1/4” panel that you already marked. This will be the other side of the dresser. Using the 15-3/4” mark, you can install the other side of the drawer slide just like you did the first one. Make sure it all mirrors. 

Step 9: Attach Support Slab

View in gallery

In order to attach the top horizontal support slab, you need to use either a screwdriver or a long drill bit. A drill won’t fit and if you do get the bit on the screw head, it won’t be straight and will ruin the supports. 

View in gallery

You can use the extra 8-1/4” slab to hold up the large slab while you work on it. Having someone help is nice but even if you do, having the right amount of height on the end can only he done with another board.

Step 10: Finish Primary Horizontal Supports

View in gallery

Using the non-pocket-hole side of the third 29-3/4” slab, measure and mark 7-1/2” in from the right side. Glue the second 8-1/4” slab onto the far side of the line and screw them in. Attach the slides as done before. 

Step 11: Attach More Slides

View in gallery

On the long right side slab, attach the drawer slide using the 3/4 board technique at the 8 3/4″ line. You want that 3/4″ like everywhere a drawer is going to be. Without it, you end up with protruding drawers. 

View in gallery

While you’re at this, you can drill three pocket holes onto each interior end (top and bottom) of your two side panels. Make sure they are on the interior or else everything else will be off and you will have more to clean up.

Step 12: Attach The Slabs

View in gallery

Now it’s time to attach the top and bottom slabs to the sides. So get your strong wood glue and add glue to the bottom of the side slab. Then let it set for a minute clamped and add the pocket screws.

View in gallery

Do the same for the other side. If you can get help to hold these up while you glue and screw then please do so. Make sure the corners are square before you attach the top slab to the top of the dresser.

View in gallery

 

Step 13: Secure Horizontal Support 

View in gallery

Slide your horizontal support boards into the frame ensuring everything is facing the right way. Now you can secure the pocket screws! This is exciting because the dresser really starts to come into focus. 

View in gallery

 

Use a screwdriver to secure and of the pocket screws that the drill cannot reach. This is time-consuming, but make sure that you screw them in good and straight. You can clamp them down to make sure that they are tight. 

Step 14: Attach Decorative Supports

View in gallery

These 1x2s supports don’t offer any support but they are going between the drawers and offer a facing for the dresser. Without them, the dresser would look hollow when the drawers are installed even when closed.

View in gallery

So drill holes into each board and secure them all.

Step 15: Check The Frame

View in gallery

Now the main frame is done, which is also super exciting! You can set the dresser up and check that everything is stable and square. You may also add covers for the pocket holes at this point if you like.

View in gallery

Now, you can buy those covers at most hardware stores. They are called pocket hole plugs and they are relatively inexpensive for a large amount. You can also make your own but that is very time-consuming. 

Step 16: Finish Slides

View in gallery

Now it’s time to finish installing all the drawer slides on your frame. You should already have these lines marked. So, install all of the drawer slides, ensuring you have the 3/4″ space behind every one of them. 

Step 17: Build The Drawers

View in gallery

It’s finally time to build the drawers! Each drawer will be attached with the front and back faces between the ends of the 14” side boards. So drill two pocket holes per side of each front and back board. 

View in gallery

Using the same pocket hole technique as always, build your first drawer. Then continue until all of the drawers have been built. You can build as many as you want and any size that you want for your dresser.

Step 18: Attach Bottoms

View in gallery

After the drawers are all built, make sure they all fit into the slots correctly. Try each and every one of them before getting ready for the next step. Adding the bottoms to the drawers! This will support your items. 

View in gallery

Using 1/4″ plywood, attach the bottoms to the drawers with glue. Then use a nail gun to secure the plywood. This process is very simple and difficult to mess up. You can use a hammer instead of a nail gun if you be careful.

Step 19: Attach Slides

View in gallery

This part is fairly self-explanatory. You want the drawer to be sunken the same amount as the width of the face boards. This is generally somewhere between 1/2″ and 1″ but can be almost any width.

View in gallery

Attach all of the mounts and all of the drawers until you have the complete base and skeleton of the dresser done. This may be the best part of the project because the whole thing comes to life in front of your eyes.

Step 20: Start Building Faces

View in gallery

Make sure that the faces fit perfectly. There should be about a 1/8” gap around all sides. Then lay the face down below the drawer and mark the position of the vertical part of the drawer slide. This will help you align the drawer face perfectly onto the drawer itself. 

Step 21: Glue Faces Down

View in gallery

Now it’s finally time to start making the drawer faces. Pull out each drawer and add glue, one at a time. Clamp each drawer face down as you go. Then nail each face down. Keep going t it until all the faces are secure.

View in gallery

When you finish, the drawers should slide in and out with the face flush with the dresser. Go ahead and try them a few times because there isn’t anything more satisfying than seeing your project function. 

Step 22: Sanding

View in gallery

Now it’s time to start sanding down the dresser to get it smooth and splinter-free. This is an easy and calming part that can hardly be messed up. Just use fine-grit sandpaper and sand the entire thing down lightly. 

Step 23: Take Care Of Imperfections

View in gallery

If there are any imperfections or knots, you probably want to use wood filler to fix them. Learning to use wood filler is easy and can really make a huge difference so try not to skip this step. Even for a farmhouse or vintage look.

View in gallery

After the wood filler dries, lightly sand it down. Don’t sand the wood filler away. Instead, lightly sand only the parts that you added wood filler to in order to remove any excess putty that got out of hand. 

Step 24: Paint

View in gallery

Now it’s time to either paint or stain. We have a full tutorial on painting a dresser that you can follow along to. After you paint, you can add hardware, and you are done! Time to enjoy all of your hard work.

View in gallery

For this particular dresser, we also added some legs that are metal instead of wooden. Overall, the project turned out perfectly! Feel free to make changes if you have experience with building furniture and let us see your masterpiece.