Building a Walnut and Maple Resin River Dresser

I have been wanting to build a dresser for a while. My sister is expecting her first child and furnishing the nursery so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dive into this build, and give my nephew a keepsake for years to come.

The top of the dresser is a live edge walnut slab with a Total Boat Thick Set resin river and I used maple labs Brooke and I milled ourselves last summer for the drawer faces. I love hiding stories in my work and the maple tree was taken down in the same town the baby will be brought home to.

I am thrilled with how this came out; I kind of want to make a matching one for my own house now hmmm…

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After sketching out dimensions, I picked out a slab of walnut that would work well for the top of the dresser, and started pulling off the bark. Then I sanded the live edge up to a 220 grit.

Next, I cut it down to length, and ran it through the planer and then the drum sander until it was completely flat on both sides. Then, I decided where to cut it lengthwise to create the shape of the river-shaped resin pour.

The dimensions I would need for the mold were coincidentally almost identical to the dimensions of our tabletop, so I decided to just turn the tabletop itself into the base of the mold. It seemed like the easiest option. With some helping hands, I coated a bunch of chip board with Tyvek tape and then pieced those together and thoroughly taped it down to completely cover and protect the tabletop.

Once I felt confident everything was covered, Brooke helped me position the walnut. I used some painter’s tape to anchor the wood to the table to prevent it from eventually floating in the resin.

Lastly I dammed up the edges of the river and sealed everything off with hot glue.

Then, it was time to mix the resin. I used Total Boat thick set for this pour, because it can be poured up to 2 inches without an issue.

To color this, Brooke used a dark grey mica and a bit of charcoal powder to offset the walnut’s color. I started with a first thin layer. After the initial thin pour, I pulled some resin up on the sides of the live edge to seal it and prevent any bubbles on my subsequent pour. An initial thin pour of resin is also serves as a sort of last step in making a leak-proof mold. It fills in any cracks or gaps, and then solidifies.

Brooke sanded down the hardened resin and then wiped it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol. This was a really important step in the pouring process, and it allowed the second pour to adhere to the first layer and stay there easily.

Then it was time for the largest of the resin pours. I mixed up the resin, and Brooke handled adding the pigments, and then I poured it in.

This took a few bucketfuls to completely fill, so Thickset was perfect. With large resin fills like this you really want to choose your resin carefully. Many resins can only handle shallow pours, and boil if poured too thick which can ruin your piece, and your slabs. 

I lightly hit the surface with a blowtorch,and let it sit for 24 hours and popped it off the table. Weirdly enough, this ridiculous mold far outperformed our last normal resin mold.

For the sides of the dresser, I went with walnut plywood. I cut a few sheets down to size for all 4 sides. Then I sketched out where I wanted the drawers to go on the face of the dresser, and removed the negative spaces. I started by drilling a hole into each drawer to slip my jigsaw into place, and then followed my sketches to cut out each hole. To get a nice and square rectangle, I started with a rounded shape, and went back with 2 shorter strokes to make a corner. Slowly but surely, I made my way through all 4 drawer slots.

I routed out 2 channels on each of my side pieces, and then dry fit the dresser together to be sure it all went according to plan before gluing it into place with wood glue.

The hardest part about this glue-up was the need to move quickly with such a sizable piece of wood. Brooke gave me a hand to double my speed. Then, we added band clamps. It is important to mention that I put the band clamps where the cross supports between the drawers are, so that it had rigidity once we applied pressure. I didn’t want to position one of these next to one of the large holes I just cut. It probably wouldn’t take heavy pressure very well, and could even break. 

And then After double checking that it was square, I left it overnight.

In the meantime, I revisited the tabletop. I trimmed down the sides a bit on a table saw and then drum sanded both sides until it was flat., keeping as much thickness as possible. From there, I sanded the top to a 220 grit with the random orbital sander. 

After that, I removed the clamps from the dresser base and gave the edges of the plywood a quick sand. Using strips of plywood cut to fit, I built up the support on the edges of the dresser where the drawer slides will need to attach. I used layers of ¼ inch plywood using the classic wood glue and CA glue trick to get a strong bond. This gave me a lot of control of the exact thickness I wanted for each support.

I also needed to add a brace going across the middle of the dresser between the two small drawers at the top. To do this, I created a ledge with smaller pieces of plywood on the front and back, so I could easily rest a chunk of the plywood strips on top. I could then secure it, and add strength with metal brackets.

Brooke handled adding walnut edge banding to all the exposed edges by trimming it to size and applying heat and pressure with an iron. Once it was fully set, we used an edge banding trimming tool to trim off the overhead. I went in with the utility knife to get the tighter corners.

To prep this for finish, we wiped thing down with rubbing alcohol to pull off any dirt and dust. We used Osmo to finish this and got two coats onto everything.

Then it was time to pick out some wood for the drawer faces. Last summer, we milled up a bunch of local lumber and set up our own wood drying kilns. I knew a perfect piece of maple for the drawers. The tree was from the town my sister’s baby will be brought home to so we thought it would be a natural choice since the dresser was for him.

A few passes on a table saw created a stable and flat edge on each slab. I planed  them down completely on both sides. Using the square edge as a stable base, I re-sawed each slab on my bandsaw.

After the rough milling, I picked out any remaining sawdust from the cracks, and then filled them with resin. Total Boat 2:1 epoxy is the best for filling in cracks like this because its nice and thick. Once the epoxy cured overnight, I started cutting the board to its final dimensions. 

Brooke used a graphite pencil to scribble on both sides of the maple, giving an excellent visual guide to know when each piece is sanded completely flat. Additionally, these are done in an assembly line to make sure each slab ends up being the same thickness. I used the same scribble method to get nice square edges on the joiner as well. This prepares the pieces to be cut to the final dimensions on the table saw back at the shop.

I am adding a bevel with my router table to the edges of the drawers for a sleek look. 

At this point, I revisited the sanded tabletop. I cut it down to its final dimensions and added the same bevel to the top edge for visual continuity. This got one last sand to buff out the edge and any scratches from being moved around, and then I cleaned it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol to prep it for finnish.

I went with Osmo for the dresser’s top as well. I thoroughly coated the surface with a cloth, and then with a bone dry cloth I wiped off every last bit of extra. I ended up using about 4 coats of Osmo for a durable finish over the top, while Brooke handled finishing the drawer faces in the same way. We don’t know what it is about new england wood, but it always has a lot of character. It was also really fun to work with wood that we milled ourselves.

At this stage, I could measure out the drawer dimensions. I cut these out of ½ inch plywood on the table saw. Now that I had my sides cut, I needed to get  them together at a 90 degree angle. I tested with some scrap wood to get the right rabbet joint settings with the router. I also needed to rout out a channel where the bottom of each drawer would rest in. I measured the exact thickness of each drawer, and carefully added that along each piece as well.

The last things to cut were the drawer bottoms. I used ¼ inch plywood. When I finished cutting the pieces Brooke did the glue up using band clamps to get square edges. Once the glue dried, these got a good sand. 

Moving furniture can be a pain, so on a whim I decided to add handles to the back of the dresser. I cut out rectangles on the back, where I wanted them, and then 3D modeled and printed a guard to pop over it later on.

Next, It was time to install the drawer slides. This is admittedly rarely a fun part of any furniture build because they need to be pretty precise, Kreg gave us some drawer slide jigs to give a try, so i figured I would give them a go on this build. And they did make for a really seamless installation process. Could we have done this build without them? Absolutely. However, they did do their job well, and saved us a lot of time, and generally made things a lot easier. 

After pulling the drawers out for now, I popped my 3d printed handles into place. They were designed to lock into place, and came out looking nice and sleek like I had hoped. To get the top secured, I used corner brackets. I made a jig to make it easier to drill a hole in the perfect spot to secure a series of metal braces into place.

After we had the braces on the top we needed to position the top on the piece where we wanted it, and then we screwed holes from the underside into the top. Installing the top was pretty simple. Just a pilot hole and screw in each place.

Installing the drawer faces took a bit more finesse. I positioned them, and then used a brad nailer to go through the face to lightly tack it onto the drawer itself. This leaves a barely noticeable hole. To keep each drawer face evenly spaced and parallel, I used scraps of quarter inch plywood between pieces and along the edges and slowly worked my way up the dresser this way. Also of note, I went into the drawer with the nail gun at an angle because I didn’t want to shoot through the inside of the drawer. This was a really exciting part of the build because I could really see the final piece coming together.

Very gently, I pulled out each drawer and added pilot holes from behind, and then screwed the faces much more securely into place.

The last touch is the drawer pulls. My sister wanted the same ones we used on the nightstands a month or two back, so i grabbed more of them and installed them using the Kreg drawer pull jig. 

And then- it was done! The dresser came out fantastic. 

 

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