How to Make an Apothecary Chest


Apothecary chests go back to the Middle Ages. An apothecary, a medical professional that dispensed medication, would use the chests to store ingredients and medications in these chests. Today, apothecary chest reproductions can be used in the home as storage pieces. You can buy a variety of styles of apothecary chests, but they can get quite expensive. Making your own apothecary chest saves you money and gives you the opportunity to customize the color and other aspects of the design to suit your taste and décor.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 pine panels, at least 24 inches wide x 34 inches long
  • 2 hardwood panels, 1/4-inch thick x 4 feet wide x 8 feet long
  • 16 drawer knobs
  • Power drill
  • Wood glue
  • Circular saw
  • Dado set
  • 4-penny finishing nails
  • 2-penny common nails
  • 8-penny finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Band saw (optional)
  • Miter saw
  • Belt sander
  • Clamps
  • Tack cloth
  • Polyurethane stain
  • Paintbrush
  • 1200 fine-grit sandpaper
  • Cut out all of your wood into the measurements needed for both the pine and hardwood, using your circular saw. You should have the following pieces and measurements:

    2 sides ¾-inch x ¼-inch x 30¼-inch pine
    1 top ¾inch x 15inch x 31-inch pine
    5 partitions ¾-inch x 14-inch x 28-inch pine
    1 filler strip ¾-inch x ¾- inch x 28-inch pine
    12 drawer guides ¾-inch x ¾-inch x 12½-inch pine
    12 drawer dividers ¾-inch x 1½-inch x 6 1/16-inch pine
    1 base, front ¾-inch x 4¼-inch x 31-inch pine
    2 base, sides ¾-inch x 4¼-inch x 15-inch pine
    1 back ¼-inch x 28¾-inch x 28¾-inch hardwood
    16 drawers, front ¾-inch x 6-inch x 6-inch pine
    32 drawers, sides ½-inch x 5?-inch x 13¾-inch pine
    16 drawers, bottom ?-inch x 5?-inch x 13¾-inch hardwood

  • Cut a ¼-inch deep x ?-inch wide rabbet into the back edges of the side pieces, using your dado set and circular saw. The back piece will fit into these rabbets.

  • Attach the drawer guides to the partition pieces, using wood glue and 4-penny finishing nails. The drawer guides should be flush with the back parts of the partitions. Provide 6 1/16-inch spacing between the drawer guides.

  • Attach the filler strip to the partition that you will use at the top of the casing, using wood glue and 4-penny nails.

  • Attach the partitions and the sides, using wood glue and 8-penny nails. Measure the space between the partitions with the measuring tape to check that you have maintained the 6 1/16-inch spacing; adjust before nailing completely.

  • Shape your drawer fronts and top piece on the sides and edges with your sander.

  • Attach the top piece to the side pieces using wood glue and 8-penny nails. Attach the back piece using 2-penny common nails.

  • Add miter cuts to the corners of the base pieces with your miter saw. If desired, add a scroll design to your base pieces with a band saw.

  • Attach the base pieces to the bottom of the casing using wood glue and 4-penny nails.

  • Cut ?-inch grooves into each of the drawer side pieces with your dado set and your circular saw.

  • Glue the sides and backs together using wood glue, then nail using 2-penny common nails.

  • Slide the bottom into place and tack, using 2-penny nails. Glue your front pieces on and secure using 2-penny nails. Add clamps to hold the fronts in place until the glue dries.

  • Drill a hole into the middle of each drawer front. Remove your clamps. Lightly hand-sand the top, front and sides of the casing, as well as the drawer fronts, with 1200-grit sandpaper.

  • Use the tack cloth to wipe away any sanding dust.

  • Apply your polyurethane stain to the parts of the apothecary chest that you sanded. Follow the grain of the wood and apply light, even coats. Allow one coat to dry before you apply another.

  • Place the drawers into position in the cabinet's casing when your stain finish has dried completely.

Tips & Warnings

  • During your initial cutting, it is helpful to cut your drawer front at least 1/8-inch over to allow extra material for sanding.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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