Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 3
January 2008
Making Mock Flat Panels
I love building things for my children. Still, if you are going to build projects for kids, you're going to have to accept the fact that children are inevitably hard on their things. They play hard, they color outside the lines and they wrestle in the living room. In short, they're kids. This means it probably isn't a good idea for a woodworker to spend huge amounts of time and effort making fancy, intricate, fine woodworking projects for them.

For some projects, pine, plywood and paint are a good solution; reach for the glue and the nail gun and get busy. Finish the project using some brightly colored paint (which most kids love), and you get the satisfaction of quick results, not to mention hugs and kisses from your children.

But if I decide that a painted finish

  Tall dresser - side view
The mock flat panels on this tall dresser, built for the author's son, look like traditional floating panels.
isn't what I want, I look for other ways
to simplify the project. I try to get the look of fine woodworking, but with less work, less cost and less anguish when little hands holding permanent markers scribble in places they shouldn't. One technique that I've found works well is combining plywood panels with pocket-hole joinery to quickly put together a flat panel. It looks like a traditional floating panel, complete with rail and stile, but it isn't.

Tall dresser - front view
It may not be fine furniture, but this dresser was simple to build and still looks great.
  An example is the tall dresser I built for my son. Since he's a young boy, I know that he's going to be tough on it, so I decided to use quick and simple techniques, rather than fine furniture building ones. Ordinarily, I would use plywood for the sides. Still, I'd rather have the look of a nice raised panel side, rather than just a slab of plywood. Here's where my mock flat panel technique came into play—building the sides of this dresser.

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