SIX BOARD CHEST
After two previous tries, an injury, and many mistakes, it's finally done!
SHOP OWNER: Scott Perry
LOCATION: Douglassville, PA
Late last January; I decided to make a blanket chest. This was supposed to be a quick, straightforward birthday present for my wife's birthday in late February. I was on track with it, too. I had panels glued up and milled, flattened with hand planes, and ready for the rabbet and dado joinery.
Everything was going to plan. I had a bunch of input from people here on WoodCentral, and an efficiency challenge issued by Adam Cherubini. Well, unfortunately, I didn't meet his pace. While plowing stopped rabbets, I was making a poorly conceived cut, landed my hand on the blade, and took a respite from working on this project. All my wife got for her birthday was a mediocre dinner – drag!
A few weeks went by, and I got back into the garage, working slowly, and with a much greater degree of focus after my accident. I plowed the remaining dadoes and rabbets, and decided that the chest might make a good Mother's Day gift.
The dry assemblies went well, the interiors got pre-finished and assembled, and the carcass went together with about 50 cut nails.
I acquired some new tooling for this project. I needed a low angle block to trim the 3/32" of end grain overhanging the edges on the front. Also, a spokeshave to shape the front applied feet; though I did pick up a Veritas medium shoulder plane, which was used extensively on the mortise and tenon web frames and to clean rabbets and dadoes. With these new additions, I continued working and made decent progress. After much waffling, I decided to upgrade the hinges I'd originally bought for some nice hand-forged strap hinges from Horton Brasses. I got everything together, and the carcass was finished.
I decided to use sliding dovetails to assemble the drawers. It worked, but I think that method is better suited to mechanical slides than traditional runners - it was finicky to set up, required insetting the sides more than I'd wanted (which has necessitated the addition of drawer guides, one of two open action items I have left to complete), and is lacking that subtle intangible dovetail feel. It's a good quick-and-dirty method, and will probably be great for the shop drawers I'll (someday) make, but it wasn't the best for this.
Well, about a week ago, I realized that Mother's Day was the 9th, not the 16th. I got real busy after the kids went to bed every night, but come Friday, there was still much to do. I put in two late nights, built some drawers (and rebuilt them after realizing I'd cut the backs short by about 1/2" each), shiplapped some back boards, put on about five coats of milk paint, oiled things, rubbed them out, and screwed the top back down for good. Come about 12:45 Saturday night, I had a completed six-board blanket chest.
The chest is sort of a Friday-cabinet affair, using every species of wood I had readily available with moderately similar properties. The carcass is 'stained' soft maple and magnolia; the drawers are soft maple and red birch; the molding's what was sold to me as cherry, though it seems a little too open-pored to be cherry (or even birch); the back boards are poplar. The outside, obviously, is barn red, finished with Minwax Tung Oil finish. I had some reservations about using this color for a while; I'm glad I finally went with it - it works great in this room, and my wife loves it. The inside is painted with buttermilk-colored milk paint to eliminate the effect of so many disparate grain patterns and colorings coming together in one spot. The inside's finished with wax. The knobs are from Smith Woodworks and Design (niceknobs.com); I'd like to have turned them myself, but time and stainless steel pins were conspiring against me. I left the bottom of the chest natural with a shellac finish so we can remember what the rest looked like.
This is my third attempt at this chest. Every woodworking mistake I've ever made, I've made working on this. Four years ago, I started one in walnut, which was so far from being viable, that the walnut's been absorbed in other places. Two years ago, I tried again, this time with poplar. One of those twisted, warped panels got flattened and became the shiplapped back on this. This time, I've had tool problems, setup problems, timing problems, and one other mishap I don't like dwelling on. It seemed simple four years ago - six boards, nailed together, and a couple drawers. This should be easy for a beginner and it probably is, too. However, for me, this has been the hardest project I've ever completed.
Now if I could only have worked some gas springs into the design!!! Thanks to all the helpful people here who suffered through my never-ending barrage of inane questions, you have my sincere gratitude.. . . Scott Perry
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