A CHEST WITH A SECRET
An extraordinary craftsman fulfills a daughter's wish.
SHOP OWNER: Earl Sheppard
LOCATION: Bedford, PA
When my daughter Erika was about twelve, she wanted a chest with a hidden drawer. Thirteen years later, to celebrate her marriage, I made her this Wedding Chest. It features teak frame and panel construction, a walnut burl top with ash inlay, cherry inside the lid, walnut details, and zebra wood accents, corner brackets, and hinges. The hidden drawer in the base is spring activated.
Designed and built from scratch, the chest took three long weeks to build; I'm a slow perfectionist. The lid is a laminated form, bent and covered with selected veneers. The mortised slot in the solid end rails, which I milled from 10/4 walnut, also holds the curve. The inside radius required lots of precision router work. I used a flush trimming box core bit for this.
The hidden drawer is actuated with the carved name key through a 3/32" diameter hole, disguised as a pin knot, in the bottom of the aromatic cedar floor of the chest. The carved key is walnut, with a cut-off drill bit for the pin. When not in use, it fits into a holder inside the chest. Since the bottom of the chest is solid, there is no way to detect that the drawer exists. The spring is a stainless steel rolled spring (like a tape measure) salvaged from the magazine of a 30-shot mini-14.
Although challenging, the hinges were fun to make. The most time consuming parts to make were the triple curved zebra wood straps. Overall, it was a labor of love somewhat inspired by a song by Neil Diamond called 'Morningside'.
I'm 52 and I apply art to all I do. I used to do fine finish woodworking for a living in CA. I am actually a starving artist. At age eight, I sold my first water color and it ruined me for life. However, if you're not going to enjoy this life, which one? I currently play design engineer, architect, and custom builder while building in a 42-acre valley with a stream in south central PA.
I have had a very eclectic career. One of the yacht interiors I did made the top 50 in the world according to Yachting Magazine. I also play a goldsmith, automation & control technician, electrician, plumber, computer network geek, structural and civil engineer, as well as having installed fiber optics, dry wall, stone, flooring, and glass. I built the laser trimmer controls for the anti-skid chips in the Corvettes & Cadillacs. What surprises most people is the fact that I have had no college. Nevertheless, a thirst for knowledge and experience has served me well. Sometimes, when necessary, I sign my name as Earl Sheppard - N.D.E.C., which looks important but stands for 'No Degrees Extremely Competent'!
. . . Earl Sheppard - N.D.E.C.
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