A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
This project provided many new challenges.
SHOP OWNER: David Charters
LOCATION: Durham, NC
My sister asked me to build a toy chest for my new niece, and gave me a good deal of freedom in its design. Initially, I leaned towards dovetailed sides, but since I have never hand cut dovetails, I figured I’d better save my first for a smaller and more discrete application. I chose a frame and panel design, and I figured I’d throw in through tenons because I am always trying to chart new territory. The frame and lid are 8/4 Fir that I got from the local lumberyard.
In the past year and a half or so, I have been on a tool-procuring blitz that has really expanded my capabilities. Among my new tools are a band saw and a planer (still don’t have a table saw). These sure were handy in turning big boards into fine accurate pieces. I made the through mortises on the drill press. I used my router to make the groves to house the panels. I cut half of the tenons on the router table, which turned out to be a bad idea, so I cut the rest of the tenons on the band saw with a stop block. I cut the cheeks with a Japanese dovetail saw.
Among my other tool procurements is a small arsenal of hand planes that are just amazing. I fit the tenons using a #220 block plane. To simplify things, I cut the groove that seats the panels all the way through, which left a small gap where the through tenons came out. I made little Panga Panga wedges to cover them. I call it “accidental design”. However, it turned out to be a very nice highlight. I pegged the through tenons with oak dowels capped with Panga Panga. I bought a couple of Panga Panga pen blanks, which provided more than enough for this project.
The gentle curves are ellipses. I drew them on Turbo Cad and printed templates on cardstock. I included some reference lines (a center line, a horizontal line and for the big curve, I made some reference lines that allowed me to tape two pieces of the template together accurately). This worked much better than calculating eccentricity and using the string, pencil, and two nails method.
The panels and the bottom are oak plywood. The top features my first breadboard ends! I cut the tenons with the band saw and my dovetail saw. For the mortises, I cut the initial slot with a router, then the deeper parts with the drill press. I cleaned it up with a chisel. The breadboard tenons are pegged with oak dowels, and caped with Panga Panga. Of course, I only glued around the center tenon. To allow for seasonal movement, I elongated the holes in the tenons for the outer pegs. I used biscuits to join the three central top pieces.
It took a lot of measuring and head scratching to figure out how to install the lock correctly. I cut the mortise with the drill press and cleaned up with a chisel. I drilled a hole for the keyhole and formed the rest of it with a chisel. I scratched my head some more to figure out how to get the latch plate on the top to be in exactly the right place. I wound up spraying some adhesive on the top the latch plate, placing it in just the right location on the lock, and then closing the lid so it stuck to the lid in just the right place. It worked fine! I cut the small mortise for the latch pad with a plunge router, and used a chisel to dig out the deeper part. I used the router for the piano hinge mortise, and more head scratching and an egg beater drill for the friction hinges.
I lined the chest in cedar. The cedar was quite rough looking, with some bark still on the edges, from the lumberyard but it cleaned up beautifully. I cut out the good pieces, sliced them in half with the band saw, and ran them through the planer a few times.
I finished it with five coats of boiled linseed oil. In the past, I have mainly used polyurethane, which I dreaded because I have not liked the results. Using boiled linseed oil has been a dream! The finish turned out very nice! So there you have it. My first through tenons, my first lock mortise installation, my first breadboard ends, and even my first piano hinge installation! It sure was fun to make, and although my brand new niece, Emma Taylor, doesn’t appreciate it yet, she will in years to come (I’ll make sure of it!).. . . David Charters
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