Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 5

The blanket chest is finished and delivered.

2 Coats of Watco Medium Walnut, and 1 Coat Watco Natural wet sanded with 600 grit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 4

    There are a number of interesting details in this chest that is for the most part a big box; my favorite among them is the thumbnail molding that appears on the lid of both the chest and till.

It begins with a 1/8" rabbet cut along the front and side edges of the lid.  Traditionally cut with a rabbet plane, a router will perform the task quite aptly.

With the rabbet cut, I used a round object to mark the remaining radius of the molding on all corners.  At this point I grabbed a low angle block plane and started planing the edge of the profile by hand.  I like the irregularity of the result and the less than perfect symmetry of the radius.  I work by establishing a chamfer and refine the edge with successive passes,.

Here are the results:

With the lid finished, I cut the cleats and added a chamfer on the ends of each one:

With the cleats chamfered, a few swipes with the smoothing plane, and we are ready to mount them to the lid:


    If there is ever a time that I slow down and get all my ducks lined up in a row before continuing it is attaching hinges.  Perhaps I still haven't done enough hinges but I still get in trouble now and then.  In order to match the  style of the chest and keep costs reasonable I chose a un-equal strap hinge from leevalley labeled "A" on this page :(,41241,41262&ap=1).  This is a great looking hinge that has a worn patina.

There is a hitch however, you have to bend it yourself, of course that is probably its strength as well.

Its not all that difficult but there are a few gotchas:

     -Be aware that you must account for the thickness of the leaf when marking where you want the bend to start. In this case the leaf was 1/16" thick so I started the bend 1/8" ahead of where it was to end.
    - Use a hammer and metal vise,
    - The closer to 90 deg. the bend, the better the fit. You want a nice square, crisp bend.
    -Try and use double stick tape to "test drive" the hinge action, making sure it does not bind and there is enough clearance.  You can always make the hinge mortises deeper, but you will have to shim to make them shallower.

Bend the hinges by clamping in the vise, using your hands to start and finish with a hammer.

Mark your mortise locations using a marking knife.  In this case the depth of the mortise was for the thickness of the leaf and the barrel.  In reality this turned out to be too deep and I feel the barrel should stick up past back's edge by a tad. The mortises sides are establishing using a Razor Saw and a sharp chisel is used to pare down to the bottom. Take your time, there are no second chances without shimming.


According to the Chris Schwarz there is an old furniture maker's dimension to determine the distance between the hinges.  You take the length of the lid and divide it by 2 and that is the distance the hinge's centerline must be apart. I spaced this hinge, 2 hinge widths from the side and since the lid was 40" wide, the other hinge 20" over. This worked perfectly for me, especially given that with this type of chest, because of the till's lid, it cannot be mounted symmetrically.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 3

Well last we spoke, I had just finished routing the half-circle on the sides of the chest.  The project has thankfully come a long way since then.

Staying true to the time period, these chests were put together very simply.The joinery consists of rabbets and dadoes.  While this was commonly done with planes in the 18th century, and it would certainly still be a fantastic hand tool project,  a router does a great job at this kind of joinery.

stopped dadoes for the till:

I use a clamp guide and a plunge router, and cut these dados/grooves in 2 passes

It helps to always mark cuts like these and then go back with a marking knife and sever the fibers. This way the router bit will leave a clean edge as it clears out the waste.

With all the joinery cut and the parts for the till fitted I was itching to assemble. Now generally its not a big deal to finish the inside of a box after you have put it together, but the charm of getting finish in tight corners fades after a few projects.

So,  I fired up the compressor, hooked up a spray-gun and coated the inside with shellac.  I like to shoot a few thin 1# cut coats and sand down any raised grain.  With a smooth surface prepped, I will step up to a 2# cut and put down a nice even coat or two.

Once I had the inside pre-finished, it was time to nail it all together. Yes I did say nail, and no it will not involve a brad nailer.  Good old fashioned cut-nails and hammer will do.

If you need a high-tech article on this low tech joinery, Chris Schwarz does a brilliant job of explaining: