With the shell and lid of the chest complete the next task on the agenda is building the skirts. The skirts are essentially moldings that protect the shell of the chest from damage and help seal the lid off from dust. Though unlike normal moldings and skirts on many other chests, the tool chest Chris describes has skirts which are dovetailed at the corners. This creates a skirt that will not open up due to seasonal humidity changes. The dovetails are also oriented so that the tails are on the short sides of the chest, not the long sides like the shell. So not only do the skirts protect the shell from damage, they help hold it together by creating a chest that cannot open in any direction (without complete joint/glue failure).
Before I show you the work on the skirts though I will show how the bottom of the chest was built.
When I had first got all the wood for my chest and rough cut all my parts, I selected the bottom boards last. The bottom boards will hardly be seen, and besides the length, the size of the parts can vary. I ended up with 4 boards to create my bottom. So after I had the bottom boards thicknessed, I made sure the edges were straight and parallel to each other. Then I laid the boards out and marked each edge for either a tongue or groove. I used a plow plane to make 1/4” grooves…
...and a rabbet plane to make the tongues.
I don’t have a great rabbet plane, its too short to handle easily. So I made a longer wooden front for better reference. I used marking gauges first to mark along the boards the depth and width of the cuts.
I attached the bottom boards to the shell with the parts still longer then needed. After I nailed the boards to the shell I cut and planed them flush
I used dimes to space out the bottom boards.
I then also added three extra strips to the bottom, which are suppose to be the first defences against rot.
Before you begin on the skirts you want to make sure the lid sits flush on the top of the shell and all the lid’s edges are sticking past the shell by a 1/64” or so. Do not make the lid edges perfectly flush with the shell, otherwise there is little chance the skirt around the lid will slip over the shell.
To begin the skirts I got my material and planed it on both faces and edges. Like the rest of the chest so far I want the parts to be as thick as I can keep them. At this point I squared one end of each part, but left them longer then needed.
The bottom skirt is 6” wide, the lid skirt is 1 1/2” and the middle skirt is 3 3/4” (Chris’ chest had a middle skirt width of 2 3/4”, but I think the extra width looks better). I began with the bottom skirt first.
Start by dovetailing one corner like you would any normal dovetail joint. Make sure to offset the dovetails from one edge so that there is space to create the chamfer that will be on top of the skirt. This joint has 3 tails.
With the joint made, place the L-shape assembly in place against the shell. Then with a marking knife, mark on the short piece where the end of the shell is on the skirt.
Then wrap those marks around the board with a try square to create the base line of that joint. You can also cut the board to length at this point. Now you can cut the dovetails to attach the other long side.
At this point I have a U-shape assembly made up of one short piece and the two long pieces.
Now I stood the chest on end to layout for the final piece of the bottom skirt. With the U-shape assembly in place I can mark the baseline of each of the long pieces. I can also lay the final short piece on the shell and mark it’s length and the baselines.
(You can see here that I had actually fit the bottom skirt before I nailed the bottom to the chest.)
Then just cut the dovetails on the last two corners. The middle skirt is done the exact same way.
And before assembly, take time to roughly shape the chamfers. It it much easier to do it now while the skirts are not attached to the shell.
The lid for the skirt is built the same as the others, except that there is only one long side.
At this point I can glue the bottom skirt to the shell and the upper skirt to the lid.
That sure didn’t turn out pretty. But it is nothing some wood filler and paint won’t conceal.
Now you can use a chisel and block plane to touch up the chamfer on the bottom skirt and the protruding joinery. At this point you want to plane the bottom edges of the lid skirt to make sure they are flush and true. Test the skirt’s bottom edge against a flat surface to make sure it is perfectly flat. If you do this now then you may not need any fussing with fitting the lid later. You will also want to dry assembly the middle skirt off of the chest and check that it’s top edges are flush and true as well.
With the skirt on the lid ready, place the lid into position on the chest and double check that it fits. When all is good, use a pencil to mark the bottom edge of the lid’s skirt along the shell of the chest. Now we are ready to glue on the middle skirt.
This part of the job is crucial. A middle skirt glued into the wrong position will create a gap between it and the lid’s skirt or demand a lot of extra time to trim it until it does fit. But because we drew the bottom edge of the lid’s skirt onto the shell we just have to make sure the top edge of the middle skirt is along that line.
After the glue is dry all that is left is to trim the joints up and sand it (that is, if the lid sits flush against the middle skirt).
Next up will be fitting the hinges and the lock.
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