I enjoyed an article I read in Popular Woodworking about a period build of a mid- nineteenth century Shaker Blanket Chest. My granddaughter had requested a blanket chest. I had some wormy maple in my lumber rack in the shop so I started this build.
I milled the rough sawn lumber flat and four square on my jointer, thickness planer and finally on my table saw. I selected the boards for the longer front and back panels as well as the shorter sides. In addition, I selected the wide boards to make the base or plinth to set the chest on. All of these panels were being made from 4/4 lumber. I had some nice 5/4 lumber selected to make the panels for the chest’s lid. I would have to glue some milled 3/4 inch boards to construct the 1 1/4 trim pieces for the lid’s front and sides trim.
I took extra care to glue the boards making the panels as flat as I could in order to minimize the planing to get these panels flat afterwards.
I cut the panels to final dimensions prior to laying out and cutting the dovetails to join the case.
I was also going to cut dovetails to join the corners of the base or plinth.
I used my Leigh D4R jig to cut the dovetails. I design my dovetail layouts on paper prior to laying out the design on my jig. This way I can be precise in the measurements. You can see that I use a rule on top of my jig to layout the positions of the jig.
After laying out the jig I begin cutting tails in the side panels.
The chest’s side boards were my tail boards. The front and back panels were just over 38 inches long. Any longer and I would have had to mount my Leigh jig on something higher than my workbench top.
I used scrap pieces milled to the thickness of my chest’s panels to dial in my jigs settings for through dovetails. Once I got that set correctly, I began cutting my dovetails for the case. After I cut my first pins I tested the fit with a side tail board. When that was verified okay, I continued cutting pins in the front and back panels. Then I performed a dry fit of the case.
I had to do some hand chisel work with one or two of the pin sockets that were too tight. Once those were fixed so I could get a good dry fit of the case, I glued and clamped the case.
I used longer setting glue for this glue-up. I left them in the clamps overnight and most of the next day before removing the clamps. Afterwards I planed and sanded the proud dovetail joints. I will hand plane and sand the rest of the panel surfaces on the case prior to applying finish coats.
I next turned to building the base or plinth on which the case will be fastened. I am designing this base to use cleats fastened with glue and screws to the inside top edge of the base. I will use 1 3/4 inch screws through pre-drilled holes in the cleats to fasten the case to base.
The dovetails in the base got its own layout.
I guess the cutouts of these dovetails went quicker because of the extra time and practice on the case’s dovetails.
The next stages on this project was to glue two 3/4 inch thick boards together that will be used to make the lid’s trim pieces. For the lid’s trim I decided to buy a new multi-profile router bit. I
I also decided to route slots in the thick and wide trim parts and the three edges of the lid so I could glue splines in the slots in order to make the joining of these parts very strong. I bought a new router bit so I could cut those slots on my router table
The next steps will be to cut the cleats and fasten them to the inside top edge of the base.
-- --- Happy Howie