Take a look at a couple of (re-posted) picture for the nails that are evident… The ones left in the one remaining topper board / original lid, and the nails midway down each corner, holding the dovetail joints together.
These nails, heck, all nails but what’s in the hinges, need to come out to take the chest apart completely. Yep, I’ve decided to dis-assemble the chest. Why? Because, even though the box itself seems to be stable, the dovetail joints are loose and the boards that make up each side have separated. Also, the bottom of the chest is nailed on and apparently stable, but there’s compelling evidence these nails are severely rusted. And some nail heads are gone. To get this chest tightened up for the next century of service, the thought of brushing glue into cracks and hoping for the best just ain’t working for me. So now to get it apart without breaking it apart…
I began by cleaning the chest with a stiff brush to remove dirt and dust. Then removed a clenched nail that was holding a lid remnant at the right (bent) hinge.
This single ‘lid board’ is dovetailed on each end, but too short to be part of a skirt surrounding a lid. So I had to remove it, too.
The hinges are nailed and clenched in place, and are very stable that way. I’ll leave them and integrate the new lid and vintage hinges. There is a crack or two in the top board to address, though.
To re-assemble means total dis-assembly, including the removal of those corner nails. To do that, the bottom had to come off (pulling the side boards apart while the bottom is nailed together will simply result in a splintered pile of old, blue kindling); I’ll re-use whatever is salvageable from these bottom boards, but I’m not at all hopeful in that it looks like junk wood. And what better place use crappy stock? J So I pulled the boards apart with flatbar and hammer. Most of the nails weren’t doing much at all because little remained of their head. Others were swollen with rust inside the walls of the chest. But everything came out!
Without a bottom, it was finally time to address those four dovetail nails. Yes, I’ve been obsessing a bit on them since the day the chest came into the shop… they don’t belong there, and it’s been clear from the start I’d find a way to defeat them… Anyway, there are no pictures, but after a bit of coaxing I was able to wiggle a ‘sip saw hack (metal cutting) blade into each of the joints. A couple trigger pulls and the nails were cut with no damage to the wood. Now to pull this carcase apart!
With the chest knocked down to its component pieces, I noticed something done by the original builder of this chest: his method of chopping the waste between tails and pins left a substantial back bevel in the middle of each cut. Don’t know if I’m saying that right, so a picture will help.
Makes for tight fitting joints to the eye, but there’s also remnants of glue (hide glue??) in those cavities that obviously had nothing nearby to hold on to. I’m going to opine that it’s not a serious structural issue, re: the lack of glue surface, but it’s interesting to see how this joinery was done a century ago. As another aside, I held one of the boards in a way to allow the light to bounce off the scallops left by hand planning the interior surfaces. It’s what’s visible here:
Clearly camber on the iron he used to work these boards! Does it mean this is just a simple box vs. tool chest? Or, like the accountant’s checkbook, the carpenter’s tool chest isn’t the smoothest? I’ll never know.
Another construction detail to note is the use of dowels to join each side’s pair of boards. The dowels bought the farm long ago, but they’re clearly visible and were obviously put there to hold the boards together in the building of chest.
How about a pic of all the metal removed from the chest thusfar?
Glad to be rid of that stuff!
Now to find new bottom material and get the reconstruction underway. Went to the cut-offs bin and was very surprised to find what I did: A pair of boards already joined via T&G and of the right size! I’m not kidding, I don’t remember stripping whatever it was and putting it in there, but I’m glad I did. It’s got some kind of crate stenciling on one side, too. But what’s most important is the size is right (with a little trimming). And because they’re already joined it’s work I don’t have to do. Huzzah!
So, here’s the pile that is the tool chest, including new as well as old bottom boards and a board I found that is blue and ideal for as much skirting as I can make from it.
And that’s a good ending for this installment. Next time, we should have a chest that is all (re-)glued up, with a new bottom. As always, thanks for looking.
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