Each of the four sides are comprised of two boards, and the dowels ‘n glue that held those pairs of boards together bought the farm decades ago. But for the front board, where I was able to get them apart and check out the locust (?) dowels.
To get back to four tight boards from eight loose ones means clamps and glue. Oh, and biscuits. Yes, Norm-loving, electron-killing, can’t-believe-a-true-galoot-would-ever-use- them biscuits! Why would I do such a thing? Why indeed. Let’s discuss for a moment, shall we?
The mating edges of these boards aren’t necessarily square, and they have glue residue. Not square, I’m guessing, due to a century of wood movement impacting the boards in non-linear ways. To clear the glue / dirt, I can (and will) use a scraper with some light pressure to for an improved gluing surface, but it won’t result in a joint as good as one that were hit with a #8 jointer, for example. Removing material, however slight, increases the change the dovetails won’t align, but I’ll also do that if it addresses a significant gap. And I haven’t mentioned before that the boards are kinda thin for a chest. The back board, for example, is 5/8” thin on one end and ¾’ thin on the other (yeah, it tapers).
So for max integrity of the carcase, the dovetail joints have to be glued up tight, the bottom needs to fit well, and the eight boards that make up the four sides of the chest need to be whole. For the latter challenge, I can do what the builder did and use dowels OR I can go with biscuits. The dowels are quaint and all, but for the front, they did fail. And I’d rather use a methodology with which I am more comfortable. Enough chatter, let’s move on.
Pick a pair of boards. Any pair will do. I happened to start with the back board of the chest, and it figures the fit of the boards was an issue: a rise in along the center prevented closure at the ends of the board. I thought about it for about a second, then opted to use the #8 jointer as well as a LAAM block to kill the bump via the same method used for creating a spring joint.
On, then, to biscuit cutting. I placed biscuits at each (old) dowel location with small pencil marks placed for alignment of the cutter.
I brought the pieces together and the joint looked great. Glue applied, then, and clamped it up.
Proved a concept, I have a clear path forward, and was sweating like crazy. Time to quit. In the couple days it took to get back to the shop, the second guessing began. Why did I remove material from boards that had fit together just fine for a century? What was I thinking? If that action alters the size of one pin and tail set, will paring for fit create additional gaps up the joint? And will that have an impact on every corner? Gotta do a fit check and see what I’ve done / try to figure this out. So the next trip to the shop, I clamped the jointed and biscuit’d board upright in the leg vice, grabbed it’s side board mate and worked the joint together.
Snug… Good! Too snug? Maybe. Trim it? Man, I just can’t… We’re moving forward. Working the other edges, I noted maker’s marks in pencil to show pairs and, apparently, faces.
More pairs, more gluing and clamping. Oh, and I planed out a ‘bump’ in the front panel edges, too.
I also repaired a couple of slip ends before assembling all side boards with screws. Yes, screws. In a jointed edge, pre-drilled for a counter-sunk screw and applied lots of glued to the pieces as I pulled them apart.
I wiped all glue sqeeze out from the exterior of the boards; didn’t want to plane or scrape residue there! Thing is, can’t be too aggressive as the paint comes off with water!
With all side boards in clamps, it was a good time to refresh the inside face of the boards that will be the new bottom of this chest. A good job for the cambered jack plane, I think, so the bottom of the chest carries scallop marks like the sides. It was a fun but very short workout.
One top tail is particularly nasty, a victim of a very bad chisel job.
Gluing up the whole carcase was stressful. I went with building two halves first, and used a face clamping setup to get ‘er done.
I set the first one on the floor, clamped it with a framing square, and moved on to the second one.
Applied lots of glue.
Then clamped everything together.
With the sides in clamps, I traced the bottom boards and cut them with the RAS, following the lines. They were quite square. A few hours passed and I removed the clamps and was able to move on to nailing the bottom to the carcase. For that, I had a couple options: vintage cut nails or modern cut nails that are sold as masonry (hardened) nails. Because my supply of vintage square nails isn’t endless, and this is only the bottom of a chest, cut masonry nails got the nod.
Okay, then. Time to invert the carcase, apply the bottom, clamp it in place and drive nails. First to transfer mid-point lines to the faces of the bottom boards using the #197 gage.
I wanted to avoid driving new nails into the old holes of the carcase, so I drew marks along the edges of the bottom boards for the new nails.
Pre-drilled the nail holes, of course, because I’d hate to have a side blow-out at this point. And angle was applied to each nail for additional holding power.
Time to drive nails. Masonry nails were way too big, so vintage nails were straightened one at a time and driven home without issue! The end result was a box that’s back together and ready for a skirting.
Why not get starting making the top? Well, I’ve decided to finish off the bottom of the box because it’s what I started with, I have the material for the bottom skirt, and I’m not quite sure how I want to build the top and integrate it with the chest…
That’s next, so until then thanks for reading!
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