|Project by Lenny||posted 06-15-2012 03:12 PM||4343 views||4 times favorited||30 comments|
This is a blanket chest I was commissioned to make. My good friends Paula and Howie, asked if I would make it for their son (Brandyn) and daughter-in-law (Kara) as a wedding gift. Paula and Howie opted to tell the (at the time) soon to be married couple what their wedding gift was and brought them by my house. I showed them several styles of blanket chests from my collection of woodworking magazines. Ultimately they chose the dovetailed chest that appeared in the September 2004 issue of American Woodworker but without the drawers. Credit for the design and plans goes to Jon Stumbras.
Brandyn and Kara got married one year ago but did not have a home at the time and so, opted to wait until they bought a house. This April Paula contacted me and asked if I could start making the chest with a deadline of June 18th, the newlyweds’ first anniversary. I started the build on May 1st and finished it just today.
The blanket chest is made from hard maple. The highlight of this chest is the dovetailed joinery. I used my Leigh 24” jig to craft the dovetails and pins. Over the years I have used the jig many times but only for half-blind dovetails, so this was my first attempt at through dovetails. I did some test cuts in poplar, got the jig dialed in and the cut and fit on the maple went quite smoothly. My adjustable height workbench came in quite handy when it came time to cut the 4 ft. long tail boards. With the workbench at full height, I only had to raise the jig slightly. When it came to the glue-up, Stumbras suggested using liquid hide glue for its long open time. Typically, I use Titebond III for these applications but I thought I would try the hide glue. It worked out well and I like the consistency of the glue. I find Titebond III to be very runny. It lacks viscosity if that’s the right term. The hide glue stays where you put it although it tends to be stickier and therefore a bit messier. However, it cleans up well with just water. As suggested, I added 1/8” clamping pads to each tail (48) using double stick tape and then used a caul at each corner to get good even clamping pressure along the entire length.
The scrollwork on the base was accomplished by making a hardboard template from the detail in the plans. I roughed out the shape on the band saw, taped the template on the pieces and routed them to final shape. A biscuit in each mitered corner supports the glue up. The lid is a glued up panel with a molding applied to three sides. The molding is held in place with a spline. It is glued all along the front but only the first inch or two on the sides to allow for wood movement. Brads nailed through the underside of the lid hold the rest of the side molding to the lid.
I recommended a lining of aromatic cedar to the couple and they agreed they wanted it. Now we move on to the finish. Ah yes, the finish…what an experience. First let me say I had never applied stain to maple before. So, I did some research and learned that like pine, it is prone to be blotchy. Brandyn and Kara’s bed was made by her uncle, David who is a professional woodworker. They wanted the chest to match the bed or at least be close. David provided the finish to me. I was happy to learn that it was Lockwood’s aniline dye. I am not certain of the actual color. My research indicated that a water-based dye is a great choice for maple as it colors more evenly without muting the wood grain. The problem is I also read that an application of 1 lb. cut of de-waxed shellac before the dye can further help in sealing the pores, allowing for more even tinting. Well, I put down the shellac, let it dry and applied the dye. It looked horrendous! It was so blotchy and you could clearly see where the shellac was heavier in some places than others. I was inconsolable…for 2-3 days because I contacted David and told him I had a crisis. He told me not to panic and that it could be fixed. I had to scrape/sand off everything down to bare wood again. To shorten the story some, the second application of the dye without shellac came out fine. I followed that with a 1 lb. cut of shellac, 3 coats of clear satin polyurethane and paste wax. In retrospect, I think there is a technique in applying shellac that I need to learn. I know you have to “move out” because it dries so quickly. You also have to avoid going over spots you “think” you missed. Anyway, I got through it and I think the end result is okay. Thanks for checking in on me.
I neglected to include the dimensions. The chest is 4’ long, 21-1/2” wide and 23” deep.
-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI