Cedar Blanket Chest

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Project by sdsteve01 posted 08-01-2012 03:38 AM 1674 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When our daughter announced a few months back that she was getting married this summer, I knew immediately what I was going to do. I saw a nicely dovetailed chest in AW #157, and it was the rough outline I followed. I am very pleased with how it looked in the end….BUT.

Let me first say I am a complete hobbyist only, for now. I have not had a carpentry lesson since junioir high woodshop, some 35-40 years ago. I have never undertaken such a big, and involved project. I’ve done a lot of small boxes, featured in other of my projects.

I was originally photographically documenting every step of the operation, until I started having problems. (Making and fixing mistakes.LOL!)

I chose aromatice cedar, red oak and sapline maple as my materials, instead of the butternut as in AW. I used 4/4 stock, laminating all the panels, taking care to have a continuous grain on all sides. The dovetails were all cut by hand. Once the front, back, and sides were dovetailed, everything fit perfectly, and I was bursting with pride, knowing the inherent difficulty of working the cedar.

My problems started when I routed out the dado’s for the till. The pieces for the till by the way, were cut from 8/4 stock, cut into 5/8 strips and laminated. I had the bottom and front of the till assembled, and for some reason I laid them out upside down on the front and back cedar panels. That was something I didn’t realize til much later.

As I said all the case panels fit together perfectly, I had dry fit them at least 3 times. So…I set about doing the glue up. Second, and deadliest mistake came with the glue applied, and time being critical. I tried assembling with a side panel on the wrong side. In my haste I started to “persuade” the piece with a mallet. The side panel split, and a couple of the tails broke off the front.

I was hearrtbroken, but determined. I re-glued all the pieces together, and put it all together again. My once pristine dovetails were now ill-fitting, to say the least. The top of the case, on the till side, would not come together nicely, so I set up more clamps. All the excessive force split the fron panel.

In the end the case was badly out of square, the joinery needed a lot of epoxy, and where the side (AND front panel now) that had split did not come together perfectly. All the sanding I had to do left me with some bad “bowls” in several surfaces. After cleaning up all the joinery, I was reasonably satisfied with my results.

The lid was probably the best part of the whole project. I have never done breadboard ends before, and after all the glitches I’d had, I was terrified, and almost didn’t use them. I did a couple practice tongue and grooves on some scrap, and it turned out well. So I did the breadboard endds, and they turned out awesome! Even the upside down till worked out OK.

I haven’t mentioned much about the plinth yet. It certainly lacked the drama of the case, thanks be to God. It was pretty simple, straight forward rectangle, dovetailed together. Only the front of the plinth is detailed. That I drew out by hand and cut on the bandsaw. I absolutely love the way the red oak and cedar compliment one another.

To attach the lid I used a brass 3/4” piano hinge, and added a brass stay on one side to hold the lid open at any angle.

The whole thing was sanded to 320, and then shelac. I sanded the shelac with 400, then put on one coat of clear Danish finishing oil. After the oil was buffed I did 3 coats of minwax. That brought out so much warmth and depth in the cedar, it’s unbelievable. The surface actully reflects the colour of the shirt you’re wearing! I was very happy.

The brass handles I found to be the perfect compliment.

So… despite all my errors, the project was a massive success in my books. The errors were a blessing because I learned how to do repairs. Cutting all those dovetails by hand was a labour of love, and a great learnig experience. I learned I can do pretty much anything I have tried to date. Maybe I should not have posted about all the mistakes, but the positive twist I have put on it is hopefully encouragement to other beginners. I have only been woodworking a little over a year, and I try to challenge my limits on every project. I will retire from the construction industry soon, and plan to make my living in my shop building furniture. The whole thing took me about 7 weeks to finish, and as I am writing this, I have 60 board foot of cedar seasoning downstairs in the shop, for my next 2 chests.

And to make the ending of this post even happier, our daughter and the soon to be “boy”-in-law were absolutely thrilled with their gift!

-- Jesus was the original carpenter...that never scabbed on IRONWOKERS

2 comments so far

View bowtie's profile


973 posts in 1767 days

#1 posted 08-01-2012 11:59 AM

despite all the problems the finished chest looks great.

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View bampy's profile


75 posts in 1795 days

#2 posted 08-01-2012 11:10 PM

great looking chest steve, very nice to admit your mistakes. i hope when you do retire you post more of your work,

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