|Project by tomfidgen||posted 04-16-2008 01:00 AM||5826 views||16 times favorited||19 comments|
Simple Joinery makes for Quick and Sturdy Construction
I’m just finishing a major cabinet project and have found some time between finishing coats to build a traditional style Tool Chest. I always had a tool cabinet in my shop as well as a peg board wall for hanging odd size tools but never seemed to be able to find the time to build a proper Tool Chest.
I think I started this train of thought after reading the latest issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine and seeing the great article on Gerstner & Sons. Truly amazing, 100 years. My initial thought was to simply copy the Gerstner style chest of drawers but once I started taking inventory of the “must have” tools I’d be putting in this thing,I quickly realised the chest of drawer design wasn’t going to suit my purpose. What I did like about the Gerstner design is the simple construction methods that clearly could stand the test of time. Dadoes and rabbets, no fancy joinery; reliable and sensible I decided this would suit what I needed and wouldn’t eat up alot of shop time. Having a background in wooden boat building I’ve always loved the old Mariner style Sea-Chests and thought of a way to incorporate the two styles while keeping the Chest relatively light.
The Carcass and Interior
For the top, bottom and two sides I used 4/4 Cherry. I joined the corners with a simple rabbet and dado joint. A stacked Dado on the Table Saw set-up with a wooden sacrificial fence made the job of cutting the joinery here quick and painless. Glue and Cherry dowels will assure this stays put for a long time. The front and back of the chest I made frame and panel style; the frame is again 4/4 Cherry joined with through mortise and tenons while the panels are off cuts of 1/4” plywood. This is a safe and stable material that will keep things from moving around in future climate changes. I built two drawers into the front bottom and installed sliding panels out of plywood to keep the drawers in place without having to resort to mechanical fasteners. Again on the table saw, a simple dado for the drawer corners keeps everything running smoothly. The drawers are solid Cherry for the front, back and sides while again plywood for the bottoms. The right hand drawer has a false bottom for two levels of storage. This is dedicated to drill bits, knives and chisels leaving the left drawer for lay-out tools. On the inside of the lid I made a custom cleat that holds my full size cross-cut saw, (this actually determined the Chests’ width during the design stages of this project) to hold the end of the saw blade secure during transit, I added a strip of leather. I knew I wanted to leave the majority of the Chest interior open to accommodate larger items but always liked the whole “till” system you see in the old Mariner style Sea-Chests. I secured two cleats at the top inside of the Chest sides, about an inch lower than the lid bottom which enables the tills to hang safely inside. The rear till is slightly wider and deeper than the front to accommodate two back saws as well as some other items. I made some custom dividers and tool holders that actually can be a real mind-bender when you have to put things away. It’s sort of a puzzle in the making when fitting tools into a small space like this. The front till handles some screwdrivers, spokeshaves and hammers. I’ll include a full inventory of the Chest at the end of this article. I used some ‘Flame Birch’ for the tills I had kicking around my shop; it was good and dry as well as an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the Cherry.
At this point it came time to make one of the hardest decisions of the entire design; which hand planes to take? Which ones were worthy of coming along to ‘on-site’ locations? I quickly got into the whole “If you could only take ten items to a desert island scenario…” I made myself a plywood template of the Chest bottom and on my Bench I started to arrange my hand planes. Moving them here to there, taking this one away and adding that one; when I finally decided on my plane selection as well as the orientation of the lay-out I traced around each one and using a small jig-saw, cut out the shapes. I then took this perfect template of the lay-out and glued it into the Chest bottom creating a kind of French-Fitted compartment which is much fancier than I originally anticipated. This method also helps to keep items from shifting when moving the Chest around.
I used a Piano style hinge across the back to hold the lid with a heavy-duty Bronze closure for the front. I had it left after a boat build I was working on last year and this proved a perfect application for the Naval hardware.(Note: A Ship Supply Store can be a great place to find interesting hardware suitable for all kinds of furniture making as well as being different than the stuff you’ll find in most hardware stores.) The handle on the top is made from 5/4 Walnut. I made it wrap over and around the top to add some extra surface and help keep from pulling off while carrying it. Some glue, walnut dowels as well as some 3” wood screws driven up from the inside will hopefully take care of any movement in the handle. For the finish I decided to try a homemade method of ‘Ebonising’ the plywood panels. A simple mixture of steel wool in a mason jar covered with household vinegar and left to ‘cook’ for a few days turned the wood a rich Black. I added a second coat when it dried and finished it off by taking a card scraper and lightly scraping the black residue left behind. Over this as well as the entire Chest I rubbed on my now exclusive Oil and Varnish mixture. This really brought out the grain in the Cherry and will provide a strong finish. The Tried and True Oil/Varnish product has become the only finish I use and every time I apply it I like it more and more. This Traditional style Tool Chest was a quick and relatively painless project that will protect my tools for many years to come while keeping me fit everytime I have to move it.
Width: 28 5/8” Height: 16” Depth: 9 1/4”
-- tom fidgen, www.theUnpluggedWoodshop.com