Pirate Treasure Chest

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Project by Arminius posted 10-20-2012 02:59 AM 1797 views 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After a few years of posting on LJ, I thought it was finally time to provide some content. Nothing too remarkable, but a fun project where I learned more than I expected. Made a treasure chest for my 4 yo son’s birthday. Now this treasure, ‘twas Blackbeard’s you know, but my little guy got a treasure map for his birthday and led the rest of his pirate crew on an adventure…

The project was in PWW #188, February 2011. That is a good article with some sound explanation of how to do it, and there are Sketchup drawings available, so I won’t duplicate that. I will focus on elements where I learned something and/or deviated. All of the wood is pine.

1. Cut nails – I used cut nails, which are even thicker than the masonry nails called for in the plan. Good grief, do they ever split, and I did not misplace one, I was getting splits using the narrow side. I kept stepping up the size of pilot hole, but never entirely solved it. If you use traditional cut nails, I’d recommend going down a size from the d recommended for masonry nails. That said, I like the look of the big squared heads.

2. Curved lid – first time I had tried anything like this. The article describes ‘eyeballing it’ to shave an angle into each slat, I ended up giving up on even that. I stopped even looking or marking the angle. Just had the lid sides on the workbench and planed each piece down until it fit on the previous one and was resting on the centre of the curve. What started out looking slow and fiddly took about a minute per slat by the end. All in all the top took about 45 minutes, laying out the curves and fairing them was actually the slow part. Really a great hand plane exercise, it felt like my hands were learning by themselves.

3. Milk paint – first time I had used milk paint. That is a dark brown that was actually a mix of an orange and black. Interesting coverage, looks poor at first but dries better. The second coat got good consistency yet you can still see some grain. The PWW article talked about distressing it and so forth to make it look aged, I didn’t really think I needed to – the milk paint gives it much of that feel as it is. I like the look more than I expected, enough that I might try another project that uses it in a brighter colour. There is a final layer of satin water-based poly to provide some protection while not really changing the appearance.

4. Upholstery nails – these darn things are not easy to start. Definitely need a small-headed hammer (I only had a Warrington pattern that was suitable), not sure what the proper technique is. They are also thin enough that they don’t hold well. I reversed the belt direction (which I regret) so that they would be subject to less load, but they still popped out as the belt is pulled. I have since bonded the belt with epoxy, as well as dipping the upholstery nail points in epoxy before driving them back in place.

5. Hardware – I tend not to have much in what I have done. From now on, I buy it all before I really get into the project. The handle installation was far harder than it needed to be, should have predrilled before building the case. For the hinges, just have not done enough to really get it right on a curved lid, note the front of the lid has a slight overhang.

One thing I am still working on was not addressed in the PWW article. Used as a toy chest for younger children, this really needs a stay which prevents it from closing quickly. Unfortunately, not many seem to be out there to fit a curved top, the geometry of most seem to need a 90 degree angle. I have found one and installed it, but it does not give enough resistance.

All in all, a fun and quick project that ended up teaching a couple of lessons along the way.

10 comments so far

View grandpasworkshop's profile


344 posts in 2822 days

#1 posted 10-20-2012 03:57 AM

Looks great I have built a bunch of steamer trunks using the camel back tops. Leather trim and antique corner pcs and hinges etc

-- Grandpaj

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

18009 posts in 1381 days

#2 posted 10-20-2012 04:10 AM

If we don’t learn, we fall behind. Looks like a good build. It would be interesting to see how it would be if you built another one just like it now. My second run is always better.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View a1Jim's profile


113738 posts in 2620 days

#3 posted 10-20-2012 05:27 AM

Beautiful chest nice work.

-- Custom furniture

View Roger's profile


17667 posts in 1847 days

#4 posted 10-20-2012 11:46 AM

A nice combo of wood, leather, and studs. A gr8 chest to keep your booty

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe.

View JBWoodWorks's profile


55 posts in 2201 days

#5 posted 10-20-2012 12:24 PM

I like it! I too have found the cracking problem with cut mails and masonry nails, the trick I use is the good old “drill rock”. Drill until you are just through the wood and then rock the drill in the direction of the taper on the nails. Low tech but I don’t get any more splits.

View Bricofleur's profile


1292 posts in 2236 days

#6 posted 10-20-2012 09:31 PM

Awesome chest. It looks great. I like the fact it looks hand made, not machine made. I’m keeping pictures as inspiration. Imagination is endless here at LJs. Thanks for posting.



-- Learn from yesterday, work today and enjoy success tomorrow. --

View Jarred's profile


81 posts in 1089 days

#7 posted 10-20-2012 10:00 PM

Good job. I’ve thought about making a cedar chest with a similar style lid. Not sure if I’m quite at that skill level yet!! The straps are a great touch.

-- My projects are imperfect in every way, just like their creator. Their creator loves them nonetheless, just like mine.

View Brit's profile (online now)


5724 posts in 1886 days

#8 posted 10-20-2012 10:27 PM

Well shiver me timbers captain, that’s a fine chest you’ve made there to hold your pieces of eight. I see great adventures ahead of ye.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 2847 days

#9 posted 10-21-2012 03:10 AM

Jarred – with a sharp hand plane, the hardest part of that lid is getting the sides cut. I think you would be shocked at how easy a curved lid is from there. The only piece with any complication at all is the ‘cap’ at the top of the two arcs, but by that point it will be obvious.

View scotterman's profile


8 posts in 925 days

#10 posted 07-17-2013 12:39 PM

I am looking for some inspiration to build one for my son….looks like I found it!
Any insight on how to glue up the top?

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