|Project by toddbeaulieu||posted 12-31-2013 10:11 PM||4009 views||33 times favorited||26 comments|
This was a Christmas gift for the MIL and was a Wood Whisperer project. Most of what I’ll describe here I learned from watching Marc’s videos and reading through the forum.
Most of the people seemed to be making their chests from mahogany but I had this rough walnut and actually walnut.
Believe it or not, it took me hours to choose the lumber and layout. I had to skip plane a bunch of boards to even be able to see the grain and then hem and haw over the best layout for grain flow around the box and especially on the lid.
For some messed up reason I milled the top thicker than the plan called for and had it all glued up when I realized that I had to thickness it down. Ugh. What a dopey move. So I had to bring it to a lumber yard and have them run it through a sander.
This was the first time I worked with ebony. Making all those plugs and the splines wasn’t too difficult, but it was time consuming and repetitive. Boy was I nervous about chiseling out the spline mortise on the finished top! Some use a router and a template, but I thought I should be able to do it by hand. Came out perfectly!
The spline is anchored in the breadboard end, but floats in the lid to allow for lid movement.
The handles were more daunting than they turned out to be. I made a custom router table fence to match the curvature of the handle so that I could profile the finger groove to follow the outside of the handle. The handle actually had to be fed between the fence and the bit! I had zero issues with this step. I find it amusing that I held down the custom fence with a piece of a cedar “fence”. Hey, it was two steps away!
The square holes were a lot of work. They really were. The process that I settled on uses a mortising chisel without the drill bit, a very small hand chisel and a pick. There were over forty holes to make. After carefully lining up the hole to make, I scored the perimeter with the mortising chisel. Next I removed most of the center with a hand drill. Then I could drive the mortising chisel in to the final depth and carefully remove the rest of the waste and clean up the bottom with the hand chisel. I had to be extremely careful with that step because you can’t even touch the sides without damaging them and I obviously wanted perfect edges. I made the plugs slightly over-sized, thinking they would “correct” any flaws in the mortises by expanding them to conform to the perfectly square plugs. It did work.
Partway through the guild build the plan changed to reduce wasted space in the base. They also came up with the idea of a hidden drawer. I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t realize that the modified details were an addendum in the plans. I milled the dado along the sides and was therefore stuck with the wasted space. Oh well. I did build the hidden drawer, which is pretty cool. I came up with my own locking mechanism using two fake plugs. They look like the others, but they have cut off nails behind them that stick through the frame and into a receiving hole drilled in the drawer. To remove the plugs you hook something (paper clip, etc.) into small holes hidden on the bottom of the plugs and wiggle them out. The entire bottom frame then slides out with a drawer behind it.
When I finally finished the chest I had so many hours into it that I wasn’t ready to let it go just yet! So I decided to keep going and add cedar lining and two tills, also out of the cedar. They’re “ok”. I think it looks balanced with them. I also added a hidden cubby under each till. Experimenting!
OH THE FINISH
Definitely my weakest skill is finish. I have so much to learn. I really messed it up on this chest. Runs, streaks, dust, you name it! The week before xmas I was watching another WW video wherein he buffed a humidor using fine wet paper and compound. I decided to try something like that. I picked up some 800 and 1200 paper, paraffin oil, some orbital pads and three cans of powder: two grades of pumice and rottenstone. I spent four hours one evening hand sanding the chest with 800 paper. ugh! It was so much work and it just wore me down so I called it quits for the night.
Her family does xmas on xmas eve. That’s their big day, so I had to have it ready before then, of course. Well, just before bed, the news person mentions that tomorrow is xmas eve. WHAT? OH NO! I lost track of the days because I had been on vacation for over a week at that point!
So at 11:00pm the night before we were to pull out of town in the AM with the chest loaded, I bolted to the refrigerator for a Monster caffeine drink and then out to the barn still in my pajamas. After 4 more hours and smelling heavily of paraffin oil I crawled into bed for three hours of sleep. In the morning I finished some detail work on all the plugs and cleaned all the oil off. Honestly, I’d rate the chest on a 1-10 as a 5 because of the finish, but after this emergency cleanup I’d give it a 9. It wasn’t perfect, but I was no longer embarrassed by the finish.
When I handed the chest over, after what had to be 70+ hours of labor, I was literally relieved that it’s no longer my problem!
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage or energy to take on another Greene and Greene design!