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Walnut Greene and Greene Blanket Chest

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Project by toddbeaulieu posted 12-31-2013 10:11 PM 3144 views 33 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.

<shower>

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!





26 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

3564 posts in 1564 days


#1 posted 12-31-2013 10:34 PM

Pretty neat design, hidden drawer and all. I think your execution came out really great, and it is a fine looking piece. The Greene and Greene details really shine through.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View clarkey's profile

clarkey

447 posts in 1807 days


#2 posted 12-31-2013 10:35 PM

Wow ! Excellent Job and a great write up and photos. lts going in my favourites. Green & Green woodworking are one of my favourites.

View Peter Bermingham 's profile

Peter Bermingham

5 posts in 361 days


#3 posted 12-31-2013 11:26 PM

Thats really nice work well done you should be proud of that

-- Peter Co Mayo Ireland

View Dave777's profile

Dave777

265 posts in 2820 days


#4 posted 12-31-2013 11:56 PM

What a awesome project. Your project is expertly built in my opinion.

-- the stone rejected by the builders will become the capstone

View EarlS's profile

EarlS

156 posts in 1099 days


#5 posted 01-01-2014 12:02 AM

Gorgeous chest. I’d like to build one. Was the plan something you purchased or was it something on-line? I can certainly relate to the finishing nightmare. It took me 7 attempts, 2 weeks, and a small fortune in supplies to get the finish right on a coffee table top.

Darrell Peart has some great G&G tips as well. I especially appreciated his tip on the plugs. I built a jig to use on my sander and then bought some square punches on-line (Highland Woodworking??). Darrell actually shows a tip in his book on how to get them square using just a tee square, as I recall.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View toddbeaulieu's profile

toddbeaulieu

413 posts in 1755 days


#6 posted 01-01-2014 12:18 AM

Thanks for the comments all!

Earl, this was a wood whisperer guild build. Marc’s got a few levels of memberships. As a member for a year, you get lifetime access to all projects that he builds during that year. He provides weekly videos of the process, as well as sketchup drawings, printable plans and cut lists.

I ended up watching each of the videos several times during the build.

I’d be curious about the jig you made. I just chucked the sticks in the drill driver, rounded them off into sandpaper sitting on a blanket and then cut the rounded plug off the end. Rinse and repeat. It wasn’t hard, just time consuming. I haven’t read any of Darrell’s stuff yet, but I know he’s pretty respected for G&G stuff. I did use a small tee square when aligning the mortises, but even then it was challenging because you can easily shift it before/during the first hit and trust me, it’s obvious when a square plug is crooked!

BTW Earl, I tried to buy that punch and they were sold out. That’s why I used my mortising machine chisel. I couldn’t use the auger bit with it because it sticks out and makes contact before the chisel points. I needed the accuracy of placing the chisel corners down first.

View widdle's profile

widdle

1474 posts in 1749 days


#7 posted 01-01-2014 01:10 AM

very nice..like it with the walnut..

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

1806 posts in 1898 days


#8 posted 01-01-2014 01:39 AM

You can beat yourself up all ya want, but your blanket chest came out great! I sure your MIL will love it!

To refine your finishing techniques, you might want to look at a few of Bob Flexner’s finishing books. He writes a column in Popular Woodworking called “Flexner on Finishing” and has written a few books on the subject. He takes all they mystery and BS out of finishing, and I highly recommend his books and column.

-- Dean

View HillbillyShooter's profile

HillbillyShooter

4893 posts in 1043 days


#9 posted 01-01-2014 01:54 AM

Great G&G details incorporated in an outstanding and beautiful chest.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View vidkid26's profile

vidkid26

63 posts in 2067 days


#10 posted 01-01-2014 01:56 AM

Your chest is absolutely gorgeous. I just finished a Greene and Greene piece myself, and I can certainly appreciate the time and effort that went into this project. If you decide to make another it is worth it to get the punch. It allows you to use a drill to clean up 95% of the waste. Set the punch,drill to depth,drive the punch to depth, drill out waste to the bottom of hole, rinse and repeat.

I love the fact that you used walnut. It really sets off the accents well.This is definitely one of my favorites!

View Ironag's profile

Ironag

30 posts in 1620 days


#11 posted 01-01-2014 03:11 AM

Job well done!!

-- Chris- Homebuilder and Woodworker, Love the smell of cut wood. www.hinescustombuilders.com

View Philip's profile

Philip

1154 posts in 1289 days


#12 posted 01-01-2014 03:33 AM

Turned out great!

-- I never finish anyth

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112933 posts in 2328 days


#13 posted 01-01-2014 05:27 AM

Fantastic chest ,an outstanding build.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View mbs's profile

mbs

1500 posts in 1691 days


#14 posted 01-01-2014 05:29 AM

Great job. I’ll have to put this on my bucket list.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View tsangell's profile

tsangell

212 posts in 1444 days


#15 posted 01-01-2014 06:45 AM

It looks fantastic. I know that critical feeling, but this is a piece that will outlive you, and you should be proud of it. Cheers!

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