People ask me all the time “how do you do it?” Well, one thing that helps me is having the strength and know how that was given to me from the Lord all mighty, and I honed my skill from there. There are no set plans for me, sometimes I will sketch something out for a particular look, as in the case of my latest pirate chest I am doing for my daughter. Most times I just throw something together if I see a cool piece of wood laying about.
Most times I will just slap a box and top together and call it a chest. But I’ve found that if you really want to capture the “old” look of the classic pirate chest, you have to go the extra step. Start by choosing a favorite hardwood, pref. something dark to add the mystery. If I could get my hands on some mahogany that would be better. Next choose a size. 23”x14”x13” is a good medium size to start with. Set your saw(s) to a 5 degree angle to get that “sloped” look on the sides of your box with 45’d ends. Once you dry fit that, make your bottom and put a 5 degree angle on all of the outside edges. dry fit it all again, make adj. then turn pieces upside down so they will rest against each other while you apply glue to the edges.
I have a Hitachi brad nailer that I use which is much quicker in putting something together like this. I used 1 1/2” brads for 3/4” board to attach together. (Make sure you keep it square while your doing this.) Turn bottom piece right side up, put glue on the outside edges of the bottom and slip down inside careful not to get glue on sides. Attach bottom with brad nailer.
The top part is more complicated. I start by determining my “hump” hieght. A good one is 4 1/2” to 5 1/2” in the middle. It is hard to explain, I’ll have to show you some pictures, but get two pieces of board, measure the top side length, and cut. Next measure up each side 1 1/8” and mark. Then here is where I usually like to make a cardboard or paper template for the curve. use a cereal or a beer carton box. You have to hand sketch this out to your liking, but be realistic on the curves though, not too sharp, a flowing curve on your template. Do just one side, fold template in half, and cut both sides out with scissors. Transfer curve to wood and cut out with bandsaw, sand smooth.
Do this with opposite side. I like to put at least one brace in the middle for the wood strips to nail to. But the length is determined by the subtraction of the thickness of front and back runners attaching each side. In this case 3/4” x 2 = 1 1/2” inside width. This piece is 1” higher than the two sides to add a linear hump to the top.
I like to make this 1 1/4” in thickness with no knots. Cut out on bandsaw and sand smooth. Attach with glue and 1 1/2” brads in center of top. Next comes the top slats. I prefer to use a size of 1” to 1 1/4” wide by 1/4” thick by at least an inch over the total length of top so you can cut off excess later. Start by nailing the first piece on the bottom side of the arch. Make sure it is square. Start by nailing in the middle, then pull each side tight against the other one. I also use waterproof TITEBOND III wood glue as I am attaching each piece. Do one side at a time till you get almost to the top, stop, and start up on the other side.
The piece that is left on top is where you have to do alot of shaping and fitting to get it covered and look right. For this process I use a bandsaw to cut the curves at an angle lengthwise. (yes this part is a pain) I plane it, sand it, till it fits just right. then I glue it in place an nail it starting in the middle first. Let everything dry overnight or at least for a couple hours before planing and sanding. More on the other stuff later.