Hope Chest Design opinions request

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Forum topic by cracknpop posted 05-01-2012 02:50 AM 3813 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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128 posts in 1349 days

05-01-2012 02:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip walnut quarter sawn sycamore hope chest frame and panel rail and stile design help

I have been working on a design for a hope chest for my niece as a graduation gift. I am planning to use rail and stile/frame and panel construction using walnut for the frames and quarter sawn sycamore for the flat panels. I plan a natural finish.

I guess my concern is the top. I have been planning a full thickness frame and panel and attempting sliding dovetails for the ends. My wife is not thrilled with the contrasting wood in the top. I am slightly concerned with the movement of the two small cross-grain pieces in the middle.

Please feel free to share your honest thoughts and concerns.
Here’s a pic of my idea…

-- Rick

14 replies so far

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 2924 days

#1 posted 05-01-2012 02:58 AM

Others here could advise you best. There are concerns with wood movment, “Pin the joints cant hurt. Your choice for the Top would not be my first choice, Go with the wifes advice I love the case design though. I an making 7 chests for all the girls in our family. Hopefuly before Christmas.

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128 posts in 1349 days

#2 posted 05-01-2012 10:56 AM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sandhill. Enjoy your time crafting the chests for the girls in your family.

-- Rick

View WDHLT15's profile


1386 posts in 1476 days

#3 posted 05-01-2012 11:09 AM

I like the design, but I, too, would go with a solid walnut top.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT15 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 1676 days

#4 posted 05-01-2012 02:03 PM

Hey Rick,
I would do a solid top or 2,3 panels – for practical purposes mostly.
Chances are the chest will be sat on and used as a bench which is asking alot from this design. It would also require a raised panel if you want it to be 3/4” and flush – more comfortable to sit on.

If you did go with this design it would be better to make the center rail go all the way through and use only two panels.

Another idea would be to reduce the panels on the front to three and make the top the same. Everthing lines up. Yea, That would be my choice. Consider one panel on the sides.

I think about moderation and less is more. Consider quarter sawn sycamore panels on the front, maybe the sides only. Go with all walnut on the top.

Also, consider if planning a paneled top: mitered corners with a contrasting maple spline (cut across grain). Nice strong joint, no end grain, custom look and (I think) easier to do than a sliding dove tail.

The bottom arch looks nice on paper but if you think about it, really is a bad design and causes all kinds of problems inside. You could get the same WOW factor in half the time by making the bottom rail straight and only arching the top rail as drawn; same with the sides. That way, you can dado the bottom into the side panels properly.

One more thing – I like to make a dovetailed sliding drawer and set it on 1×1 cleats inside at the top for all the little collectible items. You can add dividers or handles too. Don’t forget lid closers – that lid is gonna be heavy.

Hope you don’t mind my whirlwind of ideas!

Very curious to see what you come up with. Be sure to post pictures of it when you’re done!

View GrandpaLen's profile


1619 posts in 1273 days

#5 posted 05-01-2012 03:21 PM


+1 vote for the solid Walnut (albeit a glued up panel) top.

Should make a handsome Chest. Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

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128 posts in 1349 days

#6 posted 05-02-2012 11:25 AM

Thanks for your input. This is why I posted before building it. I will plan on a solid top. Will make sure to post pics when done. I haven’t worked with walnut in 30 years and will be my first with quarter sawn sycamore. (I usually work with red oak)

Mark – I shared the same thought about the bottom arch and there not being enough room to dado the bottom panel. I appreciate the time you put into a detail response.

Thanks again for all your responses.

-- Rick

View cracknpop's profile


128 posts in 1349 days

#7 posted 05-31-2012 03:11 AM

Here’s a pic of the finished project. Thanks for your input.

I posted as a project if you want to see more. Here’s the link:

-- Rick

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 1202 days

#8 posted 05-31-2012 03:24 AM

very very nice, got in on the question late, but agree the solid top is outstanding.. I also make hope chests for the girls in my family.. when ever one hits 16 they get a chest.. 4 down and 5 more to go, got a couple years before the next one is due.. again.. very nice love the look, the bow on the top rail is fantastic.. keep up the great work. she should be very proud and pleased.. I have never worked with Sycamore, how was it and would you use it again? Steve


View cabmaker's profile


1374 posts in 1809 days

#9 posted 05-31-2012 03:26 AM

Looks really nice Rick !

View cracknpop's profile


128 posts in 1349 days

#10 posted 06-08-2012 07:51 PM

Steve, thanks for your compliments. This was the first time I worked with sycamore. I found it very easy to work, though it did occasionally have a tear out on surface planing if I tried to take too big a bite. I had no issues with the shaper causing tear outs and it sanded very easy with drum and ROS. I initially wanted to use all sapwood but once I glued the panels together, decided to keep the darker heartwood as it seemed to add to the color. I did NOT like it stained at all and in fact it really didn’t want to take any of the ZAR stains I had on hand.
I will work with sycamore again.

If you have any ideas on what to build the boys in the family, let me know… I have 2 years to decide.

Cabmaker… thanks for the compliment.

-- Rick

View freddyaudiophile's profile


58 posts in 1051 days

#11 posted 10-15-2012 11:27 PM

Any chance of getting the Sketch-Up file? I would like to tackle this project for my 2 year old little girl…

-- freddyaudiophile, Fredericton, NB, Canada

View MrRon's profile


3387 posts in 2244 days

#12 posted 10-16-2012 09:11 PM

The hope chest looks great, but why did you use the panel system on the back? I thought the back would be up against the foot of the bed or a wall. Please don’t take this as critism. I’m just curious.

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128 posts in 1349 days

#13 posted 10-24-2012 01:40 AM

Mr. Ron, thanks for the complement and the question. Don’t know if its right or wrong but I finish all four sides for a couple reasons…
-I will assemble the panels (many times finishing them before final assembly) and then choose the best of the two for the front.
-I like for the chest to look as good on the inside as the outside and personally feel a plain back panel would not live up to expectations when opening the chest.
-all four sides finished alike gives the flexibility to also use the chest as a coffee table (as my mother did when they downsized their home).

-- Rick

View MJCD's profile


468 posts in 1372 days

#14 posted 10-24-2012 02:12 AM

Well Done, Indeed.

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

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