Cedar chest - wood movement?

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Forum topic by ADHDan posted 10-12-2012 03:35 PM 1799 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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800 posts in 2138 days

10-12-2012 03:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m making a cedar chest from scrap wood I rescued from the Home Depot cull bin. Obviously this isn’t the best quality wood, but on the other hand I can make a 18×16x34 chest for about $20 worth of wood – and as you can see it cleaned up pretty nicely, with some TLC. I’m using 1×4 planks, edge jointed on the table saw and joined with glue and biscuits.

The chest will be used indoors, but I live in Minnesota and I’m not sure how much wood expansion I have to worry about. Thus, I have a three questions.

First: I’d like to make a solid cedar lid with a mitered frame, with a lip around the underside edge of the frame so there is no visible gap line when the chest is shut. I was thinking of joining the frame to the panel with glue and either pocket screws or biscuits. Will this work (and if so, should I use screws or biscuits), or will wood movement pop the frame at some point? If wood movement will be a problem, what’s the easiest way to add a mitered frame around a panel this size?

Second: if a mitered frame isn’t feasible and I end up just using a panel for the lid, could I still put a lip around the underside of the panel (and if so, how should I join)? My only concern there is that panel movement might pop the side lips.

Third: I’d like to use a solid cedar panel for the bottom. Same question – will wood movement eventually be a problem? And if it will work, how should I join the bottom to the carcase – can I just glue it and screw up from underneath? Should I rabbet the edge of the bottom panel? Should I use pocket screws or biscuits?

I’m going to add decorative trim around the bottom, so the edge of the bottom panel won’t be visible – meaning I can use plywood for the bottom, if necessary. But I’d prefer cedar as a matter of personal pride, since I’d have to use plywood with a veneer other than cedar (although this might not matter because I may line the interior with click-lock aromatic cedar).

I’m more concerned about the top. On the one hand, I’d really like a nice mitered frame with an underside lip, but on the other I have limited time and so I’m not sure I would be able to do anything fancy, like a floating frame-and-panel (e.g. like a cabinet door).


-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

2 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2316 days

#1 posted 10-12-2012 04:35 PM

You could make it like this with floating panels in a 2×2 or 2×4 frame.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2865 days

#2 posted 10-12-2012 04:55 PM

The mitered top will probably require a frame and panel design to avoid expansion issues. It actually isn’t hard to do for what you want though and keep a clean looking lid. If you dado the frame then you only need to put the rabbit on the back of the panel so the top won’t have any visible rabbiting lines, all of that can be done on the tablesaw with just a dado blade if you wanted. Set your blade to cut the width of dado and use a feather board to hold the pieces of the frame to the fence and run it through, if your wood is straight and flat the results are fairly consistent, use some scrap to sneak up on the rabbit in the panel and everything should slide together snug. It’ll add a couple hours but not a day.

The lip is still feasible and a good idea since it gives something strong that supports the lid when it is being pushed on. The two pieces running across the grain can be screwed into the top, the first two inches by the hinges I would glue and directly screw to add strength at that end, the rest of the length should have a small oval cut into the lip that the screws will go through to attach the lip to the top. You screw it down firmly so there is no rattling but not so tight that the screw can’t slide within the oval in response to wood movement. The lip across the front can be glued right down since it won’t move contrary to the wood it is attached to.

The bottom can just set right in, if you want to affix it do so with a single screw in the middle of each end leaving room to the sides for expansion that way. The trim can then be set right on top and nailed to the sides and will cover the tiny gaps left for expansion but really by pinning or screwing the trim to the sides on the bottom you don’t really need to affix the bottom and it can just float there. From my experience it doesn’t take many 18g pin nails to attach a piece of trim around the inside that would keep that bottom from coming up.

Also agree with above that the 2×2 frame is a nice way to go on the sides.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

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