Last stretch now. Start off by cleaning up from the glue-up last night. Trim the pegs with a flush-cut saw and run a chisel over the surface until it passes the fingerprint test. Use the plastic razor blades to get any glue squeeze-out I missed last night.

Those things are remarkably useful for this by the way, particularly in hard-to-get-at spots.

Gets right in there, doesn’t mar the surface at all.

Then saw off the horns so I can see what I’m working with.

Right. Test fit that on top of the chest and centralise it, make sure I have enough room for dust seals on either side plus the width of the dust seal again, and then mark off that point as being the final width of the lid. And then, very careful sawing. I got lucky and didn’t hit any of the mortices or crack anything from the stress of sawing (clamping cauls helped enormously here). Then I paused before putting away the chest again to decide on the hinges.

I went with the black in the end. I’m not sure why, but it just seemed to match the wood more.

Then on to the lid again, and shaping the front (where it’ll be grabbed most often) to be comfortable to hold.

First time that gooseneck has come in useful for me, but it more than earned its keep tonight. I broke all the other arisses as well, and then I sawed one of my pieces of material for the dust seals in half to give me some dust seal blanks, planed them to be matching – or close to it – and shaped a curve at the front.

When I was happy they looked okay and matched, I drilled for two screws, countersunk, painted the mating surface with hide glue and screwed them into place on the lid. Then I turned to the last job, fitting the hinges.

I don’t like this job much, I’m not terribly good at it. First I attached to the chest, and then using wedges and cauls to hold the lid in the right position, attached to the lid.

And then I spent the next twenty minutes refitting and fiddling with them to get the damn lid to sit flat.
They’re enough to make you tear your hair out.

I suppose it could be worse, these hinges are definitely not 17th century pieces (or even replicas of it). Period correct hinges would be these things:

Depending on who you talk to, these are snipe hinges, gimmel hinges or something even odder-sounding. But they’re not terribly pretty on the inside of a chest when fitted:

And even Peter Follansbee can’t make them look good on the outside:

Oh well. Count your blessings I guess.


And with that last job done, that was it. Build complete.

Well. The lid needed a coat of osmo, so I did that. But that was it then, nothing to do but wait for the osmo to cure (which it’ll do in the house tonight so the panels can start drying – if they’re going to do something weird on me I’d rather they did it now instead of after I deliver the piece).

You know, it didn’t come out too bad in the end.


Even the dust seals look good.

Oh, and for those who were wondering what it was for…

A friend at work and his wife are expecting their first in the next few days. In the 17th century, chests like this were four feet wide and three feet deep (or even larger) and they held a household’s linen or blankets. Today they’re called blanket chests. But this one is a baby blanket chest; the name is a bit of a pun in both construction and intended usage. It’s sized so that you can take four to six cellular blankets from mothercare, fold them the way you’d normally fold a blanket when you’re tired and in a hurry, and they’ll drop right in here. It’s also a baby version of the full-blown blanket chest, which would never fit in my shed 😀 (There are examples of miniature chests like this from back then, so they’re not unheard of – just uncommon).

Plus, I had wanted to make a chest for a while. They’re a fun build. Might do another one during the year.

Next up however is: tidying up the shed after building this. There are shavings everywhere

Lidding up

So the last part of the build is the lid. Though if I had to do this over, I think I’d start with the lid, or at least with prepping its parts because that can set the dimensions of the rest of the parts (but in this case, I had a preset idea for what the contents of the chest would be so that dictated everything). I had a nice piece of oak for the lid but it wasn’t wide enough to act as a single-piece lid (since the lid’s not an inset door, you can do the one-piece bit if it’s not likely to warp – so quartersawn or riven stuff). So it’s frame and panel time again.

First though, need to move the chest off the workbench while I work on the lid.

And now I can take the piece of oak I have, and mark off the final thickness for the piece (in this case there was some edge damage so the thickness was set by how much planing I had to do to remove that).

The hashmarks on the edges are because the bevelled bit is the bit that’s getting removed and the hashmarks make it easy to see what progress you’re making (far more than just a line to plane to). Time to get sid out.

Nothing now but the pushing…

…cross-grain first though because there’s a lot to remove. This took about 15 minutes in total.

And done. And flattened using the #05 on the reference face – the back face is actually left pretty rough (not jagged or anything, but there are still some faint toolmarks to give character 😀 ) And then I shot both ends on the shooting board with the T5, and got out the #043 to plane a groove on the long edges of the board. The bottom of the board then got feathered up into the groove with the #05. The plan was to do the same on the endgrain as well, but the plan did not go well, cutting a groove through endgrain with the #043 is… a bit too delicate a task for me 😀 Especially under time pressure. So, we go with this… less than optimal idea. But needs must.

Now to the frame. The #043 did the grooves and its iron matches the morticing chisel more exactly so the mortices here were much easier than in the chest.

The cross-rails are much shorter than these raw pieces, but the cutoffs are due to become dust seals. Offset shoulders again for the tenons, fitted everything (with a bit of fiddling on one joint as always), then drilled for drawbores, glued up the tenons and assembled (working quickly because time’s so pressing and therefore not many photos…)


Those pegs will get trimmed tomorrow when the hide glue’s more cured, and the horns get removed then as well, though I may need to remove some of the cross rails as well, and some of the back stile because of the barrels of the hinges (not sure about that one).

Small gap, but the dust seal will be right below that so it shouldn’t matter… much….

So still another half-hour to an hour of work to do here. But that should be the end of the construction and it’s just finish after that.

And now I’m second-guessing myself. I don’t remember the colour being that off, is it just my camera playing silly buggers with white balance? And I worry about exposing the tenons on the edges as I remove material so that I get a reasonably proportional lid rather than this mini-coffee-table thing. But that might just be parallax. It might not be that bad. And if it is a bit wide, maybe a bullnose or some other profile will soften the appearance? We’ll see tomorrow.

Until then, ragged on another coat of osmo on the chest body and left the lid to finish curing.

Almost done…

So I had a 2330h callout last night after finishing in the shed and got to bed around 0100h; and then had another callout at 0430h that wrapped at 0530h and then went into work about 40 minutes later than usual because the last remaining scrap of the morning routine was blown out of the water when junior came down with a temperature (he’s caught the cold Claire and I have had for the last week). So I was a wee bit braindead for most of the day, came home early, and all three of us had an hour’s nap. After that, and another quick call for work (on-call is turning into much fun this week) and dinner, Claire and junior packed it in for the night and I headed to the shed to try to finish the chest.

Right, first order of business, those pegs need to be trimmed with flush saw and chisel.

A bit finicky in places, but mostly this was straightforward. There are still some dark lines in places where the pegs weren’t perfect, but the surfaces pass the fingertip test. With that done, the next job that had to be done in order was the floorboards.

But first, I wanted to take a minute to look at options for hinges for the lid to see if I could mortice in the hinges before finishing started.

I had gotten a few choices of hinge in the sales over xmas (and those are just the ones that would take the weight of a lid this size), but that oddly wasn’t making this much easier. I don’t like the shiny brass ones much, not on oak. They just look out of place, far too bright even against what the wood will look like when it’s finished. The bronze effect isn’t bad (and it’s definitely just an effect unless bronze sticks to magnets now), but that black effect one is I think the best match (especially as I think it’ll look blacker when I oil it). But I didn’t come to a final decision because the barrel of the hinge being where it is on those two means a cutaway at the back of the lid which is extra faffing about. Not the end of the world, but sod it, I don’t have to choose today so I’ll sleep on it. Unless work calls, of course.

Then I checked the levels of the sides against the front and back.

The top levels don’t match, they’re out by just over 2mm (all around). I suppose I could saw them down to match but there’s not a lot of point in that – the disparity will be hidden by the lid, which will have a dust seal around it. And it’d spoil the look of the carving.

The bottom levels don’t match either, they’re out by 4mm all around, but that’s useful – the front and back will hide the floorboards partially. It’s still a bit untidy though. Something to do better next time. And with that checking done, on to the floorboards. The width on them was mostly fine already, but the two outermost needed to have their excess tongue and groove removed, and had to be shaped to fit around the stiles.

Not a hard job, but time consuming because after the initial rough cut it’s a cycle of test fit and then adjust with chisels and test again until you’re sick of it 😀 And you can’t just hack it out or there’d be a great big gap inside the box letting you look down at the floor. Next time, I do the grooved side/front rails and narrower back rail with floorboards running front to back and nailed into the back rail, it’d be less work.  But eventually, they were fitting well enough to go with.

Next, prepping for nails – I’m going to use the Dictum cut nails for this, get that nice medieval-ish look in there even if it’s hidden away a bit. But the last thing I want at this point is splitting.

I was worried that the smallest drill bit I had in that index wasn’t small enough and the nails wouldn’t have any meat to grab onto, so I tried using my pin vice to hold a smaller drill bit and hammered some nails into a test piece.

Seemed to work well enough in cedar (but that collet was useless, I just put the 2mm bit in the chuck and the bosch held it just fine). But when I went to hammer in the first nail, there was so much resistance when the nail went from cedar to oak that I was worried the pilot hole wasn’t big enough to prevent splitting so I redrilled the oak hole with a larger bit and did that for all the other nails (2mm in cedar, then widen to 3mm in the oak, then nail the floorboard in place). The first board, the back one, also got glued to the back rail because why not. That edge is the only secured edge for that board and glue’s cheap (and it won’t be expanding across that joint, just away from it).

Might not be the best job in the world (that cedar really does look a bit too thick to me now, plus it’s western red cedar, and I thought it was cedar of lebanon when I bought it – doh 😀 ). But it’ll do.

And with the floorboards in place, the next thing is to cut the bottom horns off and to cut the legs to length and eliminate the small amount of rocking the chest has at the moment (it’s square to within 1mm corner-to-corner, but the legs are uneven by 3-4mm or so).

I keep a sheet of thickish MDF in the shed for this task (I don’t like to make stuff from it, but it’s handy when you need a really flat surface and aren’t going to load that surface). I put the chest on it, let it balance itself (two legs up in the air at this point by different amounts), and wedged them carefully, checking that the stiles were vertical when wedged (you don’t want to just shove the wedge in under one leg and wind up cutting the legs so the chest sits nice and stably at a cant). Then I picked out a piece of wood of suitable size and used it as a reference to mark off where to cut the legs to get them even; and then out with the ryoba and crosscut across the knife lines carefully. Hold your breath and put it back on its feet on the bench…

And phew. No rocking. Got it the first time, nice and solid. Well, next up is just removing the top horns. Already have pencilled in the lines, so away I cut with the ryoba…

Not bad. I went over it one last time with an eraser to remove any pencil marks and generally just tidy things up…

And out with the chisel and just chamfer the new sharp edges, make sure there’s no arises to hurt hands or anything, and did a fingertip check over the whole surface to see if there was any last little thing to take care of.

And that’s now ready for finishing.

I went over the edges and corners with some 240 grit sandpaper just to soften them a bit, and in some of the groove lines in the carving to clear out any last fuzzy bits, and the inside corners of the chest as well. Then I laid down some parchment paper (I’m not being prissy, but I have a lid yet to build so not dousing the bench in finish would be useful), decanted the last of my Osmo (Hmmm. Need more. Not sure where to get it fast enough. I may need to switch brands of hard wax oil which is never a good idea) and donned some nitrile gloves (because I have about fifty cuts in my fingers at the moment thanks to the #778).

First coat will be heavy and brushed on, left for 15 minutes and then the excess ragged off.

Nice. And now back inside for a cup of tea, and 15 minutes later I came back out and ragged off the excess, and it’ll cure overnight.

Gotta say, it doesn’t look too bad.

The project’s not done yet – I need to make a lid and install hinges yet. But still. Look! Pretty! 😀

And I do like how the carving draws the eye away from the imperfections in joinery and alignment 😀


  • Rip out lid frame parts
  • Groove lid frame parts
  • Cut lid frame M&T joints and drill for drawboring
  • Measure out lid panel size
  • Groove lid panel
  • Shape lid panel
  • Cut box tenons and drill M&T joints for drawboring
  • Groove bottom box rails for floorboards
  • Crosscut floorboards to width
  • Plane panels
  • Cut panels to final size
  • Bevel or rebate panel edges to fit grooves in rails
  • Plane away inside corner on stiles
  • Cut edge floorboards to fit around stiles
  • Clean up drawbore pegs and any missed glue squeezeout
  • Saw off top horns
  • Plane top of chest so all four sides are exactly level
  • When floorboards are fitted, stand chest on legs on a flat surface and mark off base of legs to eliminate any wobble
  • Cut legs to size
  • Shape legs
  • Assembly
  • Hinges
  • Finishing with Osmo (three coats at least)

Time to finish

Small delay getting to the shed on Sunday.

Well. It’s a kind of woodwork.

Anyway, that evening, at around -3C in the evening. off to the shed. There were feet to shape.

I know, I know, Richard Maguire does it with a chisel. He also has enough room in his workshop to stand at either end of this bench. Anyway, the fretsaw was in need of exercise. So once the curve was cut, I used the spokeshave and a paring chisel to clean it up and cut a chamfer around the feet.


And they don’t rock, happily. And I’d put in a bullnose profile on the front sides using then #5 and #4 and a cabinet scraper.

Unfortunately, that meant it was time for the job I was putting off. Out with sid…



Also after:

If anyone ever asks if it hurts to cut yourself with a chisel, the honest answer is no, they’re so sharp you don’t notice you’ve done it till later. Slipping with the scrub plane and slamming your hand full force into the dull edge of a planed-square board with a metal plane behind it, now that hurts.

Still though. Pretty.

Okay, time to set it on fire.

No, seriously.

There. Nice and discreet.

Then back upright for the last time.

And one good stare later (and a few minutes cleaning up the stuff I spotted with the cabinet scraper), it was time for disassembly for the finish.

For the top, it’s pretty simple. I chose the grain for the top and planed it to look nice, so that just has to get shown off. It’s getting a few coats (probably three) of osmo:

Just ragging on and sanding back when dry with 600 grit paper (it’s resting on the four bolts in the inserts there, I haven’t figured out how to levitate wood yet).

Nice rich colour when it’s wet, we’ll see how it holds up when dry. Then flip over and apply the first coat to the top nice and carefully.

The legs are getting a slightly different treatment – they got sanded down with 240 grit to open the pores from the plane finish they had, and then painted with oak shaving tea (collect two handfuls of oak shavings off the floor, boil with some water in a saucepan and then simmer for ten-twenty minutes, put water and shavings in a jar when cool):

The idea is that the liquid is now very high in tannic acid without having to go on ebay and buy tannic acid crystals. Paint that on the oak and you raise the tannic acid levels and raise the grain at the same time. So on monday night, I sanded down the legs with 240 again as they had dried (not bad going given that the shed hit -5C overnight) until they felt dry and smooth again and then repeated the oak shaving tree routine. I’ll sand them down again tomorrow and reapply the oak tea for the third time but this time I’ll just let them dry for a half-hour or so until the wood is damp but not wet; and then I’ll apply the other half of the magic, a solution of vinegar that has dissolved steel wool over the last week. The iron and the tannic acid will react and ebonise the oak. The end result should look like this if it all works:

In the meantime, something arrived in the post…

New bearings to use as thrust bearings in the bandsaw with a larger blade size. Gotta love the lego-parts aspect of mechanical engineering…


Drying day.

My original plan was to make the drawer today, but that plan didn’t take into account things like drying time on glues given the current low temperatures. Titebond PVA glue would be grand, but hide glue is something I’m still figuring out, so I’m giving it lots of margin for error. Especially as I found today that I almost had a major error during the glue-up; the use of a mallet to drive the top crossbar and back support into the mortice put torsion stress on the two end joints, as I knew it would (stupid mis-steam-bent upright) but I thought it’d be safe enough.

Nope. Small (1.5cm long) crack right there. Not critical; the wood is now stabilised by the glue and it’s holding well; but enough to give me a moment of thinking “wow, that nearly destroyed a week or so of work without the raw material available to do it over…”

I might just try to get a little glue in there and clamp it closed tomorrow, just to be safe.

Meanwhile, the rest of today went on getting the frame out of the shed onto the assembly table in the late afternoon, getting all the clamps off and holding my breath to see if the glue had cured (it had), and doing the last bits of trimming on drawbore pegs and the like. And then the last coat of shellac got touched on in a few places to cover some scratches and once that had dried (it dries fast outdoors), I moved it back into the shed as it was dark outside by now, and got the first coat of osmo going.

Just ragging on a thickish first coat here, in two parts (you can see the contrast here between the untreated side panel and the just-treated top panel). The plan was, on with the first ragging, leave for 30 minutes, rag off the excess and immediately on with another ragging, wait 30 more minutes, then rag off the excess again and leave to cure until tomorrow evening. Then tomorrow, I’ll take 400grit paper or wire wool to it, and rag on a thinner coat, leave for 30 minutes, then rag off the excess, then leave to dry until the next day, and we’ll do at least four coats of that.

In the meantime, I’ve a drawer to make up as well.

Also, this is WAY TOO BIG to be doing in this shed…

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Make a drawer
    • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
    • Cut the drawer front to size.
    • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
    • Cut dovetails for drawer.
    • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Last minute fettling and foostering.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

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