I have a tool chest! part 2

pine and oak tool chest finished with Federal blue milk paint and antique oil

pine and oak tool chest finished with Federal blue milk paint and antique oil

Hey!  I’m glad to see you made it back.  So we left off last time at the end of Tuesday during my hand tool class.  Everyone had their tool chests glued and clamped to sit up overnight.

Wednesday started with the nail-biting experience of taking the clamps off the cases and hoping the joints went together right.  Happily, nobody’s chest fell apart.  Once the clamps were off, we set to smoothing the front and back faces.  Several people kept on with their block planes for this task, but since I’d tuned up my smoothing plane in the last class I took with Chris, I pulled that out and went to work.  Once we had those two faces smooth, we learned about nails.  A lot about nails.  Roman nails, cut (or wrought) nails, and wire nails.  For those who believe that nails have no place in fine furniture, I’d suggest you look into Roman and cut nails.  These aren’t the nails you’d pick up at your local home center, and they function a lot better than those.  Then we set to nailing our sides together to reinforce the joints.

As we finished nailing, we started prepping the boards to go on the bottom of our chests.  Flatten both sides, make sure the edges are square, and smooth the faces.  Once everything was flat and smooth, we were introduced to the tongue and groove plane.  That was a fun tool to use.  Just push the fence against the board and keep cutting until it won’t cut any more, and voila!  You have a joint!  Then it was on to beading planes – as Chris described them, “the gateway drug to moulding planes.”  We added a bead to each of the bottom boards to distract from the seams between the boards.

Once our bottom boards were nailed on, we started prepping the boards for the lid.  These boards weren’t given to us already glued up, as the sides were.  We were going to glue up the panel ourselves.  The first thing we needed to know about gluing up a panel was how to shoot two boards flat.  The trick there is to plane until you get a full-length, full-width shaving.  Then check and make sure your edge is square to your reference face.  Finally, grab a straightedge and make sure it doesn’t spin on the edge, which would indicate a bow.  Once it’s flat and square to the reference face, do the same thing on the other board.  Instead of using a straightedge, though, you can just use the other board for the same test.  The secret to having a gap-free panel that only needs one clamp to close is a trick called a spring joint.  Once you have your two boards jointed flat and square, take a light cut (.002” to .004”) out of the middle of the board.  That should produce enough of a gap that you can see light through it, but not enough that a sheet of paper will fit through.  So once we’d all sprung our lid joints, we clamped them up with more hide glue and let them sit overnight.  Oh, and when you’re gluing up a panel, do all you can to keep the boards flat to each other.  That will save you a lot of planing down the road.

On Thursday morning, the first order of business was to flatten our newly glued lid.  While everyone was working on this, we all picked a color of milk paint for our chests so that one of Chris’ assistants could buy out the local Woodcraft at lunch.  With the paint mixes chosen, we started working on the thumbnail moulding that goes along the front and sides of the top of the lid.  To do this, enter the skew rabbet plane.  This was another fun tool to use – keep it flat, keep it square, and keep cutting until it doesn’t cut any more.  Then use the block plane to round over the outer edge.  How?  Easy.  Just take a full length cut at several different angles along the edge of the board.  When it feels round, it is.

On the underside of the lid, we added an oak batten at either end.  These were put right at the edges of the lid, with about 1/32” gap between them and the chest itself.  Chris recommended that we do something to the ends of the battens to remove the sharp corner.  A lot of people just put a big chamfer on the ends.  Personally, I prefer the feel (and look) of a radius to a chamfer, so I grabbed my coping saw and roughed a curve on each piece.  Then I grabbed my block plane again and smoothed everything out.  There was probably a better way than the way I smoothed my curves, but it got the job done.  No, they’re not all a perfect any size of radius, but they’re each a uniform curve, and the ones in the front match pretty well.  These battens simply got screwed on with countersunk screws – nothing fancy.

I’m going to leave things here for now.  Next time, I’ll pick up after lunch on Thursday and discuss the completion of the chest – finish, tills, and assembly.  Until then, stay safe!

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