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Build a Hope Chest for the Holidays

Holiday, Woodworking - Directory December 16, 2010 Sonia


 

By Monte Burch

 

How to build a perfect place to store blankets- and more.

 

Last Christmas, Kelsy, my then 14-year old granddaughter, asked if I would build her a hope chest. Hope chests are also called blanket chests because they were often used to store quilts and other valuable collectible items. Since grandfathers are owned by their granddaughters, I said yes.

The wide pieces needed for construction are joined using wood biscuits.

The wide pieces needed for construction are joined using wood biscuits.

First step is to plane and joint the rough-cut planks.

First step is to plane and joint the rough-cut planks.

I decided to build the chest from walnut grown, harvested, cured and milled on our farm. The wood had been curing for about four years in my barn and was ready to be used. Other wood choices would be oak, cherry, pecan, red cedar or even white pine. You might consider making the chest from plywood to cut the cost and make construction easier. This would eliminate gluing up the solid stock. It would also cut down on the weight somewhat, as well as possible warping problems. I had to glue up the top twice, due to a “twisted” board.

Lay out the pieces and mark across their faces for the biscuit locations.

Lay out the pieces and mark across their faces for the biscuit locations.

 

First Steps

The first step in constructing the chest shown was to surface plane all the stock to the correct thickness. Then, joint one edge and saw the stock to the widths needed. When using this type of “salvaged” walnut lumber there will be waste, including the outside sapwood. Once all stock has been sawn, joint all the edges smooth.

Clean the slots with a small screwdriver.

Clean the slots with a small screwdriver.

Cut the biscuit slots using a biscuit cutter.

Cut the biscuit slots using a biscuit cutter.

The narrower pieces can be joined to create the wider stock using either dowels with a doweling jig, such as the EZ Pro Doweling Jig Kit from General, or with wooden biscuits and a biscuit cutter. The wide stock shown was assembled with wood biscuits and a biscuit cutter. First, lay the pieces for a side or top on a smooth, flat surface and butt the edges together. Make sure the edges align properly and fit snug. Re-joint any edges that have bumps, waves or rough spots.

Clamp the pieces together overnight.

Clamp the pieces together overnight.

Place glue on the adjoining edges and in the biscuit slots.

Place glue on the adjoing edges and in the biscuit slots.

Mark one end of each board with a letter. This helps identify boards and the gluing sequence. Mark across the edge of two boards with the marks spaced about 6 inches apart. This same sequence can be used whether doweling or biscuit joining.

Or, a belt sander can be used.

Or, a belt sander can be used.

A hand plane can smooth the wood surface.

A hand plane can smooth the wood surface.

If biscuit joining, lay one board out flat and set the biscuit cutter depth to half the thickness of the board. Press the biscuit cutter against the edge of the board aligning the center mark on the cutter with the mark on the board, turn on the cutter and push the blade into the stock. Repeat for the other marks. Then, cut the adjoining boards in the same manner. Using a thin screwdriver blade, clean all the wood chips from the biscuit holes.

Using a forstner bit, bore holes for the wood plugs.

Using a forstner bit, bore holes for the wood plugs.

The case is assembled using screws covered with matching wood plugs.

The case is assembled using screws covered with matching wood plugs.

 

Place glue on the pieces and clamp together. Then drill with a 1/8" bit for the screws, fasten the chest case together.

Place glue on the pieces and clamp together. Then drill with a 1/8″ bit for the screws, fasten the chest case together.