Build a Hope Chest for the Holidays
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.