Thursday, July 30, 2020

Found: Large Blanket Chest

Somebody had set this chest out on the curb, and who am I to turn down free lumber?  This post will be more about the construction of the chest, not so much about what I'm going to do with it.
The chest is 60" long (!), 18 1/8" deep and about 20" tall
Lid is the top few inches
The chest did not appear to be factory-made, but rather user-made or maybe by a small-business woodworker.  It's all solid wood.  At first glance I thought it was pine, but finishes can be deceiving.  Turns out that it is all red alder with some gnarly yellow finish on it.

It is made from 6 panels - front, back, two sides, top and bottom.  The front panel was set back 3/4" from the front edge of the sides, bottom and top.  The back panel was attached to the sides with through dovetails, almost certainly machine-cut, as I couldn't see any layout lines anywhere or chisel marks on the end grain in the recesses.
Back joined to sides with through dovetails

The dovetails were cut at a steep, nonstandard 1:3 pitch
It appears from the pics above that the lid, which includes the top panel and the top 3+ inches of the back, side and front panels, was cut off after the case was put together.  It was hinged with a 53" length of piano hinge, mortised into both top and bottom of the case.
One end of the long piano hinge, showing mortises deep enough
that the knuckle won't cause a gap at the back
What I thought was odd was that the front panel did not have the same joinery as the rear panel.  Since the front was set back 3/4" from the front edge of the piece, a different method was needed.  They used a full length (top to bottom) sliding dovetail.
The sliding dovetail holding front panel to side panel
The sliding dovetails were shored up with screws and nails.
A screw through the lid side, through the sliding DT
And a nail toe-nailed to hold it at the other end
The top was screwed to the back, side and front panels and the countersunk and counterbored holes were plugged and almost invisible to the casual observer.
A plugged screw hole next to a 1/4" chisel
The bottom was screwed to the back, side and front panels and feet had been added which were screwed to the bottom panel.  All screws used for joinery were steel slotted-head screws.
Bottom attached with screws
There were four nails too, presumably to hold the bottom in place while driving the screws
Foot removed to reveal two more screws holding the bottom to the carcase
The panels had been glued up from two or three boards, some 8-10" wide.  A router or shaper was used to create a type of finger joint.
A routed joint for edge-gluing to make wide panels

Here's one taken apart and folded like a book
Aside from the bottom of the chest, I couldn't see any planer marks - even after I scraped the finish off.  So perhaps the surfaces were planed, or run through a drum sander before assembly.
Planer marks on bottom of bottom panel
So the chest was interesting in some ways.  But what I really liked was the hardware.  I'll get into that in another post, as this one is getting a bit long.


  1. Matt,

    My first question would be: Why was it on the curb? Looked to be in fair shape. Then the second would be if it was user made or not. From your description it could be either. Whatever a good find.


    1. On the outside, it was in pretty good shape. The inside surfaces of the front and back panels had some sticky, gunky crap all over. You'll see some of it in next post or two. Fibers (perhaps from actual blankets) and paper were stuck to the gunky stuff. I suspect that is why they were getting rid of it. I don't think the chest spent much of its life outdoors - the planks were not warped much at all and the wood is in good shape.

      This chest certainly could have been user made. I didn't see any marks from hand tool use. But clearly whoever made it had access to a planer (and probably a jointer), power router or shaper, dovetail jig, probably a drum sander, table saw, etc.

  2. I think the recessed front panel is elegant.

    1. Yeah, it has a nice look. It's just not what I would have thought about doing, if it was me building it.