The chest is one of the earliest types of furniture, that doesn’t suggest that the human race has settled on the finest method to develop it.

There are, in fact, numerous methods to develop chests that make the process picky, difficult and lengthy– and the outcomes look identical to an easier chest.
To discover the very best way to develop a chest, we surveyed plans and historical photographs of hundreds of examples from 1600 to the present. Then we boiled all that to find the easiest method to develop the complex chest shown here, which is an adaptation of a blanket box from the Shaker’s Union Village neighborhood.

This might not in fact look like a complicated chest. But compared with historic examples, this chest was expensive in many ways. To comprehend why, let’s take a look at the advancement of the kind.

Community Chests

The very first chests had all the joinery you ‘d find in a dugout canoe (that is, none at all). Early chests were made from one block of wood burrowed with tools, fire or other kinds of gumption.
Later on, when riven boards ended up being typical, chests were built with two ends that likewise acted as feet (the grain of these ends ran vertical). Then the front and back were attached to the ends. This grain ran horizontal.

There were some other common variations as well, consisting of assemblies where the ends, front and back became frame-and-panel constructions– and the stiles ran to the floor. Another type of chest was a simple box propped up on feet that were turned or were pieces of wood (such as with the Sea Chest that remains in this problem).

On all forms of chests, moulding generally appears as a transition point between the box and the base or the box and the lid.

From there it was a short hop making the chests out of two separate assemblies: the box itself and the base, which we call the plinth.

Two Trying Designs

Taking a trip down the more difficult design course when constructing a chest begins with one presumption: That the plinth is merely moulding and should be used to the box.

Once you make this assumption, here’s one difficult (and common) way to make a chest: You cut a moulding profile into the top edge of the plinth pieces, join the plinth pieces at the corners and cover them around the box. It’s fussy to fit the plinth precisely to the box– mistakes are simple to make and difficult to hide if you use a miter joint at the corner. If you make use of dovetails, it is even fussier to wrap the plinth pieces because you’ll have to cope the moulded edges at the corners.

Oh, one more thing– the plinth is like Atlas. It supports the whole chest, so you should use some fairly thick stock when making it, at least 3⁄4 ″ for a large chest. Or you have to add some glue blocks at the corners to support the box.

What if you do not desire that big 3⁄4 ″ step between the plinth and box? Well, you can cut a rabbet into the top edges of the plinth pieces, but then you are rabbeting, dovetailing and coping all your plinth pieces, and any error is going to result in a noticeable gap.

A variation of this particular design is supposed making some of this easier. You wrap the plinth pieces around the box, and after that you use mitered moulding to the top edge of the plinth pieces. This hides any errors and makes the moulding easy to join at the corners.

When setting out all your joinery for the plinth (and the box above it), it’s critical to mark your parts. I utilize a cabinetmaker’s triangle to orient my front, back and end pieces.

And this does enhance things. It’s still more work than required.

A second common way of building a plinth is to use bracket feet below a mitered frame that has its edge moulded. The moulded and mitered frame supports the box above. The bracket feet below support the frame. What’s the downside? You require to get the fit between the frame and the box dead-on– or add another layer of moulding to hide any gap between the box and frame.

The above approach is easier than wrapping your moulding around the box, however we believe there’s an even much better method to build this chest.

Detach Your Plinth

Don’t attempt to clamp your work in our finger-joint jig vertically. Gravity will fight you the entire time. Lay the jig flat and let gravity lend a hand as you position your pieces for routing.Though it seems counter-intuitive, it’s easier to get a more accurate result with a chest like this if you construct the plinth separate from the box so it works as a platform for the box. Then you set the box on the plinth, drive a few fasteners and run moulding around the shift point to hide errors or irregularities.

Why is this better? For starters, you don’t have to be as fussy with your joinery to make the outdoors dimension of your box match the within dimension of your plinth. You can size your moulding to accommodate the difference if your box or plinth end up a little larger or smaller sized than planned. It’s a lot easier to trim 1⁄16 ″ off a skinny piece of moulding than it is to remove that off the front and ends of a 16 ″-tall chest.

If you desire to use a delicate transition moulding, the other distinct advantage is that you do not have to jump through hoops. It’s just as easy making the shift big as it is small.

When routing between the fingers, try to stay clear of the jig as you rake through the workpiece, as shown above. Then clean up the walls of the joint. This makes tighter joints.

Plus, making the plinth separate doesn’t require much more wood (it can be as little as two sticks).

And the extra material is hidden so it can be an inexpensive or ugly species.

Finally, making a different plinth enables simpler repair services, must that ever be necessary. You can easily detach the plinth or even replace it.

About the Union Village Chest

The Union Village Shaker community is near our offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, but it doesn’t figure large worldwide of Shaker furnishings like the eastern Shaker neighborhoods do. Union Town was the first and largest Shaker community west of the Allegheny Mountains, and it was the moms and dad neighborhood for the western Shaker neighborhoods in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia.

Founded in 1805, more than 4,000 Shakers lived at Union Village throughout its peak, offering natural medications, brooms and seeds. The community declined until it was sold in 1912, and the structures are now a retirement community.

Make sure to plan your plinth’s finger joints so that the top of the front and back pieces can take a through-rabbet as revealed.

Among the artifacts from the town is a walnut blanket box with great lines and tight dovetails. The box resembles many Shaker chests that are extant, however this one has actually always been a favorite.

Due to the fact that it highlights the benefits of our preferred chest-building method, we chose to adjust this design. The great bit of change moulding around the plinth is easy to accomplish with this construction method.

While we kept the percentages and lines of the Union Village initial, we used finger joints

instead of dovetails. And we made use of figured maple instead of walnut. These alterations give the box a modern feel without looking like a pack of cigarettes with cabriole legs, or some such post-modern rubbish.

Begin the Structure

The two keys to an effective glue-up: A slow-setting glue and small plywood blocks that press the fingers together.

Unless you possess wide boards (as the Union Village Shakers did), you need to glue up narrow boards into wider panels for the lid, front, back and ends of the box. The plinth and bottom are made from narrow stock. So while the glue in my panels was treating, I worked on the plinth.

The plinth has a front, back and ends that are joined with finger joints. Plus there are two “carcase supports” sunk into the plinth pieces. The carcase supports are housed in 3⁄8 ″ x 1⁄2 ″ rabbets that run the full length of the front and back, plus 3⁄8 ″ x 1⁄2 ″ stopped rabbets in the ends.

Cut the finger joints on the corners of the plinth pieces. After much experimentation, we found the best results came from plowing down the middle of the joint with a straight bit and after that routing the sides. This removed the threat of our router shifting the parts around.

A little alcohol and a block plane make light work of the proud end grain from the completed finger joints. The alcohol softens the tough end grain.
A little alcohol and a block plane make light work of the proud end grain from the completed finger joints. The alcohol softens the tough end grain.

Rake the 3⁄8 ″ x 1⁄2 ″ rabbet on the top edge of the plinth’s front and back pieces when you get the corner joinery cut. Note that if you lay out your finger joints correctly, this rabbet runs through the whole length of the front and back pieces.

To cut this rabbet, I used a dado stack that was buried in an accessory wooden fence on our table saw. This method allows you to cut the joint with the work flat on the table, not on its edge.

Before you cut the curves on the plinth, assemble it. The corner joints will strengthen the feet as you cut the remarkable curve. To glue the joints, you can choose cyanoacrylate, as explained in this concern, or use a slow-setting polyurethane or liquid conceal glue. Yellow glue establishes too quickly.

To clamp the finger joints, I made a bunch of small blocks of wood that I taped to the fingers. These little blocks allowed my clamps to put pressure right where it was needed.

After you saw out the extents of the notch for the carcase supports, chisel the waste with some light chopping.

After the glue has cured, remove the clamps, trim the end grain bits flush and make the 3⁄8 ″ x 1⁄2 ″ stopped rabbet in the ends of the assembled plinth. First cut a bunch of kerfs with a handsaw, then chisel the waste.

Fit those carcase supports into the rabbets in the plinth. Glue and nail the carcase supports into the plinth’s rabbets. Get prepared to cut the curves on the assembled plinth.

To cut the curves, first remove the bulk of the waste with a jigsaw, then clean up the curves with a plywood pattern and a router equipped with a pattern-cutting straight bit.

The curves on the ends, front and back equal, so one brief plywood pattern handles all the curves. To rout the straight run between all the curves, I clamped a straight piece of stock to the plinth and used that as a pattern.

This is what you paid your money for when you bought this magazine: The two carcase supports hold the carcase in place and give you a place for your transition moulding.

Build the Box

The box above the plinth is fairly easy. Here’s how it goes together: The corners are joined with finger joints. The bottom boards are shiplapped and nailed into rabbets in the front and back of the box. The till wall slides into a dado in the front and back. The till’s bottom is nailed to cleats below.

The hinges are let into notches cut into both the back and the two hinge blocks, which are glued to the outside of the box’s back. The hinge obstructs assistance the hinge out to its barrel. The chest’s cover is screwed to the hinges.

Begin by making sure the front, back and ends of the carcase are certainly square. If they are out, you require to correct them before you rout the finger joints.

Saw the curved shape of the plinth after assembly. If you do it in the past, the corners will be too fragile to clamp up without picky cauls.
Saw the curved shape of the plinth after assembly. The corners will be too fragile to clamp up without fussy cauls if you do it previously.

Cut your finger joints for the box. The dado stack set-up you utilized for the plinth’s rabbets will do the very same yeoman’s task in the carcase.

Before you put together the carcase, rout the 1⁄4 ″ x 1⁄2 ″ x 6 ″ dados for the till wall. This job is managed by a right-angle jig we developed for the router.

Preparing for Assembly; Pulling the Trigger

Assembling finger-jointed carcases used to be one of the most demanding glue-ups in our store. It usually included every clamp in the store, a helper and a bottle of Mylanta. When we utilized yellow glue for the task, that was back. No more.

Normally, I would shape these curves with a rasp, however at the motivation of our power-tool expert, I made use of a pattern-cutting bit and our trim router. I still like my rasps, but this is an extremely close 2nd.

Yellow glue is probably the last glue you should use for this job. It sets up completely too quick, leaving you with open joints and a sinking sensation in your stomach. Either use the cyanoacrylate glue technique we discuss on page 9 of the Summer 2008 concern, or utilize polyurethane or liquid conceal glue. The last 2 solutions will give you an hour of assembly time. If you are still not sure of your skills, make use of liquid hide glue, which is reversible with a little heat and water.

The easiest way to glue the corners together is to get them semi-assembled, then wipe glue on the long-grain surfaces inside the joint with a flat little scrap. Use the little blocks like you did with the plinth and turn on the clamping pressure. After the glue has cured, level all your joints and get ready to fit the interior parts.

Thinking Inside the Box

The bottom boards are shiplapped on their long edges, then nailed into the rabbets on the bottom of the carcase. Cut the shiplap rabbets on the table saw like you cut all the rabbets for the

Nail the boards into the carcase’s rabbets. No glue.

My shooting board and jack plane guarantee that all my panels are dead square. These needed tweaking even after a trip on the moving table on our table saw.
My shooting board and jack aircraft ensure that all my panels are dead square. These needed tweaking even after a ride on the sliding table on our table saw.

Glue it in place. Nail and glue two till cleats below the bottom. Once more, rely on gravity and nails– not glue.

Carcase, Meet Plinth

Now you can join the plinth and carcase. Put the carcase upside down on the benchtop and center the plinth on the carcase. Screw the plinth to the carcase by driving through the carcase supports and into the bottom boards. About four screws in each carcase support will do the task.

Now you can figure out exactly how big your transitional moulding should be. Make your moulding (I used a 1⁄2 ″-radius cove bit and left a 1⁄16 ″ fillet at each edge). Then miter it, tweak it, glue it and nail it.

Shape the hinge blocks, attach them to the back of the carcase and after that cut the recesses for the iron hinges. Screw the hinges to the carcase and then clean up your top piece for the last important detail.


Shaping the edges of a cover is something I always enjoy doing by hand with an airplane. Very first shape completions (which will blow out the long edges). Shape the long edges to clean up the previous step’s mess.

To shape the edges, I first mark the curve making use of a quarter, then I worked to that line with a standard hollow moulding plane. A block plane will do the job, but it will leave a faceted surface area that you should fair with hand sanding.

Then it’s just a simple matter of screwing the lid to the hinges and adding some sort of stay to keep the lid propped open.

The Finish is Simple & Easy.

This blanket chest was constructed throughout the winter months, so I had to make use of a hand-applied surface instead of spraying it in my driveway. We choose a flexible and affordable home brew that is outlined in the Shortcuts section on page 4 of the Summer season 2008 issue.

I’ve developed a reasonable number of chests during the last 15 years, from tool chests to toy chests to other blanket chests much like this Union Village variation. Each had its charms, but each also had its rough areas, especially when massaging the change in between the base and carcase.

Not so with this chest. The only real challenge will be to decide which space of your house it belongs in.

Once you make this presumption, here’s one tough (and typical) method to make a chest: You cut a moulding profile into the leading edge of the plinth pieces, sign up with the plinth pieces at the corners and wrap them around the box. If you use a miter joint at the corner, it’s picky to fit the plinth precisely to the box– mistakes are simple to make and tough to conceal. You cover the plinth pieces around the box, and then you use mitered moulding to the top edge of the plinth pieces. Lay the jig flat and let gravity provide a hand as you place your pieces for routing.Though it seems counter-intuitive, it’s simpler to get a more accurate outcome with a chest like this if you develop the plinth separate from the box so it acts as a platform for the box. For beginners, you do not have to be as fussy with your joinery to make the outside measurement of your box match the inside dimension of your plinth.

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