Monday, July 7, 2008

Simple Chest

Well the storage chest for the shop is finished – and tomorrow it’s back to work on the bamboo floor. This was a fun project – if not as short and quick as intended.

First, I jointed the 1x10’s and glued up the width I needed. I always try to pay attention to grain matching, but as I knew this was going to get the milk paint treatment, I didn’t worry too much about it (fairly obvious from the picture). After cutting the parts to length, I smoothed them – again, not being too particular. On all non-face sides, I just wanted to clean-up the glue line and make the panel tolerably flat. These sides just got hit with the jack plane. Faces received a follow-up with a smoother (#3, #4 or #4 ½ depending on the wood and my mood…).

As this was not a fancy chest, the joinery was my favorite simple choice – rabbeted butt joints. These I cut with my Record 778, which I prefer to the Stanley 78, owing to its larger and more stable fence. It did have two problems, one of which I fixed and one I fudged.

The fix was sharpening the cross-grain spur correctly. I don’t know what I was thinking when I sharpened the first of the three spurs sometime in the past. I sharpened the wrong side! More correctly, I sharpened both sides - which of course meant that the spur was no longer flush with the side of the plane/blade. The result was a very rough shoulder with a lot of tear-out. Stupid mistake – easy solution: sharpen another of the spurs the right way. No sweat – clamped it in the Vise-Grips and after a short trip to the Scary Sharp™ bench it was ready to go.

The fudge was remembering to account for the odd angle of the inside face of the fence when I was setting the fence for the width of the rabbet. For some reason, the fence face isn’t perfectly perpendicular to the sole of the plane, it leans in a bit. So if I set my rule flat on the plane’s sole and measure over to the fence from the edge of the blade, everything looks fine, but the rabbet will be cut too narrow when the bottom edge of the fence contacts the stock first. Stupid problem – easy solution: hold the rule on edge so that it contacts both the blade, and the closer lower edge of the fence. Just have to remember to do this every time, until I really fix it by adding a wooden face on the fence and adjusting it to perpendicular. Another day.

If you are a sharp-eyed, detail person, you probably caught my stupid lay-out mistake in the last picture. Yep, I wasn’t paying attention and ended up having to cut the rabbet right through a knot. Here’s a closer look at how I was saved by a very sharp blade…

After the rabbets, it was assembly time – clamps, dry-run, glue-up, blah, blah, nails (What? You got a problem with that?), adding the plinth and lid edging, filling the nail holes, blah, blah, planing, hinge mortises (just knifed them) blah, blah, blah and it was done.

Time to paint. Have I mentioned that I love milk paint? I do! A quick wash coat of yellow ocher and then a rub-down with wax. I make my own concoction of mineral oil and bee’s wax. Simple to make, use and it smells great! And of course, non-toxic.

I love how the look and feel of the painted wood changes when the oil/wax is rubbed in.

I was kind of going for a Shaker look and I think I got it pretty close. I think it will improve with time or maybe I'll just stop focusing on all the mistakes I know are there...


  1. Thank you Eric - glad you like it!

  2. Gosh, Dan, don't be so hard on yourself---it looks great!

    How many coats of milk paint do you put on? I'd like to hear more about your mineral oil/beeswax concoction...

  3. Well, thank you! I do tend to be too hard on myself – although in truth, I didn’t mean to end the post on such a negative note. Incidentally, I had to run out into the shop last night to grab something, and that chest called me over and after running my hand across the top, and opening and closing it, I left quite happy.

    On this chest, I intended to go with my normal milk paint routine: two coats of paint (from here: which gives a nice, opaque, yet variegated, finish. Very, very flat though. Then I hit it with oil and wax to really bring it to life. However, after the first coat, I really liked the translucent wash effect so I decide to forgo the second coat and go straight to the oil/wax. Had I known I would be going for the wash effect, I would have thinned the paint and still done two coats for a more uniform finish.

    I will try to do a post about the mineral oil/beeswax concoction soon – it was on my list, but your request will bump it to the top.

  4. Cool, thanks. I'm building a hanging cupboard and wanted to use milk paint but wasn't all that familiar with it. I'll look forward to your oil/beeswax post.

  5. Nice!! Our son made us a blanket chest in woods class at school (high school) I really should take a picture and post it on my blog. He made it from oak and did a really nice job. Love looking and reading about your projects - really nice pictures too.


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