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Thread: Carver's Chest Build-along

  1. #1
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    Carver's Chest Build-along

    I've never done a build-along, mostly because I make small things mostly, toys, boxes etc., etc. Plus, I rarely think to stop and take pictures at key points. But I am now building a Gerstner-like carvers chest to hold my most used, tools. Now they are scattered about, a tool roll here, stones and slip there, so this will put everything into one place. The motivation for doing this is I have signed up for a carving class in March. So I can transport my tools in a handy way. Here is the collection of tools it must accommodate, the only thing missing are my sharpening stones and slips.

    1.jpg

    The problem with Gerstner chests (I own several) in terms of carving tools are: The chests aren't deep enough to accommodate carving tools, typically 9-10-inches long. The tools could be put in sideways, but that limits how many can be stored and on most Gerstner chests, the drawers are too shallow for much else.

    So I decided to make one that is 12-inches deep, about 10 inches tall and 18-inches long. It will be built in a similar way to Gerstner's but with some differences that I will point out as I go along.

    This gave me the opportunity to use some wood that I've been carrying around for decades. The story goes that my Grandpa made a small bookshelf for my Grandma soon after they were married. The bookshelf is Chestnut and I remember it in the house where I grew up as a young child in the 1960s. It got moved when that house was sold and was stored in the basement, which repeatedly flooded and the shelves, sadly, were in very poor condition. My sister gave them to me. I determined that nothing could reasonably be done to restore it, and even if it could've been restored it was too small and shallow for anything but paperbacks. So I knocked it apart and stacked the wood, waiting for some special project to use it.

    I didn't take a photo of the shelves together, but they were built like you would expect. A carcass, base with a decorative skirt, and on the sides, two rows of holes for shelf pins. there were only two shelves that came with it. The back was very thin plywood that had delaminated and crinkled.

    The first thing I had to do after designing the box was to cut out and thickness the stock. I should mention that I resolved to make this entirely by hand, no power equipment at all! I assessed the wood, laid out all the parts and started cutting

    2.jpg

    The shelving unit was painted black on the outside, but the inside had been varnished, but this was some type of faux woodgrain technique that I has seen on other furniture that he made or refinished. It had a thick coat of paint over which was a tinted varnish that made it sort of look like wood. No real attempt to comb grain into it was evident and like most of his painting/finishing, it was pretty sloppy. (Sorry Grandpa). The boards were all just under 3/4-inch and my chest would be 1/2-inch stock so there was a bunch of planing to do. It was complicated by the painted material, almost certainly lead paint. So I donned my respirator, and jack-planed off all the paint after cutting most boards to rough length. Then vacuumed and mopped up.

    3.jpg

    I had just barely enough wood to make the chest, so I had to be careful with the layout. I Split the long sides down through the row of shelf holes and planed down to remove the holes, but maintain the maximum width.

    4.jpg

    Then as is my habit to start off I flatten and surface one face, shoot one end, and joint one edge nice and square.

    6.jpg

    First I flatten one side. The chestnut generally planed beautifully, I really like working it. But in some spots the grain ran contrary and caused some significant tear-out. The wood was pretty straight grained, and the boards were narrow, could he have glued up strips, not caring which way the grain went? Lets take a look.

    7.jpg

    Yup, nearly every board (even after I ripped them to narrower dimensions) had one or more joins. But once I dressed the ends I could see that these boards were commercially joined with shallow match joints. I do not believe that he did this, so either the wood was purchased, already joined, to make a wider board out of narrow strips, or maybe he did not make the shelves. Maybe he reworked something else into the shelves, or maybe he just refinished it. A mystery, and there's nobody alive to ask. The shelf pin holes were not perfectly aligned, so that's a vote for him drilling them (they weren't gang-drilled). But who know?

    So I had to take the flattening the one side slowly, I abandoned the scrub plane and set the jack to a shallow cut and was carful at the edges to avoid blow out.

    Once I got into the rhythm, it went smoothly enough. I got all the wood flattened on one side, one edge shot and one side jointed, then the other, prepared for glue-up.

    8.jpg

    Glue-up went smoothly. I did try both to match grain and run it all in the same direction, to make the next step easier. Then I thickness the board. I had to remove about 3/16-inch of material. I normally start with a scrub plane, until I am about 1/16th off the penciled-in scribe mark, then a jack down to the just above the line, then a jointer to flatten everything, finally a smooth plane to make pretty. Then trim to final size. Next, the results of this step.

    Note: the pix are all sideways (click on them) I couldn't delete the final attached thumbnail so the results are in the next post.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    • File Type: jpg 5.jpg (92.3 KB, 40 views)
    Last edited by David Carroll; 01-27-2024 at 12:06 PM. Reason: Trying to fix things...

  2. #2
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    The finished panels

    Here is the stack of finished panels, and some other pieces, I haven't made the drawer parts yet, or the front drop-panel stock, but that will happen soon. Some of the wood, drawer sides and back, the cabinet bottom and the bottom of the till, is made with some very old pine that came out of a barn on the property where I grew up. I love using old wood and have accumulated lots of bits and pieces.

    9.jpg

    I like planing to thickness by hand, I find it very soothing. I have very limited time to work on projects like this. Once the box was designed, it took me a half day last weekend, and a couple of hours in the evening most every day to get this done. Certainly no speed records here.

    Doing it by hand generated a lot of shavings, and this doesn't include the painted bits that were vacuumed up and will be disposed of separately.

    10.jpg

    Next up, Joinery!

    DC

  3. #3
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    Looking forward to following the build. Looks good so far.

  4. #4
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    David,

    That's a great project. I did a similar Gerstner style toolbox project to hold my selection of smaller model building tools. Five shallow drawers in a case with a drop down front. I used period Gerstner construction techniques and found most of the specialty hardware I needed on the Gerstner website.

    Good Luck,

    Tom

  5. #5
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    Tom,

    I did find Gerstner's site and order the hinges and the spring/rod assemblies to hold the drop front closed. I also ordered the corner protectors. This will have two full-width drawers and two half-width drawers, they'll all be the same height. Carving tools in the two full width drawers and smaller tools, punches, and detail carving tools in the smaller drawers, stones, mallets, saws, and assorted tools in the till.

    Thanks!

    DC

  6. #6
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    David,

    Hope you are as happy with your Gerstner as I am with mine.

    Tom

    50.3 Front Slides.jpg

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Blank View Post
    David,

    Hope you are as happy with your Gerstner as I am with mine.

    Tom

    50.3 Front Slides.jpg
    I hope mine looks half as good as yours when it's done!

    DC

  8. #8
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    Carvers Chest Build-along- Next Steps

    Installment No. 3!

    Firstly I have to say that I have a lot of respect for Derek and Steven for the number of build-alongs they do and post. It requires a great deal of time and organizational skills, both of which i have only a short supply of. I worked on the chest most nights this past week and I am making progress!

    11.jpg

    The next step was to dovetail the sides and back together. This chest is different than Gerstner's in terms of construction, they use rabbet joints and locking drawer rabbets (not sure of the terminology there) and I am dovetailing the back to the sides and the top rail will be dovetailed as well. The bottom will fit into rabbets all three sides. The bottom doesn't really have a big role in the structure of the box. The doors hang from runners in the sides. So the bottom will have no weight on it, it just has to hold everything square.

    I cut tails first. I laid everything out on the CAD system, there's a lot going on with the joinery and I wanted to get it right the first try.

    12.jpg

    The layout was important because there will be dadoes in parts that I didn't want to dovetail through, but beyond that, not too much that's unusual.

    Derek, if you are following along, that marking knife shown above, I somehow associate with you, either you designed it, or sold it to me, or it is based on your design. Anyway, it works wonderfully.

    13.jpg

    So, those are cut, I saw out the waste with a coping saw, which was how I was taught in school. Then chop down to the knife line.

    I know people don't like shoulder vises, but here is where they shine. No need for a Moxon vise.

    14.jpg

    Here's the back done, at least with the dovetails, I still need to run a dado for the till base and a rabbet for the bottom.

    15.jpg

    I forgot to take a picture of how I transfer the tails to the pins, but it's the way lots of folks do it, each side is clamped in the shoulder vise with the top edge flush with a plane on its side and then the plane is moved back to support the tail board level and in position and the pins marked from the tails with the knife.

    16.jpg

    They went together alright, not my best dovetails, but certainly not my worst either! I like the wider spacing, if they are too close together they look machine made to me.

    After this I had to dado the sides and back for the till bottom (floor?) then rabbet all around for the chest bottom. I didn't take pictures of those things, but I use a Stanley 78 followed by a No. 10 for the rabbets, and for the dadoes, I knife them deep as I can, then chase the knife mark with a fine toothed saw to depth, then waste with a chisel and clean up with a router plane. I have dado planes, but I rarely use them on short little dadoes like these.

    17.jpg

    Here's the carcass just clamped together, while fitting the till floor and the chest bottom (in progress). Somewhere along the way I dovetailed the top rail. The whole thing goes together without protest. There'll be lots more to do before I glue it up. The sides need dadoes for the drawer runners, the till floor needs one for the top drawer divider that will hang from it. The design is for two full-width drawers at the bottom, and two half-width drawers above, so I need to hang a divider that I can mount the drawer runners to. I was going to use a sliding dovetail for that joint, but have decided to instead run a dado cross grain and glue the divider in and secure with screws, they'll be covered by the felt.

    Until the next installment...

    DC

  9. #9
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    Well, that was fast! -4

    Sorry about the sideways and now upside down pictures. I thought I figured out what I was doing wrong, but mostly I just found a new way to do it wrong. How do I fix this?

    I got further today than I expected! I had mentioned above that the sides had a lot more processes to run, namely drawer runner dadoes. 3 on each side. Some were stopped on one end (the front) and one, on each side, was stopped at the back because running it off the back would interfere with the dovetail pin, the other two on each side could run of the end. So as I said before, my method is to knife the edges as deep as possible and then chase the cut with a fine toothed Zona craft saw, (24 tpi) and cut to depth, then chisel and router plane it to depth.

    18.jpg

    It was a lot of work and my lower back was beginning to hurt so I retooled, clamping it to my nifty LV work platform. Worked like a charm, lifting it just enough for comfort.

    19.jpg

    Sigh, if I would remember to take the photo in landscape orientation, that seems to avoid the sideways thumbnails...

    Anyway, I soon got all the dadoes cut. I decided not to use chestnut for the runners, it's splintery and I figured some close-grained wood would work better. I had a small piece of grey elm that I figured would be ideal, hard, close-grained, and not likely to split. So I set to ripping 3/8-inch strips.

    20.jpg

    My saw bench is a painter's work platform. I have been plastering ceilings and it's handy. It just so happens to be an ideal height for use as a sawing bench. I started at it, but after a few strokes it became clear that all the ripping of chestnut had dulled my nice LN rip saw (7 tpi). So...

    21.jpg

    After a quick touch up, the saw was sticky-sharp as they say!

    22.jpg

    It sailed through the rest of the ripping. As my elm board got progressively thinner, I had to clamp it to another board to hold it while I sawed away. All these pieces had to be thicknessed, cut down to 1/2-inch width, (I actually didn't cut this, I used a rank set jack plane which made quick work of it) then jointed the cut straight and trimmed and fit each runner into its groove.

    23.jpg

    Fitting and gluing these went quickly, I like the color contrast of the nearly white elm and the aged dark chestnut. Pity nobody will ever see it!

    24.jpg

    I did also run the dado for the middle drawer divider, after running the grooves in chestnut, the white pine was so easy!!

    Now, I have to leave it, I fly out in the morning for a week to the west coast (CA) for a trade show. When I get back I have to make the center drawer divider, with its drawer runners, then I should be ready to glue up!

    Stay tuned...

    DC
    Last edited by David Carroll; 02-03-2024 at 10:29 PM.

  10. #10
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    Next Steps

    The project was put on hold because I had to travel to the Left Coast for a Trade Show. While there I ordered all the bits and bobs from Gerstner, hinges, lid locking pin kits, lid hinge plates, fancy corners (I went with brass) and a nice leather handle. Most everything was delivered before I got back.

    I had to do a little research about how to install it all, which meant I couldn't really glue-up, because there are things to do, grooves and recesses to cut, which would be much harder to do if assembled. So I decided I would make the drop front lid. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the process, but it was pretty straight forward frame and panel construction, I just recently got a Stanley No. 49 tongue and groove plane, from Patrick Leach, gave it a quick sharpen, and put it to work. It make pretty quick work of running the grooves. The rest was a pleasant couple of hours with a 3/16-inch pig sticker, a tenon saw and a shoulder plane.

    Here is the result:

    25.jpg

    The blemish on the left edge of the panel broke my heart. It's a worm hole and there was no evidence that it was there. The way I made the panel so it would be flush on the back and then recessed on the front was to make a tongue cut all around with the No. 49 on the long grain and then a rabbet on both sides for the end grain. Then I selected the better side and thicknessed down to the tongue. It worked great except that as I got close the wood began to discolor and then the hole appeared. Oh well, character, right? I filled it with some epoxy putty filler and will try to disguise it when finishing.

    I also inset the hinge plates. Here's an in-progress shot.

    26.jpg

    They are circular, and it would be easy to chuck up a Forstner bit in the brace and drill a shallow (1/32-inch) hole, but the diameter is 15/16th and I don't have that size. I looked through my "drawer full of holes" (what my uncle used call the drawer where he had all of his drill bits). In mine, I found a Clarke's expansion bit. I set it for 15/16-inch and drilled a practice hole in an offcut. I found I needed to ream out a conical hole for the expansion bit's lead screw, because I didn't want to engage the screw, which would pull the spur too deeply into the wood and leave a ragged hole. It took me several practice runs before I got it right. But I got it. Now I have to plough narrow grooves for the pins to ride in when the lid is dropped and slid below the bottom drawer.

    Hopefully tomorrow I can glue-up the carcass.

    Special thanks to Tom Blank, who has built several similar Gerstner style boxes, and who has taken the time to shepherd me through the hardware issues, since Gerstner has few instructions. I appreciate the help!

    DC

  11. #11
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    David,

    Thanks for the acknowledgement. I have received a lot of help here. Just paying it forward.

    Tom

  12. #12
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    Beginning to glue - up and drawer part prep

    I started to glue the sides to the back. The boards had cupped ever so slightly in the past two weeks. So it was a bit of a wrastle to get them into position. I ended up knocking together a quick toothed caul to exert pressure directly to the tails so they would sit flat. I think you can see a bit of it under the pile of clamps.

    I designed the box to go together one piece at a time. So one side can be glued up to the back, and then the other. Then the front rail can be glued up to to the side/back assembly. I like it this way better than gluing it all up at once.

    Here's the first joint together.

    27.jpg

    So, that's pretty much the plan today, glue up a joint and then wait. While waiting I decided to get to prepping the material for the drawers, starting with the sides and backs. The sides will be 1/2-inch thick, and the backs about 5/16-inch. The wood is more of the old growth pine from my stash.

    28.jpg

    All of the drawers will be 1-3/4-inch tall. So I took the board and laid out all of the parts, trying to miss knots and other defects. I had just enough. Then I got out the old rip saw. After all of the chestnut, ripping this pine was a pleasure. Probably I should've gone out to the garage shop and gotten the 28-inch, 5 TPI D-8 that's out there, but it's cold out and it snowed again yesterday, so I made do with the LN 7 TPI 24-inch panel saw. It went well enough. it took just under an hour to break it all down, including laying it all out and then bucking to length. The saw was recently sharpened and it sailed along taking only about 6-8 strokes per inch. There was 15 linear feet of ripping all together.

    29.jpg

    It was a nice little workout! I did take several breaks between rip cuts. I'm not as young as I once was.

    As mentioned above, my process is to joint one edge straight, then dress one face, and shoot one end. Then gauge a line for width and trim to the line to get the final width, then I thickness. Finally, I mark and cut to length, shooting the remaining end. I'm not sure exactly why I do it this way, it just makes sense. I do it in a sort of production line, with all of the parts having the one operation performed, then moving on to the next.

    30.jpg

    Here is a shot of my setup, I have a bench hook that acts like a shooting board. I clamp the hook in the tail vise (this is another reason I like the traditional European tail vise over the wagon type, I can just clamp the Hook in the vise and now I can use the length of the bench to run the plane). I need to make a longer one though, because any board longer than about 18-inches doesn't really fit. Not an issue on this project. So, this is how I shoot the edges straight and square.

    If I have more than 1/8th-inch to trim off an edge, I will use the jack plane (No. 5). When doing this, I slip a piece of 1/4-inch drywall or plywood under the workpiece, because my jack plane blade is cambered at the edges, and if I didn't the cut would be way off square. I follow this with a jointer, and finally a smooth plane. Next I'll thickness them all.

    DC

  13. #13
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    Drawer Parts

    It was a productive day, yesterday, I finished up the drawer parts, sides and backs. The backs are shorter than the sides by an 1/8-inch. I wanted to maximize the useable space in the drawers, so the bottoms won't slide into grooves in the traditional way, they will drop into rabbets, sit flush with the drawer sides, and will be glued and nailed. Since they have runners in the sides, I am not worried about the nail heads marring runners at the base.

    Gerstner staples sheet metal in their drawers, and while that is an option for me as well, I went instead with 1/8-inch baltic birch plywood. The rabbets will be 3/8-inch wide, leaving an 1/8-inch lip on each side, so you cant see the plies. But the back of the drawer will sit on top of the plywood.

    Anyway, here's the stack of parts, ready for the dadoes for the runners, the rabbets for the drawer bottoms and for me to get the Chestnut drawer fronts made.

    31.jpg

    This pine was really nice to work with, grain so straight it was hard sometimes to figure out which direction it was running. Despite it being decades, maybe a century old, it smelled great and was very well behaved in terms of grain, with no contrary grain at all, except for one piece that was close to a knot and even that took minimal fuss to smooth. Wood like that don't grow on trees, y'know!

    DC
    Last edited by David Carroll; 02-19-2024 at 11:34 AM.

  14. #14
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    Update: All of the parts are now cut out and ready for assembly except the drawer fronts and bottoms. I had one last piece to make for the carcass proper, which was a hanging drawer divider. However, I had used up the chestnut from Grandpa's bookshelf and there were no suitable pieces for this one last component. But I do have other chestnut scraps and I dug around in the garage and found something suitable, and bonus points, it was already the right thickness! So I marked it out and started running the grooves to accept the drawer runners.

    This piece of chestnut was from an old cabinet that I salvaged and used for other projects years ago, and it was very dark, compared to what I have been using and was pretty well encrusted with dirt and dust. But since it was already the right thickness, I didn't want to dress the faces at all. but I did scrape the grime off and shoot the edges, then cut it to length. from the endgrain I could tell the piece was truly quartersawn, with very tight grain. I fit it into it's dado, and screwed it into position. Then marked out the locations for the drawer runner grooves and disassembled it again to cut the grooves. But this piece was considerably harder than what I used before, heavier too. Knifing the groove edges was difficult and when I started in with the chisel and the router plane it was equally difficult. The grain seemed to change directions every few inches and the router cutter dove in and lifted out big chunks.

    I struggled with the first side, making about the ugliest groove I have ever made! In examining the fresh, smooth wood on the bottom of the groove, I realised that this piece of wood, was not chestnut, but quarter-sawn white oak! Deeply fumed by the look of it and very old and hard. I took my time on the other side, and did a bit better, but I am glad that part will only be seen on the end, between the top two drawers. Once I fit the drawer runners, I will likely add some filler to fix the shredded shoulders.

    Not my best night of woodworking, but still better than a good day at work!

    More to come!

    DC

  15. #15
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    Progress!

    This project has been somewhat frustrating in that there are so many components to it, 25-pieces just in the carcass and top, another 20 in the drawers. Preparing all of that, fitting and fussing has taken a lot of time, and planning. There's a lot that had to be done before it could be glued up. So it doesn't seem like a lot of progress is being made, despite the many hours I have devoted to it. (I never keep track of these things because I am doing this for enjoyment, as much as necessity). Doing it completely by hand has added to the time (and the enjoyment).

    But the carcass is now together! I had to do a bunch of touch-ups to the dovetails. repeated dry assembly & disassembly of the joints has loosened the dovetails which were B- work to begin with. So I have spent a pleasant morning cutting tiny slips of wedged shaped chestnut and gluing them in place to hide my sloppy work. I've gotten quite good at this if I do say so myself.

    I guess you either can get good at cutting dovetails, or you can get good at patching up mistakes. Do better on the former and you don't have to do quite as well on the latter. Leave it to say I've gotten very good at fixing boo-boos, and am still working at making my touch-up and repair skills unnecessary.

    Here is a shot of the process.

    31.jpg

    There were a half dozen or so repairs like this that had to be made. Also, I ran the grooves for the till-bottom all the way through the back panel, but they should've been stopped at each end. Oops! So I had to inlay little blocks to fill the holes. I tried to match end-grain as best I could. But, like some impressionist paintings, the joinery looks best the further away one stands!

    I've finished the touching up, I still need to trim back the dovetails, which always makes them look better. Now I start on the top.

    DC
    Last edited by David Carroll; 02-25-2024 at 2:52 PM.

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