Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cedar Chests 2.0

I just finished a pair of cedar chests. Aromatic cedar makes a nice rustic chest, and its powerful aroma makes a perfect box to store blankets or linens in. In fact, occasionally, you see them referred to as blanket chests.

Many more pictures and more explanation after the jump...

If you look closely, the sides/top/bottom panels of the chests are not made from one solid piece of cedar. This is, among other reasons, because cedar trees don't grow big enough usually. A person could join boards together tightly, in order to hide the joint between the boards, giving the illusion that it is actually made up of one board, rather than many (I did that on this cutting board in order to make a wider surface. Look at the grain pattern; you can see where the joint is even if it's a smooth, flush, joint. Same here on the art deco table tops).

Unlike creating a flush joint, these panels are joined in a way that accentuates the fact that they are made up of multiple narrow planks. A shaper, which is a tool like a router on steroids, milled a tongue into one side and a groove into the other side of each plank. As it did so, it put a little bevel on each tongue/groove.

The bevels come together to create a "v" and thus draw your eye to the joint. Makes you think of treasure chests and the like right?

The tops are double thickness of the sides and bottom, that gives it additional strength if someone were to sit down on it. Also, I built the top out so there would be an overhanging lip in the front. That way it's easier to grip when opening it.

Around the top rim, I added a simple trim with miter joints at the corners.

Around the bottom, I put in footer trim, also mitered.

And the corners got trim with miter joints as well.

Miter joints are joints where pieces are cut on an angle to come together to create a joint at the angle you want. In the case of trim around a box, you want the angle to be 90 degrees, so each piece gets cut at 45 degrees. On, for example, an octagonal clock face, the miter angels are 22.5 degrees. 360 degrees, divided by number of sides, divided by two = miter angle.

The hardware is simple, brass piano hinges and a chain to prevent the hinges from getting sprung. It leaves the attention on the chest itself.

Aromatic cedar is a softer wood, so I wanted a strong, durable finish. I put two coats of gloss polyurethane on each chest and finished with a coat of satin to dull the sheen. There's no real way to make aromatic cedar extremely durable, but this is about the best you can do.

You notice that the inside has no finish. That's because the polyurethane seals the wood, trapping the aroma that we want inside. By leaving the interior unfinished, we retain the aromatic nature of aromatic cedar. Anyone who builds a cedar chest with a finished interior is doing it wrong.

Questions? Let me know.