|A view of the inside of my mini tool chest|
The more particular among woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts tend to be fastidious about their tools. A great many of them spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to construct objects to store them. A particularly favourite pastime appears to be the construction of tool chests, cabinets and so on exclusively for the purpose of housing tools and accessories.
Of the numerous designs and options available, one which any DIY woodworker could make is a mini tool chest, which goes by a variety of names such as "grandfather's tool chest", "carrying tool box" and so on.
Put briefly, this is nothing more than a smallish (18 by 12 by 10 inch or so) box with a lid, handle and a few embellishments on the exterior and trays inside. This chest can be built in a variety of ways and the most inexperienced could put it together almost entirely with nails and glue.
The more adventurous, as well as slightly more skilled, could take the approach favoured by the punctilious Mr Christopher Schwarz, who advocates the use of dovetails wherever possible and other measures to ensure the chest's survival through the millennia ahead.
I too embarked on the journey inspired by the many jottings, videos and blogs by Mr Schwarz. In the end I did deviate somewhat from the straight and narrow laid down by him but managed to get the thing done.
I used Pine everywhere except the lid which was made with Yellow Cedar. The basic framework was achieved using dovetail joints as recommended by the pundit, though I believe that screws and glue could also achieve a very strong carcass.
|The carcass: Pine and dovetails|
The bottom went on with glue and screws, though cut nails (which cannot be found in India) are recommended.
|Bottom in place: rock solid box|
With the bottom in place, the box felt very strong; I tested it by resting my considerable weight on it. The thing didn't murmur in protest.
|Pine strips for the skirting|
The skirting at the base came next. I was tempted to butt joint it together but as advised used dovetails again but this time the dovetails were opposed to that of the carcass.
|Skirting with glazing moulding attached to btoom|
|Dovetails in carcass and skirting are opposed to each other|
The top skirting was put together using butt joints. I was a little careless in selecting the strips for the top skirting and later had problems fitting the lid. I added half inch glazing moulding to improve the look of the skirting. It began to look like a tool chest at this point.
|Top skirting attached: beginning to look like a tool chest|
I made two shallow tills, one with dovetails and the other with box joints as I have described in an earlier blog post.
|A Till made with dovetails and rebated bottom for plywood base|
|Runners inside the chest on which the tills will slide|
These need to slide on runners attached to the inside of the box. The upper till is wider than the lower one and the runners have to be sized accordingly.
My stock of Pine, which I had been using for the past two years, ran out and I had to mill some Yellow Cedar for the lid. I was very pleased to find that Yellow Cedar is a delight to plane and takes on a very pleasing texture which does not require any further sanding.
|Yellow Cedar for the lid frame|
Here I used the traditional frame and panel method to make the lid using regular mortise and tenon joints.
|Traditional mortise and tenon joints for the frame|
|Frame and panel lid in clamps|
For the panel I glued together two pieces of Yellow Cedar and routed a groove along its side, leaving one quarter of an inch below the groove. The bit used was also a quarter of an inch thick and was used to cut a groove along the inside of the frame exactly a quarter of an inch below the surface. This meant the panel would fit exactly in the groove and protrude above it. Before glue up, I rounded over the edges of the panel for a softer look. I cut off the horns on one side of the frame after the glue dried and sanded down everything with 180 and 240 grit paper.
|The lid complete|
Perhaps the most complicated part was the finishing. At first I thought I would stain and Shellac it but then decided to use black enamel paint that had been lying around in a cupboard.
A dark finish appears to be the choice of most Western woodworkers and the reason I suspect is the assumption that the chest will darken with time, abuse and mould as have most chests which have survived the centuries and decades. Rather than allow time to do the job, modern day woodworkers perhaps seek to hasten the process with coats of dark dismal paint. This gives the chest a "traditional" or aged appearance.
The attempt to stain the chest proved a complete disaster and then when I sloshed on three coats of black paint, I was left with a rude, shiny object that reflected light from each imperfection.
It took me several hours and considerable elbow grease to painstakingly rub the chest's plastic like surface with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper, then work on a rubbing compound and finally buff each surface down to a dull pleasing sheen.
|The Tool chest at last: blemished but beautiful!|
The result was not unpleasant even though the paint had rubbed away at parts exposing wood underneath. It looked mature, sedate and mellow, like a well-tended whisky. Not a classic, blemished definitely but one that will serve me well through the years ahead.
26 August 2015