Six Board Blanket Chest
I, along with several of my fellow colleagues, had a rare opportunity to purchase some local eastern white pine from one of the editors over at Fine Homebuilding magazine this past summer. He had a neighbor who wanted to cut down a few very large trees adjacent to his property. Seizing on this, he arranged to have the large trees cut down and sawn up for lumber at a mill in northern Connecticut. Then to defer the costs, he was willing to sell the boards at a very reasonable price. Hence several of the woodworkers here at Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding ended up purchasing some of the pine.
So one Saturday this past August, Matt Kenney and I traveled to the mill to pick up our share. Knowing that some of the boards were going to be up to about 20 inches wide, I went with the idea of building an old 6-board style blanket chest and chose my boards accordingly. After admiring the grand amount of lumber that these trees had produced, we loaded up my small truck with a larger than expected amount of beautiful boards.
I didn’t have anything particular in mind for a design at that time, other than “when was I ever going to come across such wide boards again?” I’ve rarely had the opportunity to even see domestic lumber that wide in the past 10 or 15 years. None that I could afford to build with anyway.
After getting my cache of boards home, I trolled the internet for some inspiration. I ran across a couple of photos of some early 19th century pine chests that I found interesting in some antique furniture auction catalogs. From these photos, I did the best I could to decipher the design and construction and went on to draw up my interpretation and plan.
So this fall, my furniture project for the year is this blanket chest. At first I made my young daughter a little stool out of a smaller piece of this pine. I needed to practice my surface planning by hand to get a better understanding of what I was getting myself into. There aren’t too many ways for me to surface a 20-inch wide board except good old fashioned handplaning. With 6 boards, all nearly 20 inches wide, and the chest 40 inches long, there was going to be a bunch of surfacing in my future. And there was. So far I’ve made about 50 gallons of shavings from handplaning alone. And a few more gallons of sawdust from the tablesaw–the only power tool I’ve used so far.
So stay tuned as I comment on my process with the construction of this 17th century reproduction 6 board pine chest.
Matt and I are just getting ready to unload our bounty of eastern white pine. Here we each have chose a couple hundred board feet of lumber. We even had some extra to sell to a couple of colleagues.
Here's my selection of lumber after Matt and Steve Scott unloaded their boards. The hard part was finding a place to store them out of harm's way.
Starting the handplaning. Here I'm using an old Stanley number 7 to get an end panel nice and flat. In the background you might be able to see that I've got the front and back surfaced. I've filled that 30 gallon trash can nearly twice now.
Without any winding sticks, I used my 3-foot level to see how flat I was getting the boards. I also used an adjustable square to achieve and keep my thickness even around the edges--and from one board to the next.
Smoothing. Here I'm using a small smoothing plane. Did I mention that I was handplaning for some time? It wasn't as bad as I had imagined it would be. Besides, it was pine and didn't wake the baby who was sleeping every night while I was slaving away.
All flat and square. Here I'm admiring the fruits of my labor. I've got the front of the chest forward. Not too bad. I ended up with the case measuring in at 40-in. long, 19-1/4-in. tall and 19-1/4-in. deep. Four boards down--two to go!
Here's a quick drawing of what I'm working on.
My inspiration: An 17th century painted pine 6 board blanket chest.
An interior view of the chest.