Monday, March 14, 2016

Wooden Hope Chest

"A hope chest, also called dowry chest, cedar chest, trousseau chest or glory box is a piece of furniture traditionally used to collect items such as clothing and household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life.

The term "hope chest" or "cedar chest" is used in the midwest or south of the United States; in the United Kingdom, the term is "bottom drawer"; while "glory box" is used by women in Australia." - Wikipedia

At the time of this writing, my girlfriend and I have lived in Arizona for a year and 9 months, and for the most part every room is complete with furniture I've built.  For my next project I'll be making one more piece for our bedroom.  I've already made a Vanity for my girlfriend...

...a tall dresser...

...and a long dresser...

...a shoe rack...

...two night stands...

...and a slightly over-sized head board.

But in the corner of our room is a purple tub that my girlfriend has kept some of her stuff in, pretty much since day 1.

So I decided to design a Hope Chest which will match everything else in the room and finally get rid of that purple tub.

My design is fairly simple...

...and shouldn't require too much material.

But before I go to the hardware store to buy material, my dog - who's apparently helping me build this today - reminded me that I have several pieces of leftover wood that I can use.

 I had enough to make the legs and short sides, so I set up my miter saw cart with a stop block and cut several pieces at the same size.

There is a total of 8 pieces that make up the legs, and each will have a rounded cut on the bottom.  To make this, I measured the area that will have the rounded cut and drew a curve using a circle template.

Then I cut the shape out with the jig saw.

I used the first cut piece as a template for the remaining 7 boards that make up the legs.

Then I cut them all out, again with the jig saw.

Next I sanded the rounded cuts with the round edge of my belt sander.

Next I cut pocket holes into 4 of the legs.

I had to make sure that 2 sets of legs were cut with the cutout to the left, and 2 with the cutout to the right.  This will ensure that all 4 legs will be properly aligned.

Next I cut the wood rails for the shorter sides of the whole box.

These too received pocket holes.

Next I used pocket screws to assemble the 4 legs.

Then I used more pocket holes to connect the short side rails.

And the 2 shorter sides are done.

Next I went to the store and bought the rest of the material I needed.  As always the closest big-box home center I went to had a really bad selection of wood.  Most of these boards are warped, so hopefully I can straighten them out when assembling the hope chest.

I started by setting up the stop block on the miter saw and cutting 4 long rails for the front and back.

Then these rails received pocket holes...

...and were attached to the shorter sides with pocket screws.

While screwing in, one of the pieces of wood totally cracked and crumbled apart.  I did my best to glue it back together and clamp it, but this one corner has only glue holding it together for now.

But the whole thing is holding together well despite this little set back.

Next I cut a 2'x 4' x .75" piece of plywood for the bottom of the box.

These will attach to all sides with pocket holes and screws.

Using special clamps is a must for making sure everything is aligned properly.

And the bottom is on!  Now to the sides.

The sides will be made out of .25" thick plywood, which I cut to size with the table saw.

Then I put the hope chest on it's side and glued the plywood it, reinforcing it with nails.  I started on the side that was being held together with glue to make sure that weak point was taken care of asap.

Then I did the same thing for the other long side...

...followed by the short sides.

Next I used my belt sander to quickly level the edges that were slightly too long.

With the bottom and sides all done it was time to work on a frame for the top.  Once again I sent up the miter saw with a stop block for even cuts.

Then I assembled the frame with pocket holes and screws.

Then the frame was glued and nailed to the top.  This frame created a lip on the top of the box that the cover will eventually rest on.

And then came the cover.  This is where my problems started.  Remember my earlier complaint about warped wood?  Well, these were the pieces that were warped.  I cut the pieces on the table saw.

Then I gave one of the boards pocket holes.

With great difficulty I managed to evenly assemble the 2 boards that make up the top, but I can tell the wood was fighting with the pocket screws.

I next cut the piece of wood that the cover will attach to with hinges.  This piece was not only warped, but it was bent as well.  It was twisted both vertically and horizontally.

Using clamps and screws I managed to attach it squarely to the outside edge of the box...

...but the inside edge was totally bowed. I had to grab more bar and pipe clamps to get the cover on correctly.

4 pipe clamps and 5 bar clamps.  Getting this done honestly took about an hour.

Then I began attaching hinges when the strength of the wood fought back.  Pocket holes ripped, boards popped and poor little hinge screws went flying, never to be seen again.

With that very frustrating set back, I decided to take a rest for a few hours.  When I finally came back I removed all the wood from the top and tossed it in the scrap pile.  It will not be used for this project.  Instead I attached a 1/2" roundover bit into my router and gave the top edges and nice rounded profile.

I then used the same roundover bit and routed the legs and bottoms.

For the inner edges I used a 1/4" roundover bit.

Then I began sanding the whole thing with medium grit sandpaper.

After my earlier frustrations I found a good hour of zen by hand-sanding the whole thing with very fine sandpaper.  It was surprisingly relaxing and now the entire hope chest is silky smooth.

I was almost ready to call it a night...

...when I remembered one last piece I wanted to put on today.  A wood flourish for the front of the hope chest.

I measured for the center and drew a faint line.

I then thoroughly glued the back of the flourish... 

...and then put it on.  I used a hand weight to hold it down as well as some tape.  I then let it dry overnight.

The next morning I removed the weight and tape and put the hope chest upright.  When cutting the thin plywood for the short sides I didn't have enough to reach the edges.  So I want to fix that first.

I cut thin strips from other leftover plywood.

Then I glued and nailed them in place.

After thinking about it for a while I wanted to have a sort of secret compartment on the bottom of the box for my girlfriend to store jewelry or important papers.  So I decided to use some of those warped boards from earlier as risers for the new compartment.  I cut the boards into thin strips...

...and drilled some holes with countersinks.

Then I glued and nailed them against the bottom, creating a lip for the new 'floor' to lay against.  Thinner warped boards are easier to straighten than thicker ones.

Next I went to the store and bough some half-inch and 3/4 inch plywood sheets.

The half-inch sheet will be for the secret storage.  I cut it to size on the table saw.

And it fits nicely.

Next I used my circle template again to draw a half-circle at the edge.  This will be a finger hole that will make it possible to open the compartment.

I cut out the hole with a jig saw...

...and using some home-made sanding sticks I sanded the edges of the hole.

Next I put the bottom in place and used a center punch to mark where to drill holes for hinges.

Then I drilled holes...

...and screwed in the hinges.

Now it's closed...

...and now it's open!

Now it was time to make the new top of the box.  I made absolute certain I bought a straight board this time.

I clamped the board to the base and began attaching hinges.

4 hinges should be good enough.

And it opens and closes nicely.

But the board is too big, so I attached a flush trimming bit into my router...

...and trimmed the top flush to the body.

Then I switched to the 1/2" roundover bit...

...and rounded over the edges of the top.

Next I sanded the lid on both sides with fine grit sandpaper to make it smooth.

I hand-sanded the rounded areas.

And this thing is turning out great!

Now it's time to clean it and add some color.  Normally I use stain, but for this project I thought I'd give colored Danish oil a try.

I spent about an hour applying the first coat and it looks great.

The directions call for 2 coats, so I'll let this dry over night and give it a second coat the next day.

The next day I was ready to apply the second coat of Danish oil.  The day before I applied the oil while the hope chest was perched on my carpenter benches.  This resulted in drips all over my floor.  So this time I set up a tarp on the floor in the middle of my garage.

The day before I also had the top resting against my work table while I was applying the Danish oil to the insides.  This time the top is unsupported and I feel like it might be too heavy for the hinges.

So I cut some thin strips of wood on the table saw...

...and made 3 smaller pieces with the miter saw.

Then I used my belt sander to round all the edges.

Then I glued and nailed the pieces to the back of the lid.  

These pieces will keep the lid from opening all the way, and keep the hinges from breaking off.

Then I applied a second coat to the outside.  I didn't notice much of a difference in color, so I didn't bother reapplying the oil to the insides or bottom.

I let it sit overnight again.  The next day I cleaned it up and began applying glossy clear coat.

After each application dried I would lightly sand it with a very fine sanding sponge.

Then I would clean it up with a damp rag. 

When the outside of the hope chest was all done, I repeated the process for the inside...

...and the bottom.

Once all the clear coat dried inside and out I gave it one more sanding and cleaning.  Then I added 4 felt sliders on the inside corners to protect the top/ledge from getting damaged.

The lid is slightly raised now from the sliders, but in time it will lower.

Next I perched the hope chest onto my work table with the lid and secret floor both open.  This is mainly to let the whole thing air out.  You'll notice that under the front 2 legs are pieces of wood.  This was to tilt the unit so that the lid stays open.  More often than not the lid closes immediately after propping it open - something I'll have to fix.

After thinking about it long, I decided I didn't need those blocks on the back of the lid.  This piece will most likely go against a wall, so the lid won't open all the way in any case.  So using some pliers I carefully removed those blocks.

After a little sanding and a bit more Danish oil it's hard to see where the blocks were.

If the lid is opened all the way slowly/carefully the hinges do their job.  If the lid were swung open with force then the hinges might break.

Now it's time to make it even nicer.  I went to the store and picked up some hardware.

4 pieces of hardware that I bought were these decorative hinges.

I used a .5" thick piece of plywood as a spacer from the top lip...

...and screwed in the hinge on the front top corner.

I repeated the process for the other side.

Then I used the same piece of plywood as a spacer for the bottom.

And now the front has 4 decorative hinges in each corner.

Another piece of hardware I bought was this handle.  It won't really have any use - like the hinges, it's purely decorative.

I found the center of the front and drilled 2 holes for the handle.

Then on the other side I used a countersink bit to widen and deepen the hole for the screws.

And now the handle is on.

The last thing I bought was this locking door support hinge.

It didn't come with instructions, but I quickly figured it out.  I attached one end to the inside of the chest.

Then I moved the whole hope chest against my work table, opening the lid and letting it rest against my table at the furthest point I want it to open.  Then I screwed on the other end of the hinge.

Now the top will open and lock at this point.

And it will unlock and close.

It also doesn't interfere with the secret floor.  This was exactly what I needed after all the trouble I had earlier.

And with that done I think I can call this project completed!

I moved it into the bedroom and finally took away that purple bin.

My girlfriend wasted no time in filling it up with stuff.

Despite a few setbacks here and there, this Hope Chest turned out quite awesomely.

I might have to build another one soon for myself.

Of course I won't call it a hope chest.  It'll be a toy box!

Thanks for reading!

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