Frame and Panel Subassemblies
I won’t sugarcoat this: the dry fitting stage of this project might be a bit trying. There are a lot of parts, and some of them are curved. But at the end of the day, you just need to fit and adjust the pieces like any other frame and panel project.
Dry fit the front and back as well as the side components. When they fit properly, glue them up in subassemblies of a front and back, and side panels. Once these are ready, take them out of the clamps and set up a dado cut that will capture the bottom (piece 12) on all four subassemblies. Plow the dado, cut out the bottom and, once again, do a test fit of all these components. These are big pieces, so an extra set of hands may be of help here. I took the time at this point to pre-finish the flat panels. They are going to float in their housings, so I wanted no stain line to show if and when they shrank a bit. When everything is ready, assemble the pieces using the splines in the corners to help align the miters. Check for square, and allow the glue to cure.
Topping it Off
With the case in clamps, you can move on to building the lid. Made from 1-1⁄4″ thick lumber, it is a fitting crown for a substantial piece of furniture. I glued up the top panel (piece 13) and once again chose to flatten the piece using my bench plane. I cut it to overall dimensions and then formed the tongues using a router and a straightedge. Next, I machined up the two breadboard ends (pieces 14) from the same thickness of stock. I plowed the deep grooves to accept the tongues using just a full kerf table saw blade and multiple cuts. I nibbled away at the opening and kept it centered by flipping the piece end for end with each operation … making two cuts per effort. When I was satisfied with the fit, I glued the breadboard ends onto the top panel.
With the components of the blanket chest completed, I started in on my final sanding and applying the finish. A case this large and with as many different levels (or planes) to deal with means that you really must be methodical in your sanding procedure. I worked from the “highest” to lowest plane as I sanded the piece. I also worked around the perimeter in a set pattern — all this just to help me be sure that I got every piece and aspect smoothed exactly the same.
After the finish had cured, I mounted the lid to the case with three solid brass butt hinges. Because the lid is so heavy, I felt it was important to add some good quality lid supports to the mix.
I hope that you take the opportunity to build this blanket chest. It is a sweet little project that nicely evokes the heart of Arts & Crafts style. While there are a couple of challenging details, nothing here is so complex as to move beyond just plain woodworking. Which, in itself, is what makes the Arts & Crafts style so appealing.