I was called in to work today on my day off. While driving, I was thinking about the chest Christopher Schwarz discussed in a recent post on his blog. It so happens that I was stuck in traffic for about an hour. I called my boss, and she said I wasn't needed anymore afterall, so I might as well turn around.
This is where my idea for the nailed chest took some form.
CS said that this style of furniture is driven by what materials were immediately available to the builder. Stuff that was readily available and easy to work.
To me, I thought that the perfect material for a modern interpretation would be the laminated boards you can get at the big box store.
I stopped by an OBI to see what they had. Usually they have laminated spruce, pine, beech and sometimes oak or acacia. I wanted spruce because it is usually the cheapest. Maybe pine, because it is so much nicer to work.
Looking at the rack, there was a surprise. They had boards of laminated wood in what they called paulownia. I had never heard of it, but the grain was even, no knots, and it was relatively cheap. Perfect.
I bought a couple boards two meters long and 30 cm. wide. I didn't know what the lid was going to be, so I bought an 80x40 cm board for that, just in case (turns out I didn't use it).
This wood is interesting in that it is extremely light. I think spruce is about twice as heavy as this stuff. It should work just fine for this project.
I think using this material fits perfect with the intent of this project. This should be something that looks nice, yet is a quick and dirty build. That is exactly what it was.
I downloaded CS's sketchup plan, as he describes in his blog. I was a bit worried I didn't have enough wood, as he uses a 12 foot board and a 10 foot board. I had two boards just over six feet each.
So, what I did was make a smaller chest. I have a big blanket chest, and the only reason I wanted to build this one is that it looked fun. I'm sure I'll find something that it is necessary for later.
I took a few photos of the process, and came to this level of completion in about three hours. That is including plenty of going back to the plans to see what to do next.
A couple of points about this wood:
The disappointing thing was that when I took the plastic off, I couldn't believe that there were several knots and areas of tearout where putty was applied to cover up the damage. I really didn't look that close through the plastic, but I had no need to suspect this. I tried to keep these areas to the inside of the chest as much as possible.
The great thing about this wood is how easy it is to work. My rip saw flew through it like it was Styrofoam. The long rips weren't anything like work.
I didn't really measure anything while building this, but my guess is the final dimensions are 50 cm high, about 75 cm wide, and a foot or so deep.
All I have left to do is a little moulding, if I feel like it, and some milk paint.
I have some thoughts about the joinery. I think the reason for the rabbets (actually filetsters) is two-fold: First, it makes the chest extremely strong, even though I only nailed the fronts and the backs. The rabbets provide structural integrity to the sides. Second, the rabbets made it easy to line up the carcase to nail together. I couldn't quite figure out how to clamp it together so I could start pounding nails in it, but it turned out I didn't have to. I just lined up one side, tacked a wire nail in, lined the other side up and drove in the rest of the nails. No measuring, no having to square things up (the bottom does that for you when you slide it home).
One design difference I implemented from the plan was I put battens on the inside of the lid, rather than on the outside. Probably because the leftover wood I had was a bit too short for that, and I thought I could return the 80x40 piece.
When I showed it to my wife, she said, "Perfect! You need a bedside table."