Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sea chest build part 1

We received stores onboard the other day.
There is nothing unusual in that. It was repacked at the company base and placed on two pallets. A Euro pallet and a single use pallet.
What was a bit unusual, at least for someone like me from Scandinavia, was the fact that the pallet was made out of tropical hardwood.
I forgot to take some pictures before disassembling the pallet, but here is what it is looking like right now. The width varies between 5" to 6.5". The thickness between 3/4" to 5/4".

I am by no means an expert in categorizing exotic woods, so actually I haven't got a clue as to what it is. But maybe I can give a better guess, once the wood is cleaned up a little. I couldn't smell it while I was sawing the pieces to length either.

There are some cracks in the wood, and it differs a lot in thickness and width. But when it is free wood from a pallet you really can't be picky.

My plan is to make a small sea chest, I am not quite sure of the final design yet, but it could either be with canting sides, or like a scaled down version of the Anarchist tool chest. I am limited by the materials, since the length between the holes from nails is approximately 50 cm (20").
I have researched the matter a little bit, and it seems, that the European way is with square sides, and the American way is canted. But both types can be found on both sides af the Atlantic.

I would like to ask for your opinion: Would you prefer to see me build a canted sea chest, or a square one?

The first thing that I have to do, is to glue up some wood, and then process the rough stock into something a bit more useable.

At home this wouldn't present a problem, but out here there are some difficulties that need to be overcome.
Here is a list of the tools that I have:
Saw (Bahco multi use).
Hacksaw (for dovetails).
Stanley No3 smoothing plane (a little rusty).
Set of chisels (Irwin/Marples).
Portable circular saw.
Portable electric plane.
Measuring and marking tools for a machine shop.

I haven't got any proper sharpening media for woodworking tools, so I'll have to think of something. yesterday I tried using some valve lapping paste for a chisel, and it seems as if is working OK.

The glue I have is actually a little too old, but I hope that it will work anyway. If not, then I'll try to use either contact glue or some 2 component glue.

One of the few benefits of woodworking in the engine room is that there is a always a nice warm spot for the glue ups. (Here it is on top of our boiler)


  1. I'd go with the square design.
    What ship are you on and where are you bound for?


  2. Hi Mike

    I am on the MRSV Siem Marlin. We aren't bound for anywhere, since we are on a long term contract off the coast of Nigeria. Constructing oil wells for Chevron at a depth of approximately 1.5 km.

    Thanks for the suggestion for the square design. I'll see what the verdict says once I have finished the case sides and ends.

  3. This reminds me of a video I watched on a woodshop in Vietnam. No power tools or electricity and rather primitive looking home made tools but the projects looked great. It's making do with what you have.
    I would go with square and straight. I look forward to seeing how you get your boards 4 squarish.

    1. Hi Ralph.

      You are right about "making do with what I have". But darn I never figured it was that difficult to process rough stock without proper tools.
      Just getting the boards flat and to the same thickness might be hard, but then I'll just have to work my way around that also.
      The square and straight seems to be in favour of those reading this blog. I tend to think that it will be a little easier as well, since I am not accostumed to making canted boxes. But then again one time have to be the first.

  4. Sharpening media for woodwoking tools.
    You could experiment with the bottom of a ceramic dish if available from the galley.
    I have been using the bottom of a tea cup to touch the roast knife in the kitchen; it is highly effective. But of course it is rougher than lapping paste.
    If you have no leather, it seems according to knife forums that the inside face of a cardboard box (like kellogs corn flakes) is a good stroping media.It is quite abrasive.
    I look forward to seeing what solution you wil find.

  5. Hello Sylvain.

    I have tried the underside of a cup, and I agree, that it is very good.
    I havent thought of the cardboard stropping idea. I will try that. I think with a little grit 800 lapping paste it would work brilliantly.

  6. The front was canted on a sea chest because it was the seaman's locker, placed on the deck next to his bunk in the forecastle. The canted front helped avoid shin damage when getting in and out.

  7. I read somewhere that they regarded it as more stable as well, since the bottom was wider than the top. But it is facinating that form follows function, even on old sea chests.

  8. Hi JJ,
    1.I lost more than 15 mins on-line to set -up a 'passing -by hello' , and I 've somehow , lost-it. I'll try to get back a.s.a.p in case you're interested : it's something I have develloped and works well: remouving the holes of the nails with dowels.(Damn , I so much hate those coper-barbed nails, in the pallets!)
    2.In case you want to find-out more about the wood (watch-it , the dust of unknown wood can be dangerous) you might try [].Enjoy
    PS.I will try to set -up my msg off -line and back.

  9. Hi, Thanks for the tip on the wood database, I'll have to see if I can find something there.

    Plugging the holes with dowels is a good idea. I didn't think of that. So please share your method.

    I know all about unstable Internet. Sometimes if we have a lot of rain, or have a bad heading etc. we won't have access for half a day.