Saturday, December 26, 2020

Flooring Dutch Tool Chest - Part III

Now that the joinery is cut for the carcass. I can glue it up and see what we're working with.

Lotsa glue and clamps

Weird dovetails, but they are strong. Especially with some nails.

Cleaned up a little.

I joined the main carcass with glue and cut finishing nails. These nails seem to work well, but I've drilled pilot holes just to be safe.

The front pieces go on next. The carcass was just a bit out of square, but a clamp across the body straightened it out while I attached the front. For the front and back panels, I am using drywall screws to temporarily hold everything. After it's painted, I will (hopefully) back them out one at a time  and replace them with Roman nails.

Once again, I thought that the front edge of the chest will get the most contact with my forearm, so I decided to use a strip of solid wood in order to make it smoother. I happened to have a strip of black American walnut about the right thickness.

Before this project, I actually thought I had too many clamps.
This strip worked out just fine. It might not be necessary, but in the end this edge will be touched a lot.

Once the front is attached, the back can go on. My idea here is to screw the entire panel on at once, a little oversize, and then trim it to fit. This way any imperfections won't be seen. Also, there is a smaller chance of anything splitting when I drive the screws.

The back before trimming. You can also see I've made a front flap lock already out of oak.

Trimmed and sitting pretty.

With the front flap, I decided to prepare the outside surface for finish before attaching the battens, just in case I want to install them with clenched nails already. This outside surface is a wild grained softwood, which I would like to be seen through the milk-painted finish. This outer veneer of construction grade lumber is only about 1/16" thick, so planing it might easily tear through and destroy it. 

I think the perfect way to prepare this is with a light sanding block to knock the fuzz off, then treat with my Japanese burnishers.

My Japanese burnishing tools.

A few years back I bought some of these burnishers, and I always enjoy using them. They are similar to the French burnisher, except there are three: course, medium and fine. Also the point isn't so much to polish up the wood as to bring out the texture of the grain. 

They idea is with woods (especially softwoods), early wood and late wood have different hardnesses. When the wood erodes, the softwood erodes faster than the harder parts. Japanese burnishers take advantage of this. 

I probably could spend a month or more burnishing all of the exposed parts of this tool chest, so I didn't go all out. 

I started with the rough burnisher, which I made from broom straw and zip ties. This one is very much like the French one, except I usually apply some downward force with the French polissoir, whereas with this one I just use like I'm sweeping shavings off of my benchtop.

Once I'm tired of this, I move to the medium one, which is a much finer fiber. I don't remember what this one is made from, but using it makes a big difference. After that, I move on to the fine, horsehair polisher. This really makes the surface smooth to the touch.

Before on the left, after on the right.
The surface that is left is smooth to the touch, but not like a freshly planed, glass-like surface. The surface it leaves reminds me of the pews in an old church: worn to a glossy sheen after decades of use. The grain of the wood really stands out, and I'm hoping after it is painted that this texture will be telegraphed through the paint.

Tomorrow we'll tackle the lid and the hardware.


  1. It's great to see how you're adjusting your methods for the different material - craftsmanship is good exercise for the little gray cells.

    1. Thanks, Jeff! There was some head scratching done on this project.

  2. Looking great Brian. I like that you are using different wood. I was feeling guilty for using poplar to remake my lid. Im hoping to blend it all with the painting. Im going to try some semi homemade pInt like you did. PS you only have too many clamps when you need to put them away:)


    1. Hi Chris! I have some clamps I haven't used in years. Somehow I used them all on this project at some point or another. Big clamps are such a pain to store. It's funny you mention the different wood. So far, this chest has a lot from my scrap pile in it: pine, maple, walnut, cherry, oak and ash.


  3. Brian,

    Thanks for the walk-through. Milk paint should make an interesting finish.


    1. Hi Ken! Thanks. I've used milk paint before, and I feel like there is so much more to learn with it. I hope it turns out the way I envision.

  4. Awesome recycling project. Interesting look on the dovetails.
    You mentioned that chest was for your leather working tools. Interested to see what you have. Started to equip my son with leather working tools. Could use some insight


    1. Hi Bob! The Frau says, "Interesting is the little brother of Scheiße." :o)

      This chest should have lots of room for leather tools. I just have to figure out a good way to organize them in there.