82 – Duane’s Steamer Trunk (Part 1 of 4)

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On to our next project: a steamer trunk. This project was built and filmed in an effort to assist my new friend, Duane. The video gives the whole story.

This first part focuses on building the frames that make up the sides of the trunk case. I cover numerous topics, but I spend a significant amount of time on grain matching. And since I don’t work with plans on the show very often, I thought it would be good to review some tips, tricks, and overall strategy for working with plans. I am incorporating a few notable changes to the original plan. First is the joinery of the corner “legs”. I will be using a rabbet instead of a reinforced miter. The second, and most dramatic change is the top. The plan calls for an arched top, and I have opted for a square top.

For the Sketchup File of the new revised top, click here. For a PDF version of the new top, click here.
And if you would like to donate to the cause, please check out the following links:
American Cancer Society
James Cancer Center

If you are interested in Lee Valley’s side rabbet plane, check this out.

Category: Projects


  1. Kris Lauer February 23, 2009

    Great video. It was like having a private lesson with you!
    I really enjoyed the thorough explanations regarding why you did this or choose that and how to examine your wood so it is more visually pleasing when done. That is one of the things that makes me shake my head when looking at some of the prefab stuff on the market. They don’t take any time to see what goes with what and it shows.
    Also, thanks for your heart. Duane is blessed to have someone like you as a friend. He has a huge battle in front of him and when someone else shows they care it goes along way!
    God Bless!

  2. Ben Wilson February 23, 2009

    Great 1st episode – can’t wait for the next one. When you were doing the grain matching looking for the right patterns it also looked like there was a slight variation in the board colors? Is that a factor or will your finish help match up any slight variations? Good luck to Duane – our thoughts are with you.


      Oh yes, color is definitely a factor. But I really didn’t have enough pieces to work with to let color be a determining factor. But when you can, color matching early on will make sure the color matches later too. Now if you stain, you can probably ignore slight color variations. Clear coats however will let that difference show. But, in some cases, there is only so much you can do. I didn’t stain this piece but the colors look relatively uniform, fortunately.

  3. Jacques February 24, 2009

    Ok! I am actually loosing sleep time because of these videos!!! Worked last night saw you posted but could not view it ( did I mentioned I have explorer retardation at work) so here I am eating breakfast and glued to the screen. I Love the way you ended this one with a cliff hanger รข

  4. Sunshine Gerl February 24, 2009

    Great first video on the steamer trunk project Marc!!! The detail of the project process was awesome. I’m sure Duane is exited about seeing this video and to get started on his trunk. Thanks for the video, lots of good advice in there!!!

    Sunshine Gerl :)

  5. Jim February 24, 2009

    Loved the video. I’ve been long time watcher (and listener) and this one for Duane is very cool. I really liked the project aspect of this. Kind of back to basics, though even experienced guys can get a thing or two.

    Can’t wait for the next installment… and we’ll keep Duane in our prayers.

  6. wizer February 25, 2009

    Let me guess. Nicole was away while you were filming this? ;)

    Another great vid. Like the look of that new mag-fence. Great for re-sawing.

  7. Mark,

    You used a plane to open the groove to allow the panels to fit better.

    In the show notes you don’t tell what it was or a link where to find.

    Thanks for a great show.

    W. Kirk Crawford
    Tularosa, New Mexico

  8. John Norgaard February 25, 2009

    I am truely touched by your kind-heartedness in search for a way to help Duane. As always keep up the good work.

    John Norgaard
    College Station, TX

  9. Leo Vogel February 27, 2009

    Mark, another great video and what a kind gesture towards Duane.

    I’ve told you before, you need to get your own TV show. I would love to see you on the DIY network. You already have a 1 1/2 years of video you could sell them. You would have a large following.

  10. Jim Eller February 28, 2009


    Great project and better yet, a great reason for it.

    Thanks for being a caring individual and sharing your talents.


  11. Jaane March 5, 2009

    Perhaps you can answer this question that I have wondered about occasionally: Why do you care if the grooves are centered in the rails and stiles? Wouldn’t it be more efficient(especially when working with pre-thicknessed material) to simply get it close and then run only the face (or the back if that is the choice) against the fence?

    Norm mentions this “tip” all the time but I’ve never understood the benefit.

  12. Dan March 6, 2009

    Will the side rabbit plane effectively handle a cross grain dado?

  13. Jaze January 12, 2011

    Lacking the side rabbet plane, could you relieve some of the inside of the groove with careful application of sandpaper instead?

    Also, fangirly squee at the “hearthstone” t-shirt you wore…mine’s in Dalaran, of course.


      You certainly can, but its going to be difficult to maintain a nice clean edge using sandpaper. So when joinery is a factor, I always opt for something with a blade.

      And Dalaran? I didn’t know there was anyone left in Dalaran. ;)

  14. Rich February 16, 2011

    When you used that nifty rabbet/shoulder plane, did you need to take material off both sides of the groove to keep it centered? Or was there not enough being removed to make a noticeable difference?


  15. Jay May 31, 2012

    I picked up the side rabbet plane after watching this episode recently. I also listed to the discussion on WTO #42. Wow. The pair of L/N look nicer and are more traditional, but I really like the L/V one you had here. Thanks for making me aware of the tool. After this, I scoured the L/V and L/N sites to see what else was out there.

  16. Keith October 28, 2013

    I looked at this a dozen times and can not seem to find how to treat the exposed slot in the four corners of the trunk. Can you point me to where the subject is covered? Thanks

  17. Gary Janes October 15, 2014

    Marc, you are a class act! Thoroughly enjoy your website and especially the steamer trunk project. What a blessing you have been to Duane and his family. They’ll certainly never forget your gift to them! Thanks for admitting and showing how to correct errors! We know we all make them, but not all of us can fix them…thanks for your help and encouraging us.

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