Craig’s Blanket Chest
By Craig Allen from Covington, WA
Added on November 17, 2012
First, the quick back story. I was married in 1984 and divorced in 1988. Honestly, I never stopped loving her. So imagine my surprise when, about 2-1/2 years ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from her. We started talking on the phone and the next thing I know, I’ve moved up north and things are going fantastic! Her name is Dawn (which one meaning is sun goddess) and she loves boxes, sun’s, and the color purple.
My first plan was to build her a “memory box” for Christmas, but then decided to make it a “blanket chest” instead. I messed around with designs and came up with one I liked. When I asked TWW, Marc, a question about my design he mentioned a major flaw that I had not noticed. This caused a complete redesign which is when I decided to inlay purpleheart in the shape of a sun in the lid. Why not? After all I had all the time in the world… Christmas was still 2-3 weeks out and I have done…well…zero inlay work ever! In fact, I hadn’t done a woodworking project like this since high school. But hey, since the design was done it will fly. That was the second flaw in my design.
So many hours, curse words, cuts and scrapes and a couple of visits to the TWW chat rooms (Many thanks to those there who helped me. Sorry I don’t remember names but I was in a major panic by the time I got to the chat rooms), I managed to get it done by Christmas morning. Well, almost done. It was assembled, the sanding almost complete, but no finish.
I wanted the finish to be special and I wanted the grain to really stand out. so I decided on french polishing. And why not, just like everything else on this project, I had lots…some…a little…OK, again zero experience with it! Many hours of research led me to Vijay Velji and I bought his DVD which I highly recommend. It answered almost all my questions in a straight forward way. I can honestly say that it turned out flawless, well OK not exactly flawless, but pretty darn good!
Overall I’m very pleased with the finished product and more importantly, my girlfriend absolutely loves it. There are more than a beginners’ share of mistakes in it, but all in all it looks very nice. I learned a ton and look forward to undertaking more projects in the future. I’m also continuing to work on my french polishing technique as the finish is amazing looking. Thank you Marc, and again to the people on the chat lines.
Here are a few pictures. Rails and stiles are cherry and the center stile in front is purpleheart. Panels are African mahogany and the lid is mahogany and purple heart. Corners are mitered with 4 biscuits on each. The panels as well as the aromatic cedar bottom float. The inlay work was all free hand with a router. I resawed the purpleheart to 1/4″ for the inlay and followed Marc’s procedure from his inlay video. This was especially valuable and saved me from making major mistakes. For the finish I went with blonde shellac. Light on the inside with none on the bottom. I went heavier on the outside and crazy heavy on the lid. Many hours of burnishing later, it actually started to look like I knew what I was doing. The torsion hinges are from Rockler and they are nothing short of amazing. They hold the lid in any position so no smashed fingers around here. I did have to do a small mortise for them since I made the frames 7/8″ and the hinges are for 3/4″.