Jim’s White Oak Blanket Chest

Viewer Project - By Jim Basile from Dundee, MI
Added on August 11, 2013

As somewhat of a woodworking newbie, I like to choose projects that focus on individual techniques such as specific joint or a finish that will help add new skills and/or perfect my current ones. When my wife asked me for a blanket chest, it took about a year to find a design that we both agreed upon. This chest was a real stretch for me because I had never tried a dovetail joint before and it was my first project utilizing white oak. Adding to the difficulty, I decided to finish it in a traditional Mission manner by fuming it with ammonia and coating it with shellac to really bring out the rays on the quarter sawn.

To start this project I first needed materials, and after shopping for while I found a good deal on a rough sawn and air dried white oak log on Craigslist. Next I took some time selecting what boards to use for which panels and then started cutting. When it came time to cut the dovetails, I spent weeks practicing different techniques on scraps and eventually settled on a hybrid cut. With the use of a homemade jig, I cut the tails first in the front and rear panels using waste wood on the front and back to eliminate tearout, then with a dovetail saw and a very sharp chisel, I cut the pins to fit.

The hardware was a challenge because I could not find a single supplier that sold everything I needed; the pulls and escutcheon are from one source and the lock and hinges from another. I turned to the art of using a card scraper, another first and now one of my more favorite tools, to help clean up the machine marks before final sanding with 220 grit. When it came to the finish, I again practiced different techniques for weeks using the leftover scraps. I finally settled on an ammonia fume for approximately 18 hours, followed by multiple wipe-on coats of amber shellac. A final rubdown with #0000 steel wool and a couple coats of furniture wax and I was able to give this blanket chest to my wife on our 25th wedding anniversary.