Saturday, July 13, 2013: I started the day by cutting my tray bottom. It is ½” plywood that I cut by hand and planed to fit perfectly, and then lightly sanded the edges so they won’t splinter or fracture.
By the way, this panel will not be glued in place. Just to add a note about fitting it, I did keep the ends square, in case the box was racked slightly.
I moved on to preparing my chest bottom for installation. I carefully lined everything up, made very light witness marks and laid out my screw pattern. Although the bottom panel will support no weight, it still glued and screwed in place. The screws really just take the place of clamps, meaning you can complete the base, and move immediately to the lid.
The pieces are prepped with the standard pilot and clearance holes, but also include a ⅜” hole for a plug. Once all of the holes are drilled, lay a bead of glue, position the base, and install the 1-½” screws all the way around.
Some time ago, Paul blogged about a plug cutter that can be used in a standard hand held drill. It is made by Hitachi and sold at Lowes. I had a chance to use one to make my plugs. Here are the blanks before I snapped them out. It was a handy device, although like most things sold at big box improvement stores, I suspect it will live a short life. Yes, it is another in a long line of inferior manufactured Asian products. Anyway, smear some glue on the inside rim of a hole and install the plug with proper grain orientation. Since these are pine, tap gently to seat so as to not crush it.
You can immediately take a sharp chisel to clean the plugs. This is a great technique. Approach the plug bevel down, about ⅛” above the surface, and pop the plug off. Examine the grain. If it is running uphill from your cut, pop again closer to the surface and pare flush. It the grain is running downhill, change your approach 180° and pop off the plug, followed by paring. You can the sand the plugs to blend them away.
The next move was to glue the lid in place. This will require several clamps, which should be laid out to allow maximum access to the front of the chest (required after gluing to make the drawers). Follow the same layout procedure for the base and then glue and clamp when ready. Remember that all glue ups require a swift pace and confidence, so rehearse the order of operations a few times.
The drawers will be constructed using half lap dovetails on the front, and a wedged mortise and tennon in a housing dado for the back. The bottoms will be ¼” plywood. Your face should already be cut for an exact fit, so locate them. Your sides should be cut long and tall of the openings. Plane all of the surfaces smooth, being careful to keep the edges square to the faces. With a chisel, pop off a small section on the top edge, near the back. This will create a narrowing of the width that is then offered to the drawer opening. When it stops, mark the bevel, which indicates the exact size of the opening. Plane the top to the dimension, keeping it square to the face. Test fit and adjust as necessary, allowing only enough clearance to be fully inserted. The drawers are constructed with absolute minimal clearances, then adjusted for final fit just before glue up.
Lay out and cut the half lap dovetails, then cut the sides to length. To determine the proper length, you measure from the front face to the rear inside wall. Using this dimension, measure from the drawer face along the side and make you mark. The sides can then be cut slightly longer, by maybe 1/32”. Again, this will be adjusted prior to gluing.
That’s as far I got on my box. Six days of work and learning. We will have an opportunity during the next week to come in early and work late to finish them, but for now, it’s time to clean up. A new project starts Monday!