So, I’m trying to finish my niece’s hope chest so I can get it to her in time for her birthday. Yes, this is the hope chest I wanted to get done BEFORE I traveled up to teach at the Emergency Management Institute back in August. Yes, I’m slow!
I am using some Peruvian Walnut that was sent to me by my good friends at Bell Forest Products. Man, that stuff is SWEET! Kind of a dark purplish brown with some very interesting grain patterns. I spent this past weekend doing the cope and stick profiles in the rails and stiles, and those babies are all ready for assembly. But, say my niece doesn’t want everyone to see her belongings? I mean, this chest seems to be missing something…
Oh, yeah, panels! I knew I would forget something! That’s why I went looking through my wood pile to find some contrasting wood.. maple, perhaps. Maple is one of my favorites. The only problem? I didn’t have a board wide enough or long enough to make all six panels (the front and the back faces have intermediate stiles on them), as well as making the lid. Hmmm, I was in a conundrum, so I went locally to Weiss Hardwoods to see if they could help.
That’s when I ran into the mill guy Earl. Now, Earl has an eye for this kind of thing, and when I was describing what I needed, he scratched his chin for a minute, and then walked over to a bunk of rough maple. He was going to take a piece from this one order he had collected… it had some figure on it, and the guy he was milling it for probably didn’t want any of it.
Earl did his magic, planing, jointing and then sanding the piece on the wide-belt sander in the shop. That piece positively glowed when he took it off the sander. He cut it into two seven foot long sections and helped me trundle it off to the car.
When I got home, I knew I had it nailed. That piece was plenty long for me to get panels cut out. I was feeling so full of myself… until I had a very bad thought. Would the piece be wide enough. Now, it’s not often that you get a beautiful piece of maple that is 14 feet long and 10 inches wide. The only problem, though, was that I was going to need panels that were 10 1/2 inches wide…
You have GOT to be kidding me. If I put the chest together like this, I was going to need a board stretcher to get the extra half inch. I looked at the board, then at the milled pieces of the frames. Then back to the board. As I pondered the kind of major surgery it would take to shorten the rails so they would fit, an audacious idea hit me… why not just make the board wider by adding two 1/4 inch strips to the top and the bottom? After all, most of these strips would be rabbeted to fit into the rails and stiles, right? I reached in the scrap pile, cut some lengths of 1/4 inch wide maple strips and glued them on.
After the glue dried, I planed and sanded the strips flush. Bingo. They were on there solid as a rock. Now, all I have to do is cut the panels to length, rabbet all four sides, and get those panels into the frames for the glue up. Just a little more work, and I can send this project to one very happy soon-to-be 16 year old.