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Create An Heirloom Cedar Hope Chest

By Jim Shutes

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Here’s a great Christmas gift! A hope chest is a precious heirloom that is handed down from generation to generation of girls. You don’t hear much about them any more, yet they still remain popular among woodworking enthusiasts and those who value nostalgia. Hope chests not only store valuable keepsakes for young girls, but also help create a certain elegant atmosphere in one’s room. Whether it is used for its true intention, or to store quilts, sheets, pillows, or extra blankets, hope chests can be a very classy way of creating extra storage.

A good hope chest is hand-crafted, sturdy, and can withstand many years of opening and closing, being sat on, and possibly kicked around a bit. And if built properly, it can be handed down to your children and grand children. So you want to make sure that when you build a hope chest, build it to last. Use good, hard wood, make strong joining corners, sturdy feet, use strong hinges, and have a good overall plan before investing a lot of time and money.

Hope chests are all basically the same size. They are sized this way to sit at the foot of a bed, similar to a foot locker, only elegant. The hope chest dimensions for this article will be 18”H x 18”W x 44”L.

To build this project, you will need the following materials. (5) 1” x 10” x 8’ Oak boards for the Front, Back, Ends, Top, and Base Moldings; (1) ½” x 2’ x 4’ plywood for the Floor; (5) ½” x 1½“ x 6’ Oak Trim, (10) (optional) ¼” x 4” x 8’ Cedar Slats – Tongue and Groove; (1) 1½“ x 36” Continuous Brass Hinge; (1) Counterbalance Safety Hinge; (40) #6 x ½“ Brass Screws; (14) #0 Hardwood Biscuits; (84) #6 x 1¼“ Finishing Nails; (1) Decorative Carving / Wood Appliqué; (2) Handles; (1) Small Can of Wood Putty; (1) Pint of Wood Glue; and (1) Quart of Polyurethane.

Now that you have all of the materials, let’s begin building our hope chest. Start by using 7 Biscuits (for each set of 2 boards) and gluing and clamping 2 sets of (2) 1x10 oak boards together (join at the long sides). These will be for your Front, Back, End and Top Panels. Once dry, cut the Front and Back Panels to be 15¼“W x 42½”L, from one set of the joined boards. Then, out of the other joined boards, cut the Top Panel to be 17”W x 44”L. Also, from the same set, cut the End Panels to be 15¼”H x 14½”W.

On the top edge of the Back Panel, we need to make a cut to allow for the Continuous Hinge to recess into place. Starting 4 inches in from the end, and cut 36” long, by ¾” wide, by 1/8" deep.

From the plywood, cut the Bottom Panel to be 14½”W x 41”L.

Now that the main pieces are cut out, sand everything smooth and we are ready to start assembling our hope chest. Start by gluing and nailing the Back Panel to the Side Panels. Next, glue and nail the Front Panel to the Side Panels. Now, making sure your box is square, glue and nail the Bottom Panel to the bottom of the box assembly.

Now let’s cut and assemble the Base Molding. Using the 1” x 10” x 8’ Oak board, cut (2) 44” long, by 3” wide boards for the Front and Back Base Molding. From the same board, also cut (2) End Base Molding pieces to be 17½” long, by 3” wide. Cut all of the ends (of all 4 Base Molding pieces) at 45 ° angles. Use a router, with a Classic Ogee bit, to router the top edges of all of the Base Molding pieces. If you like, cut a nice design out of the bottom of each of the 4 pieces. You can make it look like scrollwork, or give it some classy legs. Either way, make sure it looks elegant and keeps the same pattern consistent throughout. Now, glue and nail the Base Molding pieces to the bottom of the box, allowing the Molding pieces to hang down below the bottom the Side and End Panels. There should be a 1” overlap of the Base Molding and the bottom of the Side and End Panels. This will make the Base Molding become your legs for the box.

Use a router, with a Classic Ogee bit, to router the top edges of the Top Panel (lid). Attach the Top Panel to the Back Panel, by using the Continuous Brass Hinge. Pre-drill all of the holes for the hinge, by using a 1/8” drill bit and drilling ½” deep. Using the Brass Screws, secure the hinge to both the Back Panel and the Top Panel, so that the Top Panel will close properly, and is lined up correctly. Screw on the Counterbalance Support Hinge to the Top Panel and the inside Back Panel. This will keep the Top Panel (lid) from falling closed from the open position.

It’s time to add the Trim to the middle of the End, Front and Back Panels. Using the ½” x 1½” x 6’ Oak Trim, cut (4) 38½”L x 1-3/8”W Front and Back horizontal Trim Pieces. Cut (4) 12”L x 1-3/8”W Side horizontal Trim Pieces. Cut (8) 10¼”H x 1-3/8”W upright Trim Pieces. For all Trim Pieces, cut the ends at 45 ° angles. For the Front and Back Panels, use 2 horizontal and 2 upright pieces, each. Figure out the center of the panels. First, using finishing nails, nail the shape together at each corner. The, glue and nail the rectangular-shaped box Trim Pieces assembly into the middle of the Front and Back Panels. For the End Panels, create the box from 2 upright pieces and 2 end horizontal pieces. Also nail the pieces together before securing to the hope chest. Find the middle of the panels. Glue and nail the square of trim into the center of each of the panels.

Now, add the 2 Handles. Screw in the Handles on each End Panel, centering left to right, and position
1-5/8” under the top horizontal Trim Piece.

And finally, glue the Oak Appliqué to the absolute middle of the Front Panel. Now your hope chest is assembled. If you wish, line the inside with the optional Cedar Slats. Glue the tongue and groove slats together, cut to length, and nail them into the inside of the chest. Start with the floor, then the ends, and finally, the front and back. Measure and trim to size before nailing into position.

To finish, sand the entire chest and remove dust with a tack cloth. Fill all nail holes with putty and sand smooth. Stain the wood, if desired. Apply two coats of polyurethane, sanding between coats. Do not apply finish to Cedar, or the underside of the lid. And that’s it! Enjoy!

If you would like detailed instructions and a full-size pattern for this project (Cedar Chest #881), send a copy of this article and $11.95 (plus $5.25 S&H), check or money order, to Dept. 101, Sherwood Creations, Inc., 1459 N. Leroy St., Fenton, MI 48430. If you would like to pay by credit card, please call toll-free (800) 843-2571 or go to www.SherwoodOnline.com.

To obtain the special pieces needed to make this project:
For the 5 pieces of Oak Trim, contact Woodworkers Hardware at 800-383-0130, Part #MGF4 0. For the 36” long Continuous Brass Hinge, contact Sherwood Creations at 800-843-2571, Part #H-607. They also carry the Counterbalance Support Hinge (#H-608), the Brass Screws (#S-200), the Polyurethane (#H-697), and the Oak Appliqué (#W-301). For the 2 Handles, contact Van Dyke’s at 800-558-1234, Part #AH-02223137.

Click HERE if you would like to download this article as a Microsoft Word Document, including the photos.


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