Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chris Schwarz's Traveling Tool Chest

In the meantime since my last post, I've assembled the tool chest case, installed the top and bottom skirts, and completed the tool tray. The main reason for having the skirts is the way the chest's case is constructed; dovetails can only go together in one direction, and by default, can go apart the same way. By alternating the way the dovetails go on the skirts with the dovetails on the case, it effectively traps the chest case so the sides can't bow out and fail.
Although I'm pretty sure Chris Schwarz looked at several antique examples of tool chests to come up with his design, the most puzzling thing about the chest was the bottom skirt. When I was first reviewing the sketchup model for the chest, a cursory glance at the bottom skirt made me think that it was similar to other bases I'd seen for case pieces with rabbets on the inside and the chest would slide down and be glued and possibly nailed to the bottom. Moldings would follow to cover up the transition from case to skirt. 
Not exactly. The bottom skirt slips down around and lies flush with the bottom battens, but it's simply glued to the case sides. Hmph.
Although I've been able to get away without measuring through the use of dividers, story sticks and what not, pinch rods would've been extremely helpful for getting a tighter fit on the skirts. They're just two pieces of wood with a fastener in the middle to hold them together, allowing you to measure inside cases with them and then transcribe to a piece of wood for cutting. I can't recall how many times I've used a ruler or tape measure only to have a parallax error rear its quarter inch long head on the piece I've cut.
For the bottom skirt, I measured carefully, cut the dovetails carefully, screwed up an entire set of the pins carefully, and then carefully swore as I attempted to wrangle glue and bar clamps on the skirt while manipulating it into place.
For all the difficulty, the only gap on the bottom skirt measures a hair less than 1/32". That's nothing. The wood will probably shift more than that over the changing seasons.
I glued the top skirt flush with the top of the case and omitted the back board of the skirt to allow the lid to pivot down.
I used Tavern Green milk paint on the chest since it's what was on hand, and applied two coats on the front and sides, and a thin wash coat on the back. I thought it looked fine, just a little plain, so I stenciled a scrolling vine sort of pattern on the front and then painted it with acrylic paint and soft camel hair brushes. I think a stiffer brush is in order. The camel hair brushes might be more suitable for water colors on parchment instead of wood. I had a lot of trouble getting crisp lines with the liner brush. It acted more like a mop in that it would refuse to release the paint until I'd press down about halfway to the ferule. Of course, this splayed out the brush hairs and made the line a lot thicker than what I wanted or needed. If I had to do this again, I'd cut out stencils from cardboard or thick paper and tack them down just to get clearly defined borders and lines. Once the acrylic was dry, I applied two coats of butcher block oil (which is really just a thinned varnish) to darken the milk paint and give it a slight sheen.
The only things left are to make, fit, and install the lid, install handles on the side, and possibly make another tool tray.



Painted and varnished

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