Officer’s Strong Trunk

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Trunks such as this – sometimes called “strong chests” or “barracks chests” – are a common form of campaign furniture. They were available in a variety of configurations, from plain deal boxes to elaborate affairs lined with zinc, camphorwood or baize.

Trunks typically have square ends – both the height and depth of the trunk can be roughly 15” to 25” typically. In general, they are somewhere between 25” to 40” wide. The chests are frequently dovetailed at the corners and bound with brass corners and other brass straps. Despite the dovetails, many of the lids and bottoms of trunks were merely nailed to the carcase. It is not unusual to find a trunk with a lid or bottom that has a split.

Less expensive models used butt joints at the corner and were bound in iron with the lids simply screwed on.

My example is based off of details from five trunks I’ve studied in person, including one from the East Indies that had the unusual corner joint shown.

The mahogany is gorgeous stuff from Midwest Woodworking (RIP David Frank). The hardware was custom-made by Horton Brasses (thanks Orion Henderson and everyone at Horton). The finish is two coats of garnet shellac (Tiger Flakes from Tools for Working Wood), then one coat of dull lacquer and black bison wax from Liberon (aka Creepy Janitor).

I now have only two more projects to build for the book “Campaign Furniture,” a final Roorkhee chair that incorporates everything I’ve learned about them during the last year and a deluxe folding bookcase.

— Christopher Schwarz

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About lostartpress

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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30 Responses to Officer’s Strong Trunk

  1. Joel says:

    When you say RIP Frank David, do you mean his business? Or himself? I heard via your blog (and Andy Brownwell as well) about the big sale at Midwest Woodworking earlier this year, but I hadn’t heard any news about Frank’s health. I only got the chance to meet him once, but he seemed like a good guy. Very helpful.

  2. Nice work Chris, thanks for the reference. We liked the hasp so much we are developing two stock sizes.

  3. toolnut says:

    With all that brass, why not brass for the handles as well?

  4. That is one gorgeous chest! Nice job Chris. You got me, I’m hooked.

  5. tsstahl says:

    Regarding the corner L bracket with the fold down wings. Was the piece cast with the wings down, or did you have to fold them? The line looks quite straight so I’m thinking they were ‘bent’ already. However, I’ve seen that style flat bracket in thin galvanized steel (furnace installer) and copper (external rain gutter).

    I know folks that make a lot of crates used to use the L bracket with fold down wings in thicker gauge steel. I was just wondering if they were still generally available.

    • lostartpress says:

      Some are cast in that shape. Some are bent and then welded (like the ones in the photos).

      Both styles are very much available from places like Horton, Londonderry and others.

      • tsstahl says:

        Thank you.

        I really need to learn the correct nomenclatures. :) It took me a day recently to learn that rule hinge == card table hinge.

        I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say your efforts in woodworking beyond publishing are appreciated.

  6. yazoonian says:

    I can’t wait to see more pictures. I’m curious to see how the space inside is laid out. Surely it isn’t just a big open box?

  7. OMG! That is one beautiful trunk Chris. Excellent job. Are you keeping all of your campaign furniture you built for the book or selling it?

  8. Faye Sprouse says:

    Nice use of the recycled bed sheet from 1972.

    F

  9. @Tsstahl-those corners were plasma cut, bent in a press, and then brazed together at the back seam.

    The picture makes it look the back seam was cut. I am not sure if it is an optical illusion, Chris cut the, or I am forgetting something.

  10. johnkuszewski says:

    Sorry if I missed it before, but what are those pretty brass circles along the corner joints? Filed-off brass screws? If so, how’d you avoid messing up the surrounding wood?

  11. Chris, do you plan to use color photos for this book? Maybe at least for the open glamour shot ala Woodworking Magazine? I’d like to vote yes even though I know my vote doesn’t count for much. Chest looks pretty sweet by the way.

    • lostartpress says:

      The plan at this point (which might change) is to have the opening shots in color and the rest of the photos duo-toned.

      • Sounds good. I really think the color photos add richness to the piece. I understand there must be financial trade offs between printing with or without color. I’m looking forward to this book. Thanks Chris.

  12. Bob Jones says:

    Is that chest really in front of the sheet? It looks weird – like photoshop. Everyone’s a critic, right? :)

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