Different Hardware for ‘The Schoolbox’

After building a half-dozen versions of The Schoolbox from “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker,” I’m beginning to dial in the design of the small chest to suit my taste.

I am still enamored with the overall proportions and scale of the chest, but I’ve tweaked the decorative details. Here’s a summary of my alterations.

1. Instead of a flat chamfer on the mitered base moulding, I switched to a 3/8” square ovolo. Also instead of mitering the corners, I dovetail them and carve the corners with a chisel.

2. On the lid, I use a cove (made with a No. 6 round) instead of a chamfer. These two changes to the mouldings make the chest look more like a nice piece of furniture than a traveling chest for a kid heading off to boarding school.

3. I’ve not yet found strap hinges that I like that are the right size – the ones I used on the first version are too big. Until I get a blacksmith to make me some, I’ve switched to these gorgeous iron butt hinges from Whitechapel Ltd. They come with great old-school screws.

4. I added two small iron chest lifts. They look nice and make the chest easier to pick up and move. The ones shown on the chest are vintage, but Horton Brasses make lifts that look exactly the same and are the same small size. Click here.

I’ll be building another one of these Schoolboxes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking  Sept. 4-8, so I’ll have another opportunity to try some other changes, perhaps to the dovetail spacing. There are still a couple spots open in the class. More details are here.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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26 Responses to Different Hardware for ‘The Schoolbox’

  1. Tim Henriksen says:

    I really like the warmth of the finish. Still using a thinned varnish?

  2. rob campbell says:

    My hope in building more of these school boxes than you is wearing thin. I am on number 4 now, with 3 more on deck to fulfill my commitments. I love the changes you have made.

    For the time being, I am sticking with the original plan, though, because I feel I have not fully mastered the crisp miters on the moulding . I have also been curious about using moulding planes for the trim, and might do that for the final few. I do love your combination of the cove and ovolo, it looks very nice. The lifts are also a great touch!

  3. Gordon says:

    Knew it was shellac. No latch yet? Like the hinges, handles and especially the trim changes since I have been Bickfordized.

  4. Kim A Howarter says:

    Looking forward to building mine during the class at Marc Adams school in September!
    Plus I want to see the “Land of the Lost” hammer!

  5. Phil Spencer says:

    With the lid being one piece, do you think the lid needs a cleat in the middle to help prevent warping or are the ends of the frame around the lid enough to hold the lid flat.

    Garnet shellac is great to use, I use it all the time it gives a nice warm colour (how I spell colour will give you a hint as to where I live:) )

  6. Kevin Wilkinson says:

    I was going to send a link to extruded brass hinges I found on Amazon but then I realized you’re talking about period designs. Ah, what the heck, I’ll post the link anyway.


    I ordered the 3 pair, they look very nice and will look even better when polished. They’re nice and tight and came with 3 holes on each side instead of the 2 shown, plus they came with very nice to my untrained eye slotted brass screws. Although the ad doesn’t say so they are shipped from Great Britain.

    • David Pickett says:

      I’ve had good service in the past from http://www.isaaclord.co.uk – they have (among may other lines) broad suite and narrow suite solid drawn brass butt hinges in a range of sizes, and supply boxes of brass slotted screws at reasonable prices. The website is not the clearest, but might be worth a look at. I’m not sure how you’d go on with the various taxes, though, if ordering from North America.

  7. Glen says:

    Nice detail Chris. Icing on a very tidy cake. I love a clocked screw!

  8. dave jeske says:

    Chris, When the butt hinges are mortised in flush, is there much of a gap between the top and the top edge of the box when the lid is closed (in the back)? I am making a different chest but am using Horton hinges. The offset is larger than I am happy with and I am not sure what to do about it.. Those are nice looking hinges and your additional molding details step the design up a notch.

    • lostartpress says:

      Hey Dave,

      There are two traditional choices:

      1. Swage the hinges by pinching the leaves together in a metal vise to close the gap to nil. I do this all the time, but it can be risky. Occasionally (1 time in 230) the swaging will warp the barrel of the hinge, making the hinge difficult to operate.

      2. Mortise deeper. I also do this at times. Set your mortise depth based on the pin in the barrel — not the thickness of the leaf. If you set the mortise depth to the centerpoint of the hinge pin, you will have zero gap. If you go a hair shy of the midpoint, you get a tiny and perfect gap.

      Which path I take depends on the hinge and its material. Thick hinges, like the ones shown are impossible to swage. Steel hinges can be difficult to swage. Brass hinges with typical leaves are easy to swage.

      Oh, and there is a third choice that involves using ramped mortises — it’s too difficult to explain in words….

      Good luck!

      • dave jeske says:

        Thanks Chris. I am not sure I would like the aesthetics of mortising the hinge deeper than flush but that may be my only viable option. I had not thought about reforming or swaging the leaves. They are pretty thick cast brass but I’ll explore that option as well..

  9. David says:

    Dave – There’s an alternative to measuring the pin barrel that I use all the time – I simply use several thick shavings laying around the workbench between the closed leaves of the hinge until I get them parallel. Then I just measure the thickness of the “sandwich”, and divide in two – that number is my hinge mortise depth. Normally I split the difference between the top and the carcasse, but I have also mortised the bottom leaf flush with the edge of the carcasse and accomodated the additional depth in the lid.

    Chris – When I first read The Joiner, etc.. I literally interpreted the text – that the schoolbox was made of 1/2″ Deal. I followed your drawings, but, essentially be mistake, made the whole box out of 1/2″ thick white pine. YOu might want to give this variation a try – it makes for quite a strong but very light box that a child might appreciate.



  10. Nick says:

    I like those hinges alot! I may have to order some for the school box I built in class a couple weeks ago.
    Did the screws come with them? Ordered separately? From your own private stash?
    Thanks again for a great class!

  11. Dan Pope says:

    Thanks for the post. Class on Friday was fairly hectic so this saved writing a separate email.

    For any considering taking the class it is a wonderful confidence builder for sawing, dovetailing and planing. Lots of fun and a challenge whatever your skill level.

    Chris, along with Nick thanks for a great week!

    • lostartpress says:

      Hey Dan,

      I sent out your shirt last week. It should arrive in the coming days.

      Glad you enjoyed the class. I really like teaching that class because there is so much ground to cover.

      • Dan Pope says:

        Just got home from an additional wonderful week in Maine including a productive trip to Liberty Tool. Pictures should hopefully be posted tomorrow.

  12. John C says:

    Chris. I
    I’m liking the lifts as well. Which size are they? 5″ x 2 3/4″?

    • lostartpress says:

      They are the smaller ones listed on the page.

      • John C says:

        Thanks Chris. And one other question I have on the Schoolbox if I may. I’m beginning my Schoolbox and I noticed that the position of your front, back, and sides are heart side facing outward. Is there any advantage or standard convention to having boards positioned this way? Or is it a matter of preference?

        • lostartpress says:

          In general, you put the heart side out when you want the assembly to pinch tight at the corners when the boards cup over time.

          In general — on flatsawn boards, the bark side cups and the heart side bows across the board’s width.

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