Download a Draft of my 6-board Chest Chapter


Before you download this draft chapter from my next book, “Furniture of Necessity,” please read the following disclaimers.

1. Woodworking is an inherently dangerous activit… wait, wrong disclaimer.

Starting again.

1. This chapter has not been edited by anyone but me. It is rough, both around the edges and in the middle. If an occasional typo or dropped word makes you reach for the Valium, then make sure your prescription is up to date first.

2. The techniques discussed in this chapter might change. When I write, I build some pieces, then I write the chapter, then I build some more. Then I revise the chapter. Then I talk to a bunch of people. Build some more. Revise the chapter. This chapter is far from finished.

3. I have not added the photos or captions. This is the text. The only part where I think you will have trouble because of this omission is where I describe making an ogee. I’ll do a video on that technique in the coming days.

4. You might have questions about this chapter when you are done reading it. I cannot guarantee I’ll have answers.

5. If you build a six-board chest using techniques in this text, let me know if you find a better way to perform a certain operation. Your feedback is appreciated and desired.

So all that said, here you go. It’s a .doc file, which everyone should be able to read.


— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to Download a Draft of my 6-board Chest Chapter

  1. Marilyn says:

    Thanks! It downloaded just fine. Disclaimer read and acknowledged. Looking forward to the whole book.

    I will be building this hopefully in the next three to six months. Mine will sit out on the porch, so it’ll be constructed for an outdoor setting.


  2. Kevin costa says:

    I built the atheist tool chest from just the magazine article, so this should be fun as well


  3. Paul B says:

    The only thing that wasn’t clear to me had to do with clinching the nails. Are they typically across the grain or towards the middle of the lid? Also, you don’t mention using a metal backing plate, the way you demontrated on The Woodwright’s Shop.

    Thanks for putting in the advice about chiselling out before routing.


  4. joemcglynn says:

    Good chapter, looking forward to the book. I’d like to build this but haven’t found the time or wide boards, it’s a toss up as to which is more scarce around here. Actually, maybe not. I’m pretty sure I could fund the wood if time allowed.


  5. Mikey says:

    I have been eagerly awaiting this ever since you posted about it originally. I don’t know why since I built my chest a week ago based on the “recipe” you posted a while back and with the sketchup model you also posted. Thanks for the free project and info. Very informative as per usual!


  6. Patrick says:

    FYI for anyone who cant wait. Roy shows how to layout an ogee using a compass (for the Roubo bookstand) here:

    Skip to about 17:20 into the video for the start of the ogee layout demo.

    (He makes it look so easy.)


  7. amvolk says:

    The photos in the previous post “Farewell to Fair Wood” showed more detail of the process, especially clenching (or clinching) the nails in the lid. One question: is there any issue with reversing the nail and clinching (or clenching) it on the batten? Pros/Cons?


  8. SteveR says:

    I read the whole thing and along with the pictures posted from before, I think I could build this as described. I don’t think a lot is missing, other than references, diagrams, sidebars as forewarned. I won’t mention the single typo I found out of respect of the other disclaimers 🙂
    A book called the ‘Furniture of necessity’ should be equally frugal with words, including only those which must be there.


  9. You’re a braver man than I, letting your writing go out in public half-finished like that. But thank you. I enjoyed it.

    The widest such chest I’ve made was 12″, but it’s still holding up after several years in use as a toy box. I have no idea how the rabbets might have been cut on the ends of boards in the past, but I’ve not been pleased with the results I get from my rabbet plane. I’ve had better success with sawing them out. The usual two backsaws–tenon saw and carcase saw–work pretty well. I’ve also experimented with sawing the shoulder of the joint first and then splitting out most of the waste with a broad chisel. Then I’ll clean up with a paring chisel and/or a rabbet plane. In straight-grained stock, the chisel method is pretty effective.

    I’ve also been known to use a stair saw to cut the shoulders of rabbets, as well as the sides of dadoes. The stair saw is a wonderful too.


  10. sablebadger says:

    I just finished the article, and I think you’re in a good place. There section on painting feels like it repeats a bit on the subject of “paint the outside, leave the inside bare”, but I’m sure you’ll be tuning that in the edit phase. I only mention this because the rest of the article feels pretty solid, and this last bit felt a bit rushed.

    I’m going to be making my son a tool chest for his birthday in late December, and I am now going to make him a shortened version of the 6 board chest instead a smaller version of a Tool Chest. I’m doing this for a couple reasons, one of which is trying out your article and seeing if I can add anything to it, and the other is that you’ve sold me on the form (to be honest, it wasn’t a hard sell. I’m already a convert.)

    I’ve made several six board chests already, and the assembly is the most trying part for me. I had a flash of inspiration though for nailing the back on the case. I’m planning on using my wooden screw clamps like a mini Moxon vise on each side to hold them upright while I nail the back on the sides. After that it will be able to stand on it’s own. That first step of getting the sides on has always been a pain for me.

    The second thing I’m going to try is the angled notch at the base of the side boards. Like the picture I sent you for the 16th century version I found online.



  11. rondennis303 says:

    Kevin costa, such a chest ’tis surely the Devil’s work. Forsake alcohol, it too is the road to ruin.

    But, seriously, a Godless tool chest? I shall giveth the a Southern Blessing: Hominy, Bacon & Ggrrrrrrrits! Go forth and sin no more.


    • Kevin Costa says:

      rondennis, you may in fact giveth and in turn I ‘spose i may repent, But thou shalt not forsake thine porter, honey ale nor scotch ale.
      ps now I have to reconsider my godless dovetail tills, it may be that getting nailed is preferable


  12. James Gee says:

    Thanks for posting this preview. It’s a privilege to see this prior to the book’s publication.

    I wish, though, you would spare a thought for your poor British cousins, and those of other countries, who aren’t as well served by their merchants with furniture grade timber. I couldn’t help release a short, slightly hysterical laugh when I read of your 18″ wide boards. I feel lucky when I get pine that’s 8″ wide and clear for more than a few meters. Sugar Pine? What’s that? I might get some at the garden centre, but not the timber merchant without sacrificing an arm or leg. The 15″ wide Eastern White called for in the Anarchist’s Tool Chest is no easier to come by in the UK or Europe (you know that, of course, from your teaching trip to Germany). I settled on Tulipwood for the tool chest (one third the price of select grade Eastern White in the UK), but that doesn’t seem appropriate for a six board chest.

    There’s nothing you can do about the timber available in the UK, I’m just venting some frustration before making a six board chest out of edge-laminated Scandinavian Redwood panels – panels that have so many knots they might have been made from recycled Christmas trees.


    • lostartpress says:

      The greatest resource of the Americas has always been its lumber.

      So I say: emigrate!

      The British (and Irish and Scots) are seen as hyper-intelligent and sexy here because of their accents.

      I do not lie.

      If there were a place where everyone thought I was smart and desirable and the wood was 18″ wide, I’d move there.

      So I’ll just settle for the 18″-wide stuff we have here.


  13. Shaping up really nicely Chris. Can’t wait to see more. One thing I noticed was the lack of mention of the dado plane. As with your description of making the dado with saw, chisel and router plane, it would require an additional tool, but it speeds the process up considerably over those tools. Maybe not where you are hoping to take the chapter? I would however hazard a guess that a dado plane was very commonly used for this task considering how common old wooden dados are on the old tools market compared to old wooden router planes. And since they would hand plane their lumber anyway, planing it to fit the size of the dado made by the plane would not be an issue.


  14. Jeremy says:

    Great chapter can’t wait for the book. Points I noticed as I read through.

    With an image it’ll be clear to wrap the molding on 3 sides, but I re-read the front/back layout a couple times trying to figure out how to get the perimeter measurement from just the sum of the 2 long sides.

    When cutting dado’s I’ve found the chisel clearing method to work better with an extra saw kerf or two run down the dado to weaken the waste remaining.

    Not sure if it’s ubiquitous but in Illinois oil based paint is as available as lead based.

    You mention gluing the front/back (without any partial length warning) but give a warning to only glue part of the bottom in the groove.


  15. bsrlee says:

    I found at least one (deliberate) typo 😉

    Chris, you should widen your historical reading 😉 – 6 board chests are not a peculiarly American institution. I direct you to two books, published a few years ago & sadly out of print:
    Before the Mast ed Julie Gardiner, The Mary Rose Trust, 2005
    Artefacts from Wrecks ed. Mark Redknap, Oxbow 1997

    Both these books have an extensive chapter dealing with the chests found in the wreck of the Mary Rose, sunk in 1545. What you have is known as a Type 3 chest, more exactly a 3.2 or a 3.3 depending on the presence of rebates on the front & back boards. They represent a little less than a third of the chests that survived in good enough condition to be reconstructed & assigned a construction type.

    Type 2 chests lack legs to keep them off the floor and vary from 6 boards butt nailed together without any fancy joinery to the oldest dovetailed chests known from an English context ( including the surgeon’s chest). There are even 2 that are essentially the same as the 19th Century sailors chests, where the base is bigger than the top of the chest.

    Type 1 chest are basically crates for weapons (arrows & bow staves) a few of which were ‘repurposed’ by the ship’s carpenter/s to store their tools, all 6 boards butt nailed and about half without any provision for handles, the lids where present were nailed on.

    Wood has been identified as: Pine, Elm, Oak, Poplar, Walnut, Beech and Ash.

    And the battens were nailed on from underneath the lid. At least some of the hinge straps went under the lid and down the back of the chest.

    If you contact me privately I could scan you one of the chapters ‘for personal use’ – there have been a few attempts to get the Mary Rose Trust to reprint ‘Before the Mast’ or issue it as a .pdf. Maybe Last Arts could convince them to make a co-operative venture to get the wooden artifacts back in print?


  16. Dustin says:

    Don’t edit away the line “Avoid lead-based paint unless you want to always outwit your young ones.” It made me laugh.


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