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