Blanket Chest Design – Turning the Corner

I’m still playing with the overall size of the chest, but have another related item that must be addressed – the corners.  Since my wife wants frame and raised-panel construction, there are a few options available on joining the front, back, and sides together.

The first option is using a corner post as the end stile of the frame-and-panel assembly.  In the variant shown above, the rails are set back some from the front edge, so that the post stands somewhat proud of the rest of the frame.  This is often used when the post will act as a foot for the chest.  Again, pardon my poor drawing – I just haven’t gotten around to SketchUp.  The apparent stub tenons are actually the exposed part of haunched mortise-and-tenons as shown below:

Stub Tenon
Keep in mind, however, that my wife wants a simple raised plinth around the base of the chest.  Projecting corner posts make this difficult to achieve.  A variant of this approach moves the rails out to sit flush with the face of the corner post:


This gives the appearance of a continuous frame-and-panel structure, rather than one terminated with a larger post.  This makes the addition of a plinth around the bottom much simpler, since there is no need to work around the projecting profile of the corner post.  There is, however, one drawback to this approach:  A significant amount of post projects into the interior of the chest.  If the chest is to be a simple open box, this is basically irrelevant.  However, if you plan to incorporate a till or lift-out drawers, these posts will certainly get in the way.

There remains yet another method of construction that doesn’t require a corner post.  In the above example, all four sides are completely constructed as independent frame-and-panel elements, and then glued together at the corners to form the basic box of the chest.  While first impressions are of a weaker joint, bear in mind that this is long-grain to long-grain, so it should be stronger than the wood itself.  The addition of full-length stub tenons can add a great deal of physical strength to the joint as well.  The only thing to keep in mind is that the end-panel stiles have to be made narrower by the thickness of the front and back panel stiles so that the look is symmetrical from any direction.

Of course, the visibility of this sort of joint would cause problems on a clear-finished piece.  I have seen methods for hiding such an overlap, but am uneasy with the idea.  However, painting makes it a perfectly viable alternative.  Since my wife finally decided on a painted finish, and that lift-out trays are a possibility, this third method seems to be my best option.  One thing about painted finishes, they certainly allow for a different set of joinery options.

The next step will be to finalize the basic carcase dimensions.  In other words, my wife has to commit to how big she wants it to be.  THAT will be the hardest part.  Stay tuned!


7 responses to “Blanket Chest Design – Turning the Corner

  1. You could also use a “reinforced rabbet” like Marc did on the steamer trunk. It would still allow for the trays, but may give more strength.
    See the 10:05 mark of this video.

    I only know this because I just happened to have recently watched that video while researching a toy chest.

  2. Don’t sell yourself short – The drawings are more than sufficient for getting this point across.

    I agree that the choice of paint makes the butt joint an attractive option, but I don’t quite understand how the lift-out trays affect the choice. Could you elaborate?

  3. Couldn’t you dove tail the frame and panel elements at all four corners? You might need to increase the width of the frame to do so. I can’t tell if the dovetails would detract from the visual line of the multiple panels on the front though; if it would, you could use full blind dovetails in a miter joint at each corner, thus getting the strength of the dovetail joint with the simple appearance of the miter.

  4. The lack of corner posts allows a clean, square internal line that permits the trays to run the full length/width without either giving up space to the posts or having to be made to fit around them. A minor point, I agree.

  5. I like seeing the process of an idea being worked through. After all, its the journey that is the fun part.

  6. An interesting post. It’s always good to see people thinking their way through the early stages of a project.

    If you weren’t going for a painted finish, you could try book-matching the meeting corner stiles from thicker timber, which may help the join to blend in amongst the continuous grain. Another approach (and, something that I’ve done in the past) is to machine a tongue down the edge of the end panel’s stile, with a corresponding groove cut in to the inner face of the other stile. Or, you could biscuit joint them.

    If you were set on the idea of using corner posts, I’ve seen other woodworkers cut a larger chamfer down the inner corner to reduce the intrusion inside the box.

    Looking forward to seeing more on this one.

  7. Lock Miter

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