Blanket Chest Design – Panel Proportions

Now that the basic construction principles had been decided upon, the next question was one of sizes of the various components.

Overall dimensions for the blanket chest were actually the easiest to establish.  I took a tape measure and called my wife over to the intended location at the foot of the king-size bed.  By extending the tape measure and asking, “Is this long enough?  How about this?  You’re sure you want it that long?  Okay, okay!”, we arrived at a length of 48″  Remember, this is momma’s chest.  We decided on a height of 22″ – a bit tall for comfortable seating for shorter people, but my wife wanted the increased storage, and pointed out that it wouldn’t be a regular “sitting seat”.  Likewise, the width was set at 18″.  I had thought that 15″ would give a better fit at the foot of the bed, but, again, my wife wanted more room for storage.

I’m not a SketchUp user, but have ample experience with traditional drafting.  Using these skills, I started proportioning the components of the chest body.  After fiddling with rail and stile widths, I finally settled on 3″ wide rails and stiles as giving the best look for the overall proportions of the front of the chest.  After reviewing mockups, we decided on a three-panel front and back, and a single panel on the sides.  I started a final drawing of the front to establish panel dimensions, and this is where the fun began.

I started by simply dividing the front into three parts, and centered the stiles on these marks.  When I finished the drawing, something didn’t look right:

Panels Divided Outside
The center panel was wider than the two outside ones!  How had that happened?  The areas were equally divided, or so it seemed from the divisions at the bottom, but the center panel was wider.  This was not the look I wanted.  After a few minutes of head scratching, I tried a different strategy, this time starting my divisions at the inside edge of the outer stiles:

Panels Divided Inside

This time, the center panel was smaller than the two outside panels!  Aha!  I thought I had it figured out, so I tried the remaining logical alternative:  I made my divisions starting at the middle of the outer stiles:

Panels Divided Middle

Hey!  It worked!  All the spacings are equal.  So, I concluded, the secret to even spacings is to start your divisions from the middle of the outer stiles, right?

Not necessarily.  This will work if the outer stiles are the same width as the inner ones.  However, this truism breaks down if the width is different.  If, for example, you have wider post-type stiles, or just want the look of narrower inner stiles, using the above conclusion will get you into trouble.

In fact, the divisions should be made starting at a distance of one-half the inner stile width out from the inner edge of the outer stile.  For example, if the inner stiles are 3″ wide (as above), the equal divisions would start 1 1/2″ left of the inner edge of the left-hand stile, and end 1 1/2″ right of the inner edge of the right-hand stile.  In this case, this corresponds to the center, but the actual width of the outer stiles is irrelevant.

I hope that’s not too confusing.  It’s one of those useful things that I don’t ever remember seeing in print before.  Play with it a little, and I think you’ll get the gist of it.  If not, leave a comment here, or contact me at, and I’ll try to clarify things.


One response to “Blanket Chest Design – Panel Proportions

  1. I particularly enjoyed your discussion regarding the sizing of your stiles. I had previously used narrower middle stiles on a bookcase, but am now considering equal sized stiles on my current blanket chest project. Keep up the good work.

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