Blanket Chest – Dimensioning the Stock

Yes, believe it or not, I’m back on the blanket chest!  After taking a couple of side jaunts to the Herman-style sawbench and the Krenov-style sawhorses (sawbents), I’ll bet you thought I had forgotten about it.  Don’t worry, there was no chance of that (my wife wouldn’t let me if I wanted to).

Blanket Chest 1

When we last left this project, the rough poplar lumber had been skip-planed, stickered, and allowed to acclimate to the shop.  Now, weeks later, it was time to stand it all up and take a good look at it.  At times like these, it’s good to have a cavernous building with a loft to lean your wood against.  This allows me to inspect it all at once, and decide on how to break it down into rough pieces.

In the last blanket chest post, I had established the rough pieces that I would need for the project.  Now, it was a matter of looking at the widths of the individual boards, and figuring the best way to cut them to the required rough parts.  There is more art to this than science, but the process was eased by the fact that everything would be painted.  Also, as you can see, the boards were all very clear of defects, though with considerable color variation.

For this phase, I picked out just the pieces for the frames.  The primary goal was to get two 3″-wide frame components from the width of each board.  All components were effectively matched pairs, so rough crosscutting would yield a pair of matching components with each pass, reducing waste.  Since all of the boards were over 6″ wide, this was a matter of picking the narrower boards for the frame components, and saving the wider boards for the panels.

Blanket Chest 2

After crosscutting to rough and in some cases generous length, I ripped the wide boards to a rough width of 3 1/2″.  After that, it was back through the planer for a final thickness of 7/8″.  Why rip before planing?  This approach makes it easier to remove any bow from the stock, as the narrower boards will flex less in the planer, in many cases eliminating the need to hand-plane a flat face first.  Also, less stock needs to be removed to produce a flat surface, as shown in the diagram in the grooving plane series.  From this point on, even though I didn’t sticker them, I kept the stock stored on-edge on the outfeed table to equalize moisture exchange on both sides.

After this, all stock was ripped to 3″ in width, ensuring good, clean edges, and then cut to final length.  The last step was to cut four of the stiles to a width of 2 1/2″. These pieces will have the 3/8″ tongue portion of the tongue-and-groove joints that will join the frames together at the corners, and have to be narrower to give the appearance of a 3″ width when the two stiles are glued together.

Corner Detail

The math is:

3″ total width – 7/8″ for grooved stile thickness = 2 1/8″

2 1/8″ + 3/8″ tongue length = 2 1/2″

Therefore, when the 3/8″ tongue is inserted in its matching groove, the 2 1/8″ visible width, combined with the 7/8″ thickness of the front stile, will yield a total visible surface of 3″, matching the width of the front stile.

  • Blanket Chest 3

The frame stock is shown in the photo above and, from the left, consists of:

  1. Four long rails for the sides.
  2. Four short rails for the ends.
  3. Four wide corner stiles for the sides.
  4. Four narrow corner stiles for the ends.
  5. Four inside stiles for the sides.

The next step will be to start the joinery.  Stay tuned.


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