As I mentioned previously, the top of the blanket chest will be made from red oak, to match the rest of the furniture in the bedrooom. Red oak is not one of my favorite woods – far from it. In fact, it would be near the bottom of the list of woods I like to use. Its open grain and proneness to tear-out make it frustrating to work. Unfortunately, it’s one of the more common woods in our area, so I often have to just set my jaw and plow ahead.
Due to surface flaws, I ended up having to plane my stock closer to 3/4″ than the 7/8″ that I wanted. This wasn’t a problem, though. The lid stands alone as a design element, and edge shaping makes the thickness harder to discern anyway. I won’t bore you with the details of gluing up the panel from the individual boards – there are plenty of tutorials out there on that. I planned on a 5/8″ overhang on all sides, making it slightly smaller than the size of the base. It has been my experience that this generally gives a more balanced proportion than making top and bottom the same size, which tends to look a bit top-heavy.
The overall panel width was just a bit too wide for my crosscut sled, so I had to find an alternative means to crosscut to final length. While some would use a jig with a circular saw or something similar, I chose a more direct approach. I drew a line, and cut to it with a 12pt. panel saw. A quick cut, followed by clean-up with a jack plane, and I was through by the time most people could have found wood for the jig. Even if you’re not a serious hand-tool woodworker, the ability to accurately cross-cut to a line with a handsaw is a skill that should be in everyone’s repertoire.
There are lots of different router bits on the market, many with exorbitant price tabs, but following Matthew Bickford’s blog has gotten me to thinking of complex molding shapes in terms of combinations of hollows and rounds. Even if you can’t afford a set of matching hollow and round planes, you can apply a lot of the principles with a few simple router bits and an edge guide. Not only can you duplicate many existing bits’ profiles, but you can customize things to get the exact profile you want.
My wife wanted a molded edge treatment on the lid, so I played with some options till I came up with something she liked. Her favorite was a combination of a small cove with a larger roundover. I started by cutting a sample, then she would take a pencil and sketch in modifications on the end of the board until she was pleased with the outcome. In the photo above, I started with a cove and roundover combination on the edge, and she suggested changes. She finally settled on the innermost style. The roundover has been brought up and in to make it a larger part of the overall profile, while the cove was made a bit smaller to act as more of an accent. To achieve this, I switched from a 3/8″ to a 1/2″ roundover bit, and cut with it low enough that the guide bearing actually hung off below the edge of the wood to yield only a part of the curved shape.
I’ve used this D-handled Porter Cable for years, and it’s a favorite of mine. The addition of a good-quality edge guide allows you to place individual design elements exactly where you want them, instead of being limited by a bit profile. In the photo above, the basic roundover cut is being “lowered” into place, and then the cove will be cut with a small core box bit where you see the large shoulder above the roundover. As mentioned above, the fence of the edge guide lets me run the bit without registering the bearing on the surface, and lets me use partial arcs as part of my design.
Notice also in the photo above the presence of an offset base. I cannot recommend one of these highly enough. One of the biggest concerns when doing edge treatments with a handheld router is tipping. I don’t care how good you are, the darn things seem to want to tip and ruin your work. Adding a heavy edge guide like the one I have increases the odds of that past the point of acceptability. The offset base lets you hold the router firmly to the work, so you concentrate on other things like keeping the fence snug to the wood, and proper entry and exit from the cut. Buy one or make one, but by all means, get one.
After the edge was routed, I put the lid in place on the body for a look. All in all, not bad! All that remains is to paint the body and stain and finish the top. It won’t be long now! Stay tuned!