Blog Post

Today we’re going to be finishing up the toy chest that we started a couple weeks ago.

Now that the panels were built I had to sand them smooth. Putting an old yoga mat underneath keeps them from moving around.

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I grabbed all the panels and dry fit them in place. I used some clamps and some homemade corner braces to hold them up.

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The front panel needed a finger slot cut out so I marked it out with a ruler.

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The ends of the slot create sort of an “S” shape. I found the center point between the edge and the line, and used a bottle cap to draw the curves. Then erased the other marks.

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I took the whole panel to the band saw and cut as close as I could to the line. I didn’t want to touch it, since I could sand to it after.

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Using a wood rasp and some sand paper, I brought the slot down until my line disappeared.

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I took the panel back and clamped it in place with the rest of the walls.

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I would be using dowels to connect the panels, but didn’t have a doweling jig. So I made one. I started by cutting a piece of oak down to size on the miter saw.

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Then I marked and cut a piece of plywood to the same length. I used some glue and brad-nails to connect the two pieces. Then cleaned up the glue.

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I figured out the dimensions of my dowels, then measured and marked them on the block of oak.

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I used a pick to mark the holes and then drilled them out on the drill-press.

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I could now line up the jig and drill some holes with the same bit I used to make the jig. I repeated this process for the top and bottom of each leg.

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It was time to add glue so I pulled the front panel out and glued both sides. I added some extra glue in the holes and then pounded in the dowels.

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Once the front was done, I repeated the process on the back.

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I added lots of clamps and let it sit for several hours.

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Once the glue had dried, the clamps could come off. I did another round of sanding with the random orbit sander, starting at 120 grit, and then 220.

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I had used ridged dowels to connect the panels, but now they looked bad from the outside. I drilled into them about a quarter inch, then glued in better looking round dowels. Once they were dry, I trimmed and sanded them flush.

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The bottom of the chest would be supported by cleats. I added some glue to the first cleat and just set it in place. I used some spring clamps to hold it until the glue dried. I didn’t have enough clamps to do all four, so I waited for the first two to dry, then did the long sides.

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I could now sand the chest for the final time. I worked through the grits up to 220, including hand sanding all the little ridges around the panels.

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The chest was now assembled, but we didn’t really like the gap around the top. Originally I added that into the design to lessen the risk of smashed fingers, but that was before I found some soft close hinges. Even though it was more work, lowering the top was the right thing to do.

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I couldn’t just cut the long back off using the table saw fence because of the feet.

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I grabbed a straight piece of plywood and clamped it to the chest.

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The plywood could now ride flat along the fence. I made a few passes until it was flush.

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The legs were easier to cut off using a hand saw.

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The top would open and close using a piano hinge. I measured out the length and cut it over on the vice using a hack saw, then smoothed out the edges with a metal file.

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The top would look something like this.

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The hinge was really stiff so I added a little oil and it loosened right up.

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The top plate was cut wide, so I scribed a line and ripped it down on the table saw.

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I added some glue around the tops of the back panels and clamped it in place.

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The bottom cleats were dry now so I added some glue to their tops and put the ½ inch bottom panel in place. I didn’t use any fasteners, just a large weight until it dried.

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I put the top in place and weighed it down so it wouldn’t move. Using a Vix bit, I drilled and screwed in a few places to secure the hinge. I then drilled out the rest of the holes and drove the small screws into place. The top opened nice and smooth.

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I decided to use Danish Oil to finish the chest. It makes the grain pop, as well as adds a little bit of protection.

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You can see how the oil brings out a rich color to this red oak.

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The oil is really easy to apply. Just wipe it on with a cotton cloth, let it soak in for a few minutes, and then wipe off any excess. I applied it to the oak, as well as the plywood panels.

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The next morning, I also applied it to the bottom and the inside. I used a scrap to prop open the top while the inside dried.

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The finish was complete. The only thing left was to install the soft close hinges.

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The hinges were a little complicated. I mocked up a test piece to make sure I didn’t mess up the chest figuring them out. The problem was that on the chest I had less than 2 inches to mount the hinge on the back rail.

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After tons of trial and error, I pulled off the hinge and measured out exactly where the screw holes were.

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I transferred those marks onto the actual chest. I could now use a center punch, then drill tiny pilot holes, making sure not to blow through the other side.

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I grabbed the mounting bracket and screwed in a couple screws to make sure the hinge lined up with the bracket that goes on the top. It all fit great so I finished screwing it down then did the same on the other side.

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Now to test it out. It wasn’t as slow as I would have liked, but it didn’t smash fingers, so that’s good enough for me.

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The hinges were on which means the project was finally complete.

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My Project Tools

RANDOM ORBIT SANDER

QUICK CLAMPS

BAND SAW

MITER SAW

BRAD NAILER

DRILL PRESS

DRILL & IMPACT DRIVER

PIPE CLAMPS

TABLE SAW

VIX BIT

PIANO HINGE

DANISH OIL

SOFT CLOSE HINGE

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