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.
I grabbed all the panels and dry fit them in place. I used some clamps and some homemade corner braces to hold them up.
The front panel needed a finger slot cut out so I marked it out with a ruler.
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.
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.
Using a wood rasp and some sand paper, I brought the slot down until my line disappeared.
I took the panel back and clamped it in place with the rest of the walls.
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.
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.
I figured out the dimensions of my dowels, then measured and marked them on the block of oak.
I used a pick to mark the holes and then drilled them out on the drill-press.
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.
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.
Once the front was done, I repeated the process on the back.
I added lots of clamps and let it sit for several hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I couldn’t just cut the long back off using the table saw fence because of the feet.
I grabbed a straight piece of plywood and clamped it to the chest.
The plywood could now ride flat along the fence. I made a few passes until it was flush.
The legs were easier to cut off using a hand saw.
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.
The top would look something like this.
The hinge was really stiff so I added a little oil and it loosened right up.
The top plate was cut wide, so I scribed a line and ripped it down on the table saw.
I added some glue around the tops of the back panels and clamped it in place.
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.
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.
I decided to use Danish Oil to finish the chest. It makes the grain pop, as well as adds a little bit of protection.
You can see how the oil brings out a rich color to this red oak.
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.
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.
The finish was complete. The only thing left was to install the soft close hinges.
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.
After tons of trial and error, I pulled off the hinge and measured out exactly where the screw holes were.
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.
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.
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.
The hinges were on which means the project was finally complete.
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