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Cypress Chest


Cypress Chest

Beautiful outdoor storage made to take the elements.

By Dave Munkittrick

Storage is like money; we never seem to have enough. Well, I can’t help you much with your finances, but I can give you a hand on the storage front. A frequently overlooked storage area is outdoors. I’m not talking about another tool shed, but a beautiful chest designed to store the smaller outdoor amenities we use everyday, such as cushions for deck furniture, pool toys or even gardening supplies. This elegant chest is a real eye-catcher with ample storage designed to keep the contents dry and clean.

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I used cypress to build this chest. It’s a beautiful, cream-colored wood similar in appearance to a lightcolored cedar or fir. Cypress is about 50% harder than clear cedar but about half the cost. Cypress is a rot-resistant member of the pine family native to swampy areas in the Southern United States. It’s a stable wood, meaning it won’t expand and contract a lot with the seasons. Cypress also machines well and takes any finish.

The top sheds rainfall because the lid has a broad overhang and its hinge creates a gentle slope.

Click on each image to see a larger version.

A chamfered bottom rail prevents rainwater from pooling and eventually causing decay.

A deck-like bottom with gaps between the boards allows air to circulate to prevent mold or mildew. A galvanized metal screen called hardware cloth is mounted under the decking to keep unwanted critters out.

This entire project, even its stout legs, is built with rot-resistant cypress, a lightweight, weatherproof wood. To make the leg blanks, glue three pieces together and cut the stack on the bandsaw. Guide the cut with a 1/2" tall fence that will contact only the bottom board.

Rout stopped grooves to house the panels and the rail’s tenons. The grooves are too long to use a stop block. Instead, mark where the groove ends on the edge of the leg. Make another mark on the router table across from the front of the bit. When the two marks meet, stop the router and remove the leg.

Cut the mortises on the drill press with a mortising attachment and a 1/2-in. chisel and bit. The groove guides the chisel so you don’t get slightly staggered holes. A stop block ensures each mortise is the same distance from the end.

The rails have haunched tenons.The haunch fills the groove made on the router table and strengthens the joint by increasing the glue surface. Cut the tenons on the tablesaw; then bandsaw a notch to create the haunch on each tenon.

Cut the panel boards with a tongue-and-groove router bit set. Use a chamfer bit to ease the edges where the boards meet. Featherboards keep the stock flat on the table to ensure straight tongues and grooves.

Assemble the chest upside down. Glue the top rail into one leg. Then stack the panel boards adding three or four Space Balls in each groove.
Space Balls are little rubber balls that compress and expand to compensate for seasonal wood movement. Slip the bottom rail into the leg, add the second leg and clamp the assembly.

Screw down the decking using 1/4" thick spacers to maintain even gaps. Hardware cloth is screwed to the bottom of the deck cleats to keep critters out of your chest, yet allow air circulation.

Mount the hinges with steel screws first. Then replace them with the brass screws. The steel screws pave the way, making it easier to drive the softer brass screws without breaking them.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker May 2005, issue #114

May 2005, issue #114

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