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Mission Blanket Chest


Mission Blanket Chest

If you love Mission-style furniture, here’s the perfect complement to your bedroom.

By Tom Caspar

Store blankets, bedding and memories inside this huge chest. Three frames and a plywood back make up its basic structure, and all the other parts are added on, one by one, so building it is about as easy as making frame-and panel doors with a router table. One do-it-all router bit cuts virtually every joint and another basic bit adds a design element that saves a ton of work. This story also contains an entire section devoted to showing how to make and install the distinctive butterfly inlay.

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Select the best figure for the panels, legs and rails before you cut up your wood. Cut a window out of a piece of cardboard that’s the size of one of the two boards that make up a full panel. Arched figure looks great in panels, as long as the arches are centered. Straight figure works best for legs and rails.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Assemble the frames without glue. Double-check the width of the opening before cutting your panels to size. The panels float in the grooves and are cut undersize so they can expand and contract side to side.

Rout a v-shaped groove down the glue joint in the middle of each of the panels. Build a simple jig to ensure the V-groove is perfectly straight and centered on the glue line. Support the panel with 1/4-in. spacers.

Glue the butterflies

Cut the corners of the recess with a chisel or knife. They’ll be rounded after routing, but they must be cut to acute angles so the inlay fits.

Spread a thin layer of glue in the recess, put in the inlay, scrape off any glue squeeze-out, and cover the inlay with a small piece of white paper. Clamp a thick board over the inlay and let the glue dry. The paper will absorb any further glue squeeze-out. After the glue dries, remove stuck pieces of paper by lightly wetting them. Level the inlay with a block plane or by scraping and sanding.

Stain all the panels before gluing the case together. If you stain the panels after the whole case is assembled, you can’t get stain all the way to the outer edges. These edges will show as unsightly bare wood when the panel shrinks in dry weather.

Glue the case together. Use flat 2x4s to spread out the pressure of the clamps. While you’re tightening the clamps, make sure the case is square with a carpenter’s framing square. You can also measure from corner to corner and adjust the clamps until the diagonals are within 1/16 in. of each other.

Add the ledge frame to the case. The ledge covers all the grooves, splines and any uneven joints along the top of the case.

Attach the hinge to the top and case. A long continuous hinge is easy to align and install. We liked this particular hinge because it wraps over the plywood back, allowing you to run screws into the back’s face and edge for extra strength.

Stain the entire case. Raise the case off your worktable with blocks of wood that have screws driven through them. Now you can apply stain all the way around the bottom of the legs without smearing.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2003, issue #99.

March 2003, issue #99

Purchase this back issue.