"Medieval homes were sparsely furnished by modern standards. The most common items were chests. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Besides serving as easily transportable storage containers, the chests also served as tables and chairs during the day and could be pulled together as beds at night." - From the introduction to John Lambert's 'Build a Simple Chest' Published in Sacred Spaces - Issue #4 - Winter 1993
Today we will be learning to build a 6-board chest. It is a very simple design widely used during the 'middle ages'. It is perfectly period for many times and places and will look great in your SCA camp or just sitting next to your hearth at home. If build correctly and with care this simple chest should last long enough to become a family heirloom that your great-grandchildren will cherish.
The best parts of this type of chest is the very small amount of wasted wood, the relatively few cuts and simple joinery make this a great first wood working project if your just starting out. So grab your tools and head out to the garage and we'll begin.
Step 1: What you'll need
This chest is simple, requires very few tool and few materials. Since this is a medieval chest I personally am going to use only hand tools. If you feel the need to use power tools then feel free. Due to the lack of a digital camera all 'pictures' for this instructable have been painstakingly constructed in a 3D modeling program. Everything is to scale and accurate though the textures are a bit ugly and flat. Approximate prices for the required materials are given.
- Hand Saw: Used to make a majority of the cuts. If you have a circular saw or table saw they will work just as well.
- Coping saw: Used to cut the circle shape out of the feet, If you have them a scroll saw, jig saw or band saw with a narrow blade should be able to make the cuts as well. If you really don't want to buy a coping saw you could make wedge shaped cuts instead of circular cuts to define the legs.
- Hammer: No really, use a hammer. If I catch anyone building a chest with a nail gun, well lets just say it won't be pretty.
- Sand paper: If you use an electric sander be very careful not to remove too much material. It's easier to take some more off than it is too put it back on. Coarse grit for fitting, medium and fine for finishing.
That's it. Those are all of the tools you need. Simple right? Now on to materials.
- One 1"x12"x4' board. Please Note: The actual dimensions of a 1"x12" board are 3/4"x11 1/4". Throughout this instructable I will be using the actual dimension not the 'theoretical' dimension. $6-$7
- Forty Nails approx 1 1/2" inches long. I use hand forged nails for several reasons that I will list below. Other options for joining at wood are given in the optional materials section. If you choose to use one of those instead you will still need eight nails for attaching the hinges. $4-$6 for hand forged, less if you use cheap hardware store nails or are able to forge you own nails.
- Enough medium weight leather to cut two 2"x1 1/2" hinges $1 or less if you dig through scrap bins.
Total cost of Materials: $11-$14
- Small chain, rope or leather strap to use as stays to keep the lid from opening too far backwards and pull the hinges off. If you use real hand forged nails and ping them over this isn't really necessary because almost nothing will pull them out.
- Paint: If you feel you need to paint the whole box I might recommend milk paint since it is period and will actually last a really long time since it soaks into the wood instead of laying on top like most other paint. For painting your arms or some other intricate pattern use enamel for longevity or acrylic for ease.
- Oil or Wax: Keeps the wood conditioned and helps keep water from soaking in.
- Dowels: This is a great method of joining and will last a long time. I will cover how to do the joining using dowels instead of nail at the end of the instructable
- Screws: You can use screws instead of nails for all of the joinery, just countersink them and please glue a plug in to hide them. The finished product will look similar to the dowel method but will not hold up as well over the years as the wood expands and contracts. This is the least likely to last and thus my least preferred option.
I like to use hand forges nail for all of the following reasons
- Look: If your going to all of the trouble to build a medieval style chest you should use medieval hardware. A round headed nail will just look wrong on this beautifully period chest.
- Authenticity: This goes along with look really. Modern nails are well modern. Wire cut nails are a relatively new invention, just over 100 years old. Just don't use round nails it's bad juju.
- Hold: Hand forged nails have almost 4 times the holding power of modern round nails. This pretty much guarantees that your chest will stand up to whatever abuse you put it through, even if you have children that like to beat on thing with sticks.