Do you have children (or as in my case, a girlfriend) who loves getting foil-covered chocolate coins for Christmas? Would you like a novel way to present them as a gift. I have here a quick and easy way to make a custom-fit treasure chest built from (mostly) scraps that you can build even if your woodworking skills are somewhat questionable. OK, so quick and easy is relative here. When I built this in my head while lying in bed one night, it went smooth as silk. Unfortunately, the real world operates nothing like the world in my mind! I'll explain later....
You will need the following materials:
* 2x4 wood - two scrap pieces measuring 4" long each
* 1/4" oak plywood - two scrap pieces 4x4"
* wood glue
* 2 small hinges w/ mounting nails/screws
* paint / stain (optional)
* leather strips (optional)
* embellishments to taste (optional)
* small magnet x2 (optional)
* gold chocolate coins (obviously :)
The tools necessary are:
* drill press (or hand drill, but highly recommend press)
* table saw and/or band saw
* 1-3/4" spade Forstner (preferable) drill bit or hole saw
* straight edge
* bar clamps / bench vice
* router with flush cut bit
Step 1: Building the Basic Box
Start by cutting two 2x4 pieces 4" long. Using a guide rail on your saw, trim off about 1/8" along one long side of each piece. I like to set the blade a little more than half the height of the piece, make one cut and then flip it over for the second cut. Doing this requires that the blade be set perfect at 90° to get a smooth cut. If you are using a band saw or a 10" blade, feel free to make the cut in one pass. We are going to glue the two pieces together so that you end up with a sold block of wood that is 3-1/2" tall x 2-3/4" deep x 4" long, give or take. Trimming one 4" side of each block gives the glue a good smooth edge to which it can adhere so you end up with a relatively seamless joint. Now, apply a thin layer of wood glue to one of the edges you just trimmed. Line the two pieces up, with the trimmed edges facing each other, and press together tightly. After holding the pieces together for a couple of minutes, clamp tightly and let set. We are going to be trimming the rest of the edges later on, so any glue that oozes out won't really be a problem, but I still recommend wiping it off now so you'll have a flat surface to work with later.
Step 2: Trimming
If you will look at the block, you'll notice that 2x4's typically have (somewhat) rounded edges. We don't want that on our chest. Besides that, we need to make sure that edges are as straight and clean as possible. Once the glue has fully dried, again using a guide rail on your saw, trim off 1/8" from all sides.
Step 3: Drilling the Chest
In the finished product, the chocolate coins will be stacked standing up on edge in a trough running the length of the chest. To accomplish this, we need to drill a hole through the block. Stand the wood up on your drill press so that you are drilling down through the 4" length of the block. Most coins measure 1-1/2" in diameter so we are going to use a 1-3/4" drill bit. This gives us a little wiggle room so the coins aren't too tight in the trough. If your coins are a different size, use a bit 1/4" larger than your coins. Make a mark half way between the two sides. this will most likely be along the seam line where the two halves were glued together, but depending on how you trimmed the edges, you want to measure just to be sure. Next, measure from either side to that center line and make a mark that same distance from the bottom edge across the center line. This will be where you will be drilling your trough.
Now... When I initially came up with this project, I envisioned using a spade bit to drill the hole. This would have allowed me to drill right down through the entire 4" box in one go. Turns out, they do not make a spade bit 1-3/4" in diameter - or if they do, I couldn't find one. I did find a Forstner bit that size, but I was not about to pay $30-40 for a bit I would only use once for this chest! A hole saw was my only other option, but obviously that is not going to be able to drill completely down through a 4" piece of wood in one pass. I had to improvise a way to get this to work with the tools I had available, but if you have / can afford the Forstner bit, I HIGHLY recommend you use that instead. Using the Forstner bit, you can drill the hole all the way through at the mark you made and go on to step 4.
If you are stuck using a hole saw (my condolences!), you'll need to saw the block you just glued up in half so that you only half to drill through a 2" piece instead. Even at that, though, the hole saw will not go through in one pass. You'll have to drill the hole from both sides and meet in the middle and then glue the halves back together again. To make sure everything lines up when you're through, drill a pilot hole through the block first at the mark you made. Again, my lack of the best tool available bit me in my... well... So my drill bit wouldn't drill thrill 4", but it did go a little more than 2" deep. So, after I drilled as far as I could go, I cut the block in half perpendicular to the pilot hole. Before you move the halves, it's a good idea to mark how the halves go back together.Then I finished drilling the hole through the bottom half using the hole made by my first pass as a guide point.
Using the hole saw, drill through one of the blocks until it bottoms out using the pilot hole as a guide. Now turn the block over and drill through the pilot hole from this side again until the saw bottoms out. Depending on how much you took off in the previous step, the plug may or may not pop out on it's own. If it does, great. If not, you'll need to break the plug out using a hammer. This leaves a nasty ridge in the center of the block, but running the hole saw back through the hole makes quick work of that and leaves you with a smooth hole all the way through. Do the same to the other half of the block.
Lining the halves up (you did make a mark, right?) glue the pieces back together, clamp them and let them set. I told you this would be quick and easy, didn't I?
Step 4: More Trimming
To shape the top, draw the shape you want using a pencil on one of the edges. You can make a rounded top (best cut with a bandsaw) or you can go with an angled top. I like the angled look better, so I went with that. For me, this was easiest to cut on a table saw, but a band saw would work just as well. Whatever design you go with, just be sure not to cut to close to the hole or you'll weaken the structure.
Step 5: Adding the Sides
Now, we don't want our coins to fall out of the chest, so we need to add sides. I had initially sliced several pieces off a 2x4 to use as the sides because I wanted to use the same type wood throughout. I couldn't get the thickness the same between cuts, though, so I decided to go with 1/4" oak plywood. Cut two pieces slightly larger than your chest with the saw of your choice. Before you go any further, make a mark on one side of the block at the mid-point of the hole. Once the sides are glued on, you won't be able to tell where to cut later without this mark. Next, glue one piece of plywood to each side of the block, covering the hole we drilled earlier, leaving a small amount of overhang on each side. Clamp with a bar clamp and let it dry.
Step 6: Still More Trimming
After the glue had dried and you have (obviously) removed the clamp, go round the edges of the sides with a flush trim bit (the type that has a bearing the same size as the bit on the end). This ensures that the sides are perfectly flush with the chest proper.
Sand all of the sides now until they are smooth.
Step 7: Slicing and Dicing
Up until now, a table saw has worked fine for all of our cuts. For this step, though, I highly recommend you use a bandsaw. While you can use a table saw if you must, a bandsaw will make a thinner, more smooth cut.
With a rip fence on your saw, line up the mark you made in the previous step with the saw blade. slice all the way through the box. This will separate the lid from the bottom of the chest.
Once the two halves are separated, using 60-120 grit sandpaper, sand the trough as smooth as you can get it.
To keep the chest closed, I used two small rare earth magnets. If you are going this route, decide which side will be the front and make a mark on both the lid and the chest in the middle. Drill a shallow hole on both pieces just slightly smaller than the magnet you're using. You want the magnet to be a tight fit when you press it in and you want both magnets to sit 1/16" to 1/32" below the surface of the wood. Press each magnet into it's respective hole, making use that the poles facing each other are opposite - north to south. If you accidentally mount the magnets north to north or south to south, the magnets will prevent the lid from closing instead of keeping it closed!
Step 8: Adding the Hinges
Very carefully, line the two halves back up and secure them together with painter's tape. The more attention to detail you pay here, the better the final result will be.
Place the hinges on the back side and mark where the mounting holes need to be. Drill pilot holes for each screw. Your hinges should come with recommended drill sizes. Mount your screws and tighten them down.
Remove the tape and admire your handy-work.
Step 9: Finishing Touches
-=[ EDIT ]=-
As you can see, I have now updated this to include the [semi] finished chest with the stain, polyurethane and leather strips. I say semi-finished because... come on... is any project ever really finished? :)
It's almost Christmas Eve and I didn't have time to stain this like I wanted to. I'm going to have to present this to my girlfriend au natural and finish it after the Holidays. In addition to the stain and a polyurethane (or clear spray paint) coat, I plan on adding leather strips and maybe a little extra brass... possibly some brass handles on either end. I will update this with photos once I finish it up proper.
If you would like, you can line the inside with felt. Myself, I prefer the natural look, so... no felt for me.
Just remember... if you make one, make it your own - and share yours with us here!
✞ MERRY CHRISTMAS ✞