So here is my version of a jewelry chest made primarily with reclaimed wood. The entire exterior (with the exception of the glass on top) is redwood from what once was the fence around our home.
Step 1: Gather Materials
Fence wood - planks and fence posts
3/4" x 5" x 6' oak for the drawer fronts
1/4" x 8" x 4' oak for the drawer bottoms
1/4" x 5" x 48" oak for the bottom drawer sides and backs
1/4" x 3" x 10' oak for the upper drawer sides and backs
1" X 2" X 1 1/2' Birdseye maple for the wood behind the railroad date nails
Glass for fused glass window on top of chest
Barbed wire for inclusion in the fused glass window in the top
Drawer pulls for the front drawers (interesting ones can be found at eBay)
7ea railroad date nails
2ea piano hinges
2ea Lid-Stay torsion hinge lid support hinges (available from Rockler.com)
1/2" diameter ceramic magnets (used to keep the doors closed)
Flocking and glue for the flocking
Flat black paint to seal the wood behind the flocking (or whatever color paint you use for the flocking, see later steps)
Assorted screws and biscuits for assembly
Danish oil Wood glue Double-sided tape
Step 2: Get Access to the Tools You Will Need
Laser etcher & engraver
Kiln for firing fused glass
Coarse grade steel wool for smoothing the wood
Step 3: Advice on How to Proceed
I won't give instructions for everything I did as this is a very complicated project, but I will give advice on things you will definitely need to watch out for as you go along.
THINK THINGS THROUGH. I cannot stress this enough! For example, the pieces of wood that have flocking must be done in a certain order. If you flock the inside of the drawers before you put on the finish for the rest of the drawer, how will you apply that finish without getting it on the flocking? Masking flocking would be very difficult if it can even be done at all. I wound up painting where the flocking was to go first, then masking that off and applying danish oil to the other parts of the drawers, then masking off the oiled parts before applying the glue for the flocking. And in case you are wondering, you need to paint where the flocking is going to go to seal the wood (the glue won't work well on unsealed wood) and to prevent the flocked areas from looking like they need rogaine once the flocking is applied! The light color of the wood shows through the flocking unless you paint the wood the same color as the fibers that you apply.
Use care when picking the materials for your jewelry chest. Know that things such as knots, while attractive, can present issues during the construction of the piece. You may want to use screws or biscuits to assemble the chest, and neither will work wherever there is a knot. Reclaimed wood also often has cupping, twist, and other deformities so also take that into consideration when you decide what to use for construction.
I used the coarsest steel wool available to smooth the faces of the wood, rather than sandpaper. I found that the steel wool helped to bring out the dimensional feel of the wood rather than to even it all out as sandpaper would have done. I did use 220 grit sand paper for just a few passes on the exterior of the chest once the danish oil had dried, as it helped to give the piece some extra variation in color and texture.
When cutting wood for the chest, make cuts for each piece of each set of wood (sides of chest, backs of the drawers, etc.) at the same time. This helps keep each piece the same length.
Use your pencil judiciously. As you work you should consider labeling each piece of wood (I wrote things like "top front" for the sides or, for the drawer rests, 1st, 2nd, 3rd left or right for the location of those). You may waste a little time by over-labeling the pieces, but it only takes one misplaced piece of wood to set you back hours or more.
Look closely at the photo of unfinished interior of the chest. You will see drawer rests there, and the locations of those rests are critical to the success of the piece. To that end, I have several things to say:
- Do not permanently affix the sides of the chest to the bottom or top until you have the drawer rests placed. Work on those drawer rests is a whole lot easier on a flat piece of wood than it is on the inside of a partially assembled chest.
- Double sided tape is your friend! Put it on the side of the drawer rest that will come in contact with the inside of the chest. This will allow you to measure out and place the rests, then test if they are all located correctly before you drill and screw them into place. And drilling and screwing is better than gluing here, as if you glue them you cannot change anything later on if you make a mistake.
- Measure from ONE END (top or bottom) of the sides chest to each drawer rest, not from both ends. Measuring from both ends will result in errors in measurement. And speaking of measuring, always measure from the end of the side to each rest you place. DO NOT place one rest, then measure from that one to the next for placement. The reason for this is there is always some error in measuring, and if you measure from the ends each time you minimize the error rather than compounding it by being lazy and going from rest-to-rest. Trust me in this, it is what I do for a living!
- When measuring for placement of the rests, measure out to the furthest drawer rest first, then the next one closest, and so on. Placing the first drawer rest first will mean it will be in-the-way when you go to measure out to the second rest.
- Finish the drawers before you place the rests. This way, once you place the rests using double sided tape you can then put the drawers in for a test fit to make sure everything looks good. Once it all checks out you can then drill the holes for the screws in the drawer rests, take the tape off of them and screw them into place.
The lid-stay hinges are expensive but worth it if you use any kind of glass in the top of the chest. They keep the lid from slamming down if someone lifts the lid but it slips out of their hand, possibly shattering the glass.
I used railroad date nails for the hangers for chains in the front section of the chest. Each nail has a number and each number has meaning to the person to which I gave the chest. If you like these, they can be found on eBay. I had to make some alterations on mine to get them to work with the chest, as they were 2 1/2" long and more than 1/4" in diameter. I drilled 1/4" holes for them in the chest, but then had to chuck the nails in my electric drill and use a panzer file to whittle them down to where they would fit into the holes (note: this is MUCH easier if you do this BEFORE you cut the nails down to the proper length). You can also use a lathe to do this, but the drill works if you don't have access to one of those.
Regarding the fused glass window, if you decide to use barbed wire in yours as I did in mine, you may want to make sure that all the barbs in the wire are pointed in the direction of the panes of glass and not toward the front or back of the glass. In my first test piece the wire was a little twisted and a crack appeared just where a barb poked through the glass on one side.
I used dowels to hold the wood block with the letter 'G' on it to the side of the chest. Simply gluing it and the letter itself might not be strong enough to hold the thing on.
You may notice that the chest has what appears to be a molding on it. That is actually several boards cut at an angle so that the end grain of the wood juts out at an angle from the bottom to the top. I then glued the cut pieces face-to-face and, once the glue was dry, I cut the three pieces (one for the front and two for the sides) with a miter saw, similar to what I did for the frame around the glass window. It was then a simple matter to affix the molding to what was then the top of the chest. I used a hand drill with a wire wheel striking with the grain of the wood to give it a slightly rougher texture than that of the sides of the chest and make it stand out a little more.
I mentioned buying two piano hinges. You really need three, but I bought two and cut one of them down into two pieces. This might be easier for you than trying to find a hinge in exactly the right length.
The words "white picket" were etched with a laser in the bottom of the glass window in the top of the chest. I also used the laser to etch my little own little twist relating to fences and jewelry on popular expressions and sayings into the fronts of each of the drawers, as follows (in descending order from top to bottom):
Up above the world so high, like a gate hinge in the sky
All that glitters is not redwood
The gold is greener on the other side of the fence
Good fences make good jewelry boxes
A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but fence posts are a girl's best friend
And, finally (and as shown in the video located on this page just above where it says step 2): Latches? I don't have to show you any stinking latches
I also used the laser to etch the heart design with our initials in it on the front of the chest (the design was originally carved into concrete as you can see in the photo) and to cut out the large letter 'G' out of the ear on the left side (on the right side as you look at the photo) of the chest. This is used to pull the front section of the chest open to expose the drawers and was made from one piece of wood. The side of the block with the 'G' on it was also inscribed with the laser etcher with the name of my sweetie, my name, the date it was given, and the name of the piece: "Planks Before Swine." ;-)
I made it at TechShop