Introduction: African Mahogany Blanket Chest

About: Furniture builder and content creator who enjoys teaching. Please visit my site - - for more free plans and videos.

These are Greene and Greene style blanket chests that I built for family members. They are done in African Mahogany with Wenge plugs. Aromatic cedar was used for the bottom of the case to keep the contents smelling fresh.

This instructuable actually covers two versions of the chest. The first one was built and is documented with drawings, videos, and pictures within this instructable. The second one is very similar but includes a secret drawer on the bottom. This video shows a quick animation of both styles. Special thanks to mtairymd for the plans and animations.

Step 1: Videos of the Build

I've tried to capture all the details of the build in the writeup. If something isn't clear, please refer to these videos of the build. As always, email (included in video description) or comment and I will try to answer any questions you may have.

Step 2: Tools and Materials


  • Table Saw / Dado Stack
  • Jointer
  • Planer
  • Hollow Chisel Mortiser (optional)
  • Router
  • Trim Router
  • Router Table
  • Band Saw
  • Drills and Sanders


  • African Mahogany
  • Wenge
  • Aromatic Cedar
  • Wood Glue
  • Screws
  • Hinges

Step 3: Model/Drawings

Each part of the chest was fully modeled and detailed with drawings. For each major step, I've tried to include the dimensioned drawing first, followed by pictures and wording.

Although you will be building to these drawings, it’s important that you take actual measurements from your build so that any error created isn’t compounded throughout the remainder of the build (Relative Dimensioning). All dimensions are in inches unless noted.

Step 4: Side Drawings

One of the key features of the chest design is the finger joints for the side panels. These are a pretty standard Green and Green feature that you find in much of this style of furniture.

Step 5: Milling Lumber

Like with most woodworking projects, the first step is to mill the lumber flat and square. I start by using a jig saw to cut material to rough length. From there, I flatten one face at the jointer and then place that jointed face against the fence on jointer and joint one edge. Next I run the material through the planer jointed side down and then finish at the table saw by cutting the material to final width ensuring that the jointed edge is against the fence.

Step 6: Side Panel Glue Ups

To get panels large enough for the case, I needed to glue up 3 boards. I made sure to get the 3 pieces from the same board to ensure grain and color match. I also did my best to match up the grain on the front and sides because it just looks better. Any "lesser" material that didn't have a nice grain match was used for the back of the case since it won't be seen as much.

Step 7: Cutting the Fingers

To cut the fingers, I created two templates. One for the front and back and one for the sides. These templates were used to set up the table saw with the dado stack installed. It's important to build these templates so that they're exactly the same dimension as your panels. If you build these to the drawings and your panels are slightly different, the fingers won't line up and come together as they should.

Step 8: Bottom Groove

A 3/4" stopped rabbet was cut 1 1/4" up from the bottom on each panel. This rabbet will house the floor of the blanket chest.

Note: If you choose to substitute plywood for the bottom of the case, pay close attention to width of this groove and consider using a router bit specifically designed for plywood.

Step 9: Pillowing the Fingers

A 1/4" round over bit was used to make the initial pillowing on all of the fingers. This pillowing was finished by hand sanding through the grits. I started the sanding with 120 grit, then 180 grit, and finally with 400 grit. This is a time consuming step but, these fingers are all on the show surface and really enhance the look of the piece.

Step 10: Square Holes

Before gluing up the case, it's easier to make the square holes where the screws will be in each finger. These holes are made with a special square chisel. The one that I linked here is a better option than the one that I used and is about the same price.

To locate the holes on the case fingers, I went back to the templates from the previous step. I was able to fit these templates in the hollow chisel mortiser to cut these mortises. This ensured that I had the proper locations on each finger of the case.

Once the locations were marked, I used the square punch, a 5/16" drill, and a small chisel to create the square hole. Each of these were cut approximately 1/4" deep.

Step 11: Floor Drawing

The floor fits into the grooves on the side panels. As stated in a previous step, if you're substituting plywood, a specialty router bit for plywood is recommended to cut those grooves as plywood is slightly thinner than 3/4". I milled the floor panel for this chest to exactly 3/4"

Step 12: Floor Build

The floor required another glue-up of multiple pieces to get to the desired size. The aromatic cedar was first milled per the previous steps and then glued up. Once the glue was cured, the panel was removed from the clamps, sanded, and cut to the final size.

Step 13: Case Glue Up

Prior to gluing up the case, it's a good time to finish sand the panels. Once the case is glued up, it's difficult to sand because the fingers protrude beyond the case sides. Because I finished this project with a film finish, I sanded to 180 grit. If you choose to use an oil-based finish that doesn't produce a film finish, I would recommend sanding up to 220 grit.

Apply a small amount of glue at the corner of each finger and assemble the case with the floor installed. I used clamps to close up any gaps and make sure everything was square. Next, I installed screws in the areas not covered by clamps. I then removed one clamp at a time and installed the screws ensuring that the case remained square.

Step 14: Deck Drawing

The deck comprises of four 2 1/2" strips with mitered cuts. The assembled dimensions are shown. The second drawing shows the deck cleats that will be glued to the sides under the floor.

Step 15: Deck Build

The Deck is essentially a large picture frame that is purely a decorative detail. When assembled, the frame is 1/2" larger than the case on all sides. The 3/4" thick strips were added to the bottom of the case to provide additional room to attach the deck to the base.

For the build, I used my miter sled which was documented in a previous instructable.

Step 16: Deck Attachment

Strips are glued in below the floor all the way around the case to increase the thickness of that section. I used this added thickness to screw through the bottom of the deck and attach the frame with screws. No glue was used on this step.

Step 17: Base and Cleat Drawings

The base follows the same theme with fingers and square holes. Because I these parts are narrow, I used the Hollow Chisel Mortiser to cut the plug locations. If you don't have the Hollow Chisel Mortiser, these plug locations can be cut the same way as the panels.

Step 18: The Base

The base is 3" tall and is 1/2" larger than the Deck on all sides. Once the lumber was milled, fingers were cut in the ends to mimic the case sides. I located the square holes which were cut at the Hollow Chisel Mortiser. These holes could be cut by hand the same way as the panels in a previous step.

Step 19: Base Build

Once the base was glued and screwed together, 3/4" thick by 1" strips were added to the inside of the base with glue. These strips were used to screw the base to the deck. This step is nearly identical to the deck mentioned in a previous step.

Step 20: Lid Drawing

It's important to remember to use the dimensions from your actual chest rather than the drawing. The tongue created should come from the drawings but, the overall dimension of the lid should be determined from your actual case to account for any error in the case construction.

Step 21: Lid Build

The lid is comprised of multiple pieces glued up to achieve the appropriately sized panel. Using the table saw with the dado stack, I created a 1/2" centered tongue on each end.

NOTE: This is the most visible part of the chest. Special care should be taken to ensure grain and color match. As you will see in the end, I built 2 of these. One has good grain and color match on the top and the other has a fairly contrasting board in the center. In the interest of full disclosure, I was out of material and decided to turn a "flaw" into a feature. You can do just about anything you'd like with a panel like this and make it look any way you'd like.

Step 22: Lid Build

I cut 1/2" off of each corner so that this tongue will fit in the Bread Board ends. Although I did this using hand tools, this could also be done at the table saw with the dado stack.

This is done to prevent seeing the tongue on the finished product. This is also why I cut a stopped mortise discussed in a future step.

Step 23: Bread Board End Drawings

This part is a little complicated to understand from the drawing. If something isn't clear, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Step 24: Bread Board Ends - Lid

The Bread Board ends are made from 5/4 material. The Bread Board ends are 1/2" longer than the lid panel is wide. This allows for the Bread Board end to overhang by 1/4" on each side. I used the router with an edge guide to create the stopped mortise to fit the panel.

Note: This mortise is off center so that the bottom of the Bread Board end is flush with the bottom of the lid panel. Plugs were cut using the Hollow Chisel Mortiser per the plan. The longer plugs could also be cut using a router and a 3/8" bit and then squaring up the ends with a chisel.

Step 25: Lid Assembly

Install the Bread Board ends using a small amount of glue in the center only to allow for wood movement. Install the screws as shown.

Step 26: Assembly Sequence

This shows the complete assembly sequence if it wasn't clear from the previous steps.

Step 27: Hinges

The hinges used were 60# Lid Stay Torsion Hinges from Rockler. These hinges ensure that the lid will stay open when needed and not slam shut. I used 3 hinges on the lid. Note that these are "no mortise" hinges that are very simple to install.

Step 28: Handle Drawing

I considered buying handles but decided that I wanted something to tie in the look of the cabinet. This design incorporates the rounded features and square plugs from the sides and lid.

Step 29: Handles

The handles were cut to size per the drawing. I started by locating and cutting the plug locations ensuring they are a little deeper than normal because there's a slight curve cut on the front. I cut the gentle curve on the front at the band saw and then I created the cove on the back at the router table. The handles were sanded and installed using glue and screws to the case.

NOTE: Although these are glued and screwed in place, I'm not completely confident that they would support picking up the case with a heavy load inside. Caution should be used if there's a heavy load inside the case.

Step 30: Plug Drawings

Common design. Only the length changes.

Step 31: Plug Build / Install

Without a doubt, the most tedious step in this build!

Although the plugs were made from Wenge, ebony is the usual material of choice for these plugs. The majority of the plugs were 3/8" square and "pillowed" on one face.

To achieve the "pillowing", I rounded one end of a Wenge strip and inserted it in a drill. I taped down progressive strips of sand paper to a piece of foam (120, 180, 400). I used the drill to sand the end and then cut to 1/4". This process was repeated multiple times.

The longer plugs were cut to length for each mortise and the "pillowing" was done by hand.

Each plug was glued in and left to protrude just slightly above the surface.

Step 32: Finish

NOTE: Add a picture of the HVLP set up for this step.. My card was full and missed this step and I didn't know it..

I used blue tape and paper to cover the bottom (floor) of the case to prevent any finish on the aromatic cedar.

I used General Finishes High Performance for the finish on this piece. Several coats were applied with HVLP and lightly sanded with 400 grit paper between coats.

Step 33: Final Pictures

Super fun project that should last a lifetime! The aromatic cedar makes this a great place to store clothing items.

I made 2 of these chests for 2 family members at Christmas. Both were very well recieved!

Step 34: Option 2

As mentioned in the intro, the following drawings cover the addition of the secret drawer. From the outside, you won't see how to open it but pull hard enough on the bottom from fingers and the drawer will slide out.

Step 35: Base Parts

These are the same as previous base parts except for the holes for the magnets. The magnets are used to keep the drawer shut. Use the pilot hole to locate the correct location for the mating magnet.

Step 36: Base Cleats and Drawer Supports

These parts are attached to the base and extend down to the floor.

Step 37: Base Assembly

This drawing shows the base assembly. Note that the front piece isn't attached to the sides or cleats.

Step 38: Drawer

This construction of this drawer is similar to the ones shown on my previous instructables.

Here is an example.

Step 39: Drawer Installation

I used 18" slides between the drawer and base. The drawer is attached to the front of the base with screws.

Step 40: Chest Assembly

The assembly is similar to the original version. One thing to note is the rubber bumpers on the bottom side. These are required to lift the case enough to allow drawer to slide out the front.

Step 41: Final Renders

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to actually build this version. Here are pictures of what to expect if you build your own.

Thanks for viewing!

Plans attached.

Woodworking Contest

Runner Up in the
Woodworking Contest