Gentlemans Chest / Hidden Compartment / Easy Mortise Jig

This is my version of the gentleman's chest for the bedroom - It was cold outside with lots of snow (amazing for NC) and this was a great weekend project a couple years ago before I learned CAD and built a CNC :-)  Anyhow, most of the planning was more of the higher level planning while I worked out some of the details as it was being made.  Unfortunately, I do not have a BOM or additional pictures but from the sketches and pictures following you should be able to mostly work it out if you've had experience with mortise and tenon joints and basic case construction :-)  Plus, I can answer questions because i use this piece on a daily basis.

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Step 1: Planning

Like I said in the intro, with CAD i've been tending to to a much better job of documenting my projects - especially in order to recreate them when need (sometime people like them enough to want one in their own home.)  I've included the main picture of the paper sketch here which has some good detail and also the rest of the sketches later on.

Step 2: Those Mortise Joints

In this picture I actually kept a comparison from the not-so-great HF Mortise Machine I was given.  The bits and chisel were PLENTY sharp but the hold down clamps were not so great and it chewed up the wood in the process.  I searched the web for a better solution and for mortise joints where you're not going to see any part of the tenon, using a router jig was GREAT.  I used a 1/4" strait cut milling bit and set it up to take 3/4" passes with an extra router I had on all four legs before moving to the bandsaw to add a taper to the bottom portion.  I know some people will say the tenon is missing out on the glue surface of the rounded end but the whole dresser is belt together with nothing but glue (except for the drawer slides) and has been super solid.  I've also included the detail of the slot for the side panels which were made with the same technique.

Step 3: Dry Fit

Every since shop class from middle school through high school, I've had it ingrained in my head to dry fit everything, multiple times if needed - especially when working with a glue-only project.  Not including glue up, making the mortise jig and pre-sanding it was a good morning worth of work! 

Step 4: Additional Sketches

Closeups of the sketches I found.  I should make one note from my sketch - this lid is exactly how i made it and the top is (2) laminated oak 0.200" plywood pieces I laminated together to make 0.400" in the sketch with the "bad or not-pretty" sides inward. 

Step 5: The Side Panels

Along with laminating the drawer faces and the legs to get stock the right dimensions I needed, I also had to join the end panels to make a large enough oak board to accept the panel routing bit.  This was done on a 3hp router because of the size if the panel bits - crazy loud but super powerful which is why all of the safety items are present.

Step 6: The Hidden Part!

I've always placed items on my dresser and quite frankly it drives me nuts because the stuff is always out.  Adding the lid to this dresser was a perfect solution and is not seen when closed.  it's made from walnut with a engraved leather bottom i glued to a thinner 1/4" backing board.  LOVE the way it cam out and I'm sure it will be around for many more years!

Hopefully this inspires some other ideas too… Thank you everyone for taking a look!

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    4 Discussions

    Blue Wren

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Lovely dresser. I can't believe a dedicated mortise machine made such an ungodly mess!

    DIY Dave

    5 years ago on Introduction

    That looks great! I have a similar compartment on top of my dresser, but it's still covered in stuff


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Gorgeous work, and the hidden compartment was a nice touch.