Ever since I made my wife a small Zelda chest jewelry box a few years ago I wanted to make a larger round top chest. As usual I didn't want to spend much money though. So being the cheapskate I am I stated looking to the dumpsters on job sites I was at for work. I came across a dumpster that has the waste framing and found 8 almost brand new 2x4's and a few nearly complete cut off pieces. The "new" boards were mostly free of nails with a couple tag staples and a few of the cutoffs had random framing nails and some mud on them. All in all this project took the equivalent of about 13 full length 2x4's.
2x4's - qty 13
Wood Putty (home made)
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Step 1: Layout and Dimensioning the Lumber
I wanted the top to have a nice curve to it so I knew i'd be cutting some small angles to make the radius smooth. I did a quick google search and found a calculator for multi sided polygons. I knew approximately how large I wanted the chest (the radius). I also knew how small the piece could be an still allow me to cut them on my table saw ("a" in the calculation). I played with the numbers a little until I got a 46 sided polygon with about a 17 - 18" diameter. This meant there would be 23 wood slats for the top joining at about 7 degrees.
The chicken scratch written on my table saw is the cutting order for both dimensioning the lumber for the top's sides as well as the angled slats. Because these were framing 2x4's they have the rounded edges instead of the nice sharp edges you find on dimensional lumber. I sliced off the rounded edges and set some pieces aside once they were 1.5" x 0.75". 23 other pieces I continued with the process changing my blade angle to 3 degrees to bevel the sides of 21 of the angled slats leaving the last board on each side with one flat edge. Before I made all these cuts I tried the angles on a single board and prototyped it.
Step 2: Top Sides
I had figured the inside radius of the top (the radius formed by the underside of the boards that form the top of the chest) with the calculator on the prototype. I then glued together 8 of the 1.5" x 0.75" pieces using beam clamps and some scrap pieces to keep everything as flat as possible. I put masking tape on the scrap pieces to keep them from sticking to my finished piece. After the glue dried I used a compass to scribe the radius and cut it out using a jigsaw.
Step 3: Top Assembly
I used the two edge pieces and one keystone piece to frame up the top and just added the angled slats with a healthy amount of glue and two brad nails to hold them in place. Once all the angled slats were in place there was only a small 1/8" gap in one of the joints which I saw as a huge victory. I filled the gaps with some homemade wood putty (glue and sawdust)
Step 4: Bottom Assembly
The very bottom of the chest was assembled much like the sides of the top. Once the glue dried I cut it to size and sanded it all down. For the sides of the bottom half of the chest I was going assemble the four sides the same way with alternating sized slats to form a box joint at each corner however I quickly found that even after I dimensioned the lumber it was still irregular enough to make the joints not fit together correctly. So instead I glued the slats to the bottom one layer at a time. I still alternated the sizes to form a box joint at the corners.
Step 5: Sanding
Lots and Lots of sanding. So much sanding. I needed to get rid of all the table saw blade marks. One other note if you aren't familiar with this aspect of wood, typical dimensioned lumber used for furniture is pre-dried. This means that a lot of the moisture is baked out of it to keep it from warping after you've made a nice piece of furniture out of it. Framing lumber, especially dumpster grade, is not. So after this thing sat in my garage for about a week the top warped a little which left about a 1/8" on two of the corners where it sat on the bottom half. Not a huge deal, some felt pads on the corners would make it less noticeable.
Step 6: Staining and Decoration
So I forgot to take a picture of the staining but its pretty straight forward. After the stain dried I started adding the FLAIR. If your going to make a wooden round top chest there is really only one design that can go on it if you have any sense. The Wingcrest of course! I accomplished this by putting down a layer of masking tape. Next I put down a piece of carbon paper and then laid the design over that. I used a stylus trace the pattern and then used an exacto knife to cut out the pattern to make a stencil. Next I masked off the rest of the top and spray painted the design with some gold metalic paint.
Step 7: Sealing and Painting
Hey, you know what removes spray paint? Everything apparently! I wasn't going to poly the chest at first so I started to add some wax finishing paste instead but that started to rub off the design. So I re-masked off the corner that got erased and spray painted it again. After that I went ahead and tried the poly which then erased the rest of the dang design. *Long sigh* So I used some mineral spirits to remove the poly and left it all to dry over night. The next day I used some gold metallic acrylic paint to hand paint the design again. Finally I poly'd the whole thing. Thankfully poly doesn't remove acrylic paint. The inside of the lid and bottom just go a coat of black house paint.
Step 8: Hinges...Distaster...handles...
After everything was dried and ready I added some hinges. Now the top is fairly heavy, as tops go. So when I had the hinges on, before I added the soft closures, I accidentally let the top fall open backwards which snapped the top apart just above the hinges. I was so upset by this...the broken chest sat in my garage for two weeks untouched before I decided to sand the broken joint and re-glue it. I made sure to add the soft closures this time. Next I added some handles and lastly a leather strap to open it. There is no lock on the chest.
It turned out to be a pretty substantial piece of furniture and I'm fairly pleased with myself for building it. It currently sits in our bedroom holding my wife's exercise gear.
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