Tool Chest: Panels in Frames

In my previous post, I showed how I constructed the cherry frames to hold the pecan panels in my new tool chest.

Now I know why we don’t see antique American furniture built from pecan, despite its great strength.  Pecan is not easy to thickness plane by hand.  Normally I wouldn’t go to the trouble with a wood this tough, but since it’s a special project for me, and since the wood has all the properties I want (nicely figured, very tough, not prone to splitting) I decided to bite the bullet. I’m going to have bullet-shaped indentations in my teeth by the time I’m done.

Here’s the back panel all assembled and glued up. The floating panel is 14″X28″ and floats in a 5/16″ deep groove on all sides.  All four boards making up the panel are perfectly quarter-sawn, so I don’t think seasonal movement will be a problem. The panels are rabbeted on the back, making them flush with the inside of the carcase, which will be very important later on.

I drawbored the joints on the panel, so glue probably wasn’t necessary, but I glued them anyway out of sheer habit.  The tenon shoulders are not as airtight as I would have liked, but the joints are sturdy and will hold well.

This is the front panel. This floating panel is made up of only three boards glued up. The glue lines have a couple very small gaps, but the figure on the wood makes them virtually invisible. Got to love that strip of heartwood running across the middle.

With the front and back assemblies put together, it was time to make the panels for the sides.  The thicknessing went faster this time because I had shorter stock to deal with, but it was still time-consuming.

I’ll let you in on a little secret and reveal the location of both glue lines in this side panel:

Planing and scraping the panel renders the glue lines invisible. I used sprung joints on all the edge joints, and they close up very well even with a very hard wood like this.

What is a sprung joint? [If you already know about sprung joints, skip this paragraph.]  When edge-gluing two long pieces of wood, it is customary to plane the matching edges so that the wood makes full contact all the way across the joint.  However, this can be difficult (but by no means impossible) to do with a handplane.  When preparing two edges to be glued together, it works just as well to intentionally plane a small gap–perhaps 1/32″–in the middle of the joint, leaving the two pieces to mate only on each end.  Glue is applied to both edges and each end is clamped.  Then one or more clamps is used near the middle of the board to close the gap.  Once the glue dries, the gap will stay closed.

The side rails of the carcase are tenoned into the stiles, which have a groove plowed into them to accept the panels.  The grooves in the stiles are only 3/16″ deep so as not to compromise their structural integrity.

After a lot of trimming and test-fitting, the carcase finally came together:

My apologies about the dark photo, but I didn’t have time to get good light set up because I had already worked late into the night.

Next comes the bottom, the guts, and the lid.

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8 Responses to Tool Chest: Panels in Frames

  1. Rob says:

    That’s looking well worth all the effort with the pecan – not a timber I have any experience of. Which glue for the sprung joint?

    I’m curious to know how you’ll do the lid. Some popular chests have panelled lids that are not flush on the top surface but more like a raised and fielded panel, whereas old shipwrights’ chests I’ve seen have flush-top lids which I would find more useful as a flush lid can be used as a level work surface. How will yours be? Thanks, Rob

    • I used Titebond II. I’ve also had success with regular wood glue (Elmer’s Carpenter’s Glue). Really, any glue that works on wood should be able to hold a sprung joint together.

      The lid will indeed feature a “raised panel” with groove-in-groove joinery as you describe at first. I won’t use the top as a work surface, since the chest will roll on non-locking casters. I may sit on it occasionally, but I have sawbenches that I can use for low work surfaces.

  2. kurro says:

    Beautiful, that wood worth every drop of sweat.
    Congratulations from Seville, Spain

  3. Bethany Bear says:

    This look beautiful, Steve! I’m enjoying watching the progress.

  4. Very nice work. Looking forward to seeing how you arrange the guts.

  5. Joel says:

    That looks amazing! I’ve seen Schwarz’s tool chest in person, and I really liked it… I love the utilitarian vibe. But I’m very taken with your need to have a more attractive, furniture-like tool chest so that it can live in the kitchen :0) Good work.

  6. Pingback: Tool Chest: The Bottom | The Literary Workshop Blog

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