Tool Chest: Lid, Skirt, and Dust Seal

After building the guts of my tool chest, it’s time to work on the visible parts again.

The Skirt

Finally, I get to do some dovetailing in this project.

The skirt is dovetailed around the bottom of the carcase. I laid my skirt boards around the carcase and marked them with knife lines so they would fit snugly and precisely. I’m getting better at dovetailing. In hardwoods, I like to saw out my waste with a coping saw:

Two tails and three pins should hold everything together nicely. There’s a little sapwood at the bottom all around, which should provide an attractive color mirror to the light colored panels.

All my dovetails fit right off the saw, though you can see a little gap in this one. I shimmed three other little gaps.

I glued the skirt on and screwed it on from the inside for good measure. I’m putting casters on the bottom eventually, so the skirt needn’t support any weight, but it could if it had to.  The skirt drops down about 2″ from the bottom of the chest so that it will conceal most of the casters.

I planed a small chamfer all around the skirt. I started planing on the tail boards and then planed the pin boards so as to clean up any break-out on the exit side. It’s easy to do this with my jointer plane after glue up. To my eye the above chamfer is too small. I have since made the chamfer more pronounced.

The Lid

That’s made of four pieces of 7/8″ pecan edge-glued together. With figured wood, you have to be very careful with grain matching, otherwise your glue lines will visually pop where the figure abruptly shifts. (Much as I like the look of curly woods, I don’t like panels glued up from several pieces with curly figure, since the curls never match up.) With the spalting, it was relatively easy to hide the glue lines.

A frame-and-panel lid for a tool chest should use a different kind of floating panel. Schwarz explains it in The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, but so does Roy Underhill in The Woodwright’s Workbook. It’s not tongue-and-groove construction; it’s groove-and-groove. The bottom lip of the groove in the panel fits into the groove in the frame. It’s a pretty cool visual effect when put together, I must say.

It does, however, mean plowing a groove in the end-grain of the panel. In a hard wood like pecan, you have to take thin shavings, but it works really well.

These are all end-grain shavings.

When planing end-grain, it’s always a challenge to prevent blow-out on the exit side. Here’s a simple way to prevent it:

(1) Start plowing your grooves in the long grain, just enough to define your groove along the whole edge.

(2) Use a chisel the same width as the plane iron to cut a chamfer inside the end of the groove, like this:

And with the waste removed:

Go down far enough that the groove in the end grain will bottom out before the chamfer disappears.

(3) Now plane the end grain, and you’ll get little or no blow-out.

(4) Finally, finish planing the long grain.

For groove-and-groove construction, set your plow plane’s fence exactly the width of your iron. When plowing the grooves in the frame pieces, reference the fence on the face of the stock. Then, without changing the setting of the plane, plow grooves in the panel referencing from the bottom. If the plane was set accurately, the grooves should match up perfectly. Mine were pretty close.

And here’s the lid assembled:

I drawbored the joints, and while the glue was probably superfluous, I glued the joints as well, just for good measure. The drawbore pins are made of pecan heart wood, and they are extremely tough. The dark color should blend in nicely with the cherry once it darkens.

The Dust Seal

The dust seal is a crucial element of the lid, and as the name implies, it keeps dust from sneaking into the chest through the gap between the carcase and the lid.  The top dust seal attaches to the lid on three sides and is joined at each corner with a single dovetail.

I’m not real proud of the dovetailing job, but they’ll hold. Shims work wonders with appearances. I merely glued the dust seal on, though on many chests that get painted, it is also nailed on.  I prefer not to disturb the surface with nail holes if I don’t have to.

In order to attach the lower dust seal, which surrounds the carcase on all four sides, it is best to flip the chest over on top of the lid.

This way I can set the pieces on top of the protruding lid so as to get a reasonably tight fit. It doesn’t eliminate all human error, but it beats trying to measure the stuff.

With the dovetails cut and the pieces positioned, I glued it on as well.

Yes, the sides bow in a little bit under the clamping pressure. They sprung right back when I removed the clamps.  I found this method easier than trying to use many smaller clamps all around the chest.

The Finished Product

Next comes the hardware and a finish.

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5 Responses to Tool Chest: Lid, Skirt, and Dust Seal

  1. rob campbell says:

    Awesome work! Thanks for sharing the build notes.

  2. Ron says:

    That’s a good looking tool box.

  3. sablebadger says:

    That looks amazing. well done!

  4. Pingback: Tool Chest: How to Install a Half-Mortise Lock | The Literary Workshop Blog

  5. Pingback: Tool Chest: The Guts | The Literary Workshop Blog

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