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I have some walnut that will become a reproduction of a joined chest from the 1600’s. I have long admired joined chests at historic sites and in museum collections. Building a joined chest gives me an excuse to make a dent in the pile of hardwood lumber that keeps my truck outside in the winter. This year in Eastern North Dakota, winter weather has continued three weeks into spring.

Peter Follansbee has provided photographic and dimensional information about various carved chests in his DVD on Joined Chests available through Lie-Nielsen. I have glued up front and side panels out of basswood, rather than riven oak in the original. I’d love to carve the panels out of riven walnut if it were available to me.

Regarding the carving which involves S curves, the challenge was doing the layout for this newbie to 17th century carved oak furniture. My first attempt on a carved panel involved making a pattern from a photograph for one of the designs. Follansbee can free hand a lot of his carving, but that is where experience really counts. For now I’ll concentrate on mastering the carving of a basic design that was utilized in the 1600s. When I made this pattern it also gave me the opportunity to make some adjustments for variations due to the free hand work on the original. So yesterday I started carving my first panel and now you can see my progress.

Here is the stock I’ve fabricated so far: several stiles (chest legs) and muttins (shorter stiles) using 2″ thick walnut, and I’ll use clear 1″ thick stock on the panels. I am not sure if the carving will involve more than the panels. I also have a top made of three edge glued walnut flat sawn boards that is about 21 inches wide and about 50 inches long. I’ll use secondary woods like pine or popular for the back and bottom. The rails are going to be flat sawn walnut stock that are 1 1/8″thick and they’ll be about 4 1/2″ wide at the top and 3 1/2″ wide at the bottom. The muttins will be approximately 5″ wide. Those thickness dimensions are approximate and allow for trimming and beveling where needed. By limiting the carving to the panels it has the benefit of keeping with an original design and reducing the complexity of my first joined chest.

I am planing to do most of the joinery by hand so it is authentic in appearance. I look forward to using hand planes to cut the ogee sided grooves that are distinctive on the stiles, rails, and muttins.

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