In 2004, when woodworking videos were first coming into there own, my younger brother Steve and I accepted the challenge to produce a step-by-step video on how to build a Chippendale Small Chest. I would build the chest and explain the steps for other woodworkers to follow, and he would ask the questions that potentially would be on the minds of woodworkers as they followed along building their small chest.
It’s the perfect beginner to intermediate woodworking project to establish a great base of knowledge in building case-constructed furniture.
The project’s jumping off point is dovetail joinery, which is the heart and sole of case construction – half-blind, through and sliding dovetails are all covered and explained in a way that allows you to understand and complete your joints without overburdening the viewer with the smallest details.
Techniques covered include how to plan your dovetail joinery for optimum results, a simple jig and setup to accurately locate and cut sliding dovetail sockets, tips for creating dovetailed ends on your dividers and how to make and install drawer runners and kickers. Plus, you’re provided additional tips to make the work easier and your results better.
Building the base for your small chest begins with a frame with mitered front corners and a mortise-and-tenon joined rear for solid support. How to make and join the feet for your chest includes mitering the front and side show feet, and half-blind-joined rear feet. After the base is assembled, you’re given tips to make molding the edges simple and carefree before your case and base are joined into one.
Drawers for this project are built using standard 18th-century techniques with dovetail joints at the corners and drawer bottoms that slide under the drawer back and into grooves cut into the front and sides. But before any joinery work is done, you get tips on how to select your material for the fronts to achieve the best possible grain arrangement. And of course, you’re walked through all the dovetail work a second time to solidify the steps in your memory.
When it comes to finishing your Chippendale Small Chest, you’re handed all the secrets on how to use aniline dye, boiled linseed oil and shellac to make this or any of your future projects pop with a deep, smooth finish that is sure to impress your family and friends.
And no project is complete without hardware. Learn the easy steps to install pulls and escutcheons so that your hardware looks great and operates even better.
(As we grow as woodworkers, there are techniques and processes that change. Where appropriate, I’ve included updated instruction to present a new idea or way to get the work completed more efficiently.)