In this series of posts, I’ll show the step by step construction of a New England Oxbow chest. You’re probably familiar with a serpentine (the face of the piece is concaved on either side and convex in the middle) but you may not have seen an oxbow, or reverse serpentine chest. In a reverse serpentine, the outer portions of the case front are shaped in a convex fashion while the center is concaved. This may sound a little confusing, but stick with me and it will all make sense.
OK, let’s get started. I’ve already selected my lumber. I’ve also done my glue-up and milling operations. In other words, I have a pile of wood that is milled to 13/16″ thing but is not cut to width or length.
The primary wood on the case is cherry. The secondary wood (the bottom and other parts that aren’t seen) is poplar. I begin by dimensioning the lumber and rough cutting out the shaped drawer blades (the horizontal dividers between the drawers). This chest will be approximately 34″ high and 42″ wide. I made a layout stick, or story pole, based on those dimensions. From that layout stick, I made a cutting list of all my parts. I begin by jointing the edges of the material. The next step is squaring one end and cutting the pieces to length.
Once all the case parts are cut to length, either finished size or rough size as you’ll see in a moment, I need to shape the pieces that will become the drawer blades. A drawer blade is the horizontal divider between two drawers. On this piece, they’ve been cut to rough length so that I have a little extra wiggle room when I run my beads on the case. I make a pattern off my layout stick that gives me the proper curves. I lay that pattern on the roughed out material and trace it.
At this point, it’s off to the bandsaw to cut them out. I usually saw them about 1/16″ wider than my finish pattern size. As you’ll see a little further down, this is done to insure that I have a complete blade once I trim and bead the piece.
Once they’re rough bandsawn out, I set up my router, attach the pattern with some pins and trim off the excess.
The router bit I use is a stock trim cutter that has been modified. Using a green wheel, I precisely ground the two beads I need into the carbide.
Once you have all the blades trimmed, it’s time to move on to dovetailing them into the case sides. That will be the subject of the next post.