The fourth dimensional lumber piece for my dimensional lumber furniture set is a bench sized blanket chest. My wife and I went back and forth on different sizes for the chest for a few days and finally settled on something similar in size to a sitting bench. I even contemplated upholstering the lid or finding a cushion to leave on top but ended up not going that route.
This is the sixth blanket chest I’ve made but the first that I actually get to keep. The previous 5 (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) were all built to different sizes and with different joinery methods. I’ve made several tongue and groove projects in the past but this will be my first tongue and groove blanket chest. And I like the size of this one the most.
Just like my bunk bed, bookcases, and chest of drawers for this room this blanket chest will be built out of 2×10 boards from the homestore. The actual wood is Southern Yellow Pine which has a very bold grain pattern. I’ve recently started enjoying working with these 2×10 boards as they typically contain the pith of the tree. The pith isn’t the desirable part though. The material on either side of the pith is. When the pith is removed you typically end up with nice quartersawn or riftsawn pieces. I purchased nine 8′ boards and ended up using eight of them. I let these rest on stickers in my shop for two weeks before cutting anything. For those who are interested I do have a detailed set of plans for this blanket chest as well as the entire dimensional lumber furniture set.
Because I’m trying to avoid any knots or defects and get the best grain for every piece I started by rough marking every piece needed. This way every piece is accounted for and I know I won’t run out of good material during the build. Pencil seems to blend easily with the grain so I like to use a red crayon as it’s highly visible even from a distance.
All the pieces are first rough cut to an oversized length at the miter saw. Having a dedicated miter saw station like this really makes this process easy.
Then everything gets ripped to an oversized width at the table saw. This whole process creates a lot of waste…. but is there really “waste” in a woodshop or do all of the offcuts just become part of the next project?
Once all of the pieces are rough cut and accounted for the actual milling process begins. First, two faces are squared up at the jointer. I just got this jointer and man what a difference it makes. It’s like going from really warped plywood to perfectly straight plywood.
The first order of business is to create the solid wood panels. These will be 3/8” thick so the stock needs to be resawn in half. My bandsaw blade was pretty dull and I didn’t feel like sharpening it so I just resawed the panel pieces at the table saw.
Three panels each for the front and back and one on each side. Eight panels total. I’m quickly realizing that my old cheap-0 pipe clamps are my favorite.
While the panels sit in clamps the rail and stile pieces can be milled. First at the jointer, then the thickness planer. I ended up filling my dust collector bag twice during this build. It’s crazy how fast it fills up when planing and jointing.
So the process goes rough cut at the miter saw and table saw, joint two faces, plane to thickness, and cut to final width and length at the table saw. The whole process is definitely worth it though as working with square and flat stock is something I’m not really used to.
Before the tongue and groove joinery can be cut on the rails and stiles the panels need to be planed to their final thickness. I had a couple of panels that were a little on the thin side while in clamps so I wanted to make sure they were all the same thickness before I cut the joinery. Out of the clamps and through the planer. I wasn’t too worried about a bow or a cup in the panels as they will be straightened out during assembly. Here you can see the reward of being very selective with your material. I was able to get mostly void free panels. A couple of them were less than perfect but I used those in the back so they aren’t really noticed much.
With every panel the same thickness the groves are cut on the rails and stiles. I used a dado blade and flipped the material end for end making two passes to cut the groove. This results in a perfectly centered groove.
Four of the interior stiles get grooves on both sides as they will be between two panels. The rest of the stack only gets a groove on one side.
The tongues are cut with a couple passes on the same dado blade. It’s always good to mill a couple of scrap pieces the same way you mill your actual work pieces so you can use them as test or setup pieces. After a test piece confirms the correct blade height and fence location all of the tongues can be batched out.
Before you even think about glue it’s a good habit to dry fit everything to make sure you won’t have any problems during the glue-up.
The dry fit also allows you to measure for the exact panel size. Regardless if you have been following a plan perfectly it’s always best to use the measurements of your exact project. I used my panel sled to cut these to length.
I prefer to pre-finish floating panels before assembly. If you finish after the panel is in place you risk the chance of the panel shrinking and exposing unfinished wood that was originally hidden by the joinery. Each panel was sanded and an application of Rustic Pine Briwax was applied.
Because everything was verified in the dry fit the assembly process is smooth sailing. Make sure to use scrap wood as culls between the clamps and your project. That way the clamps will crush and dent the scrap wood and not your project. I find it to be much easier to tape the culls to the pieces before you begin the glue process. Glue is used on the tongue and groove joinery only and not on the floating panels. This will allow them to properly expand and contract with seasonal changes.
The milling process is repeated over and over in this build. At this point I glued up the leg blanks and milled all of my top panel pieces. I milled the top panel pieces to their final width and thickness before gluing them up which is something I normally don’t do but with the recent addition of a jointer I was able to get these boards perfectly flat and ready to go. Normally I would have glued up sections as wide as my planer would allow and skip plane those before finally assembling the top.
I went a bit overboard here but I really wanted the top pieces to remain flush with one another. I cut mortises for floating tenons in each of the top panel pieces so that when glued together the tenons would align the top surfaces. A biscuit joiner will do the exact same thing here as the floating tenons aren’t offering any added strength.
The top panel was almost flawless. The top surface doesn’t have any flaws but the bottom side has a couple of areas where a knot showed through. Oh well, it will be on the inside.
My original plan to join the frame assemblies to the legs was to use a mortise and tenon joint. A long mortise would be milled in the legs with my plunge router but just before starting the project the plunge base on my router broke. So plan B became to use more floating tenons. If you are interested in the plans for this project they include instructions for both my original mortise and tenon idea as well as floating tenons or dowels.
And corresponding mortises are cut on the inside two faces of the legs. Before doing so I used blue painters tape on the top of the legs to let me draw notations for the two sides that will eventually receive the leg taper as well as the inside corner. This helps me make sure I keep the good side on the outside and use the less than perfect sides as the joinery sides.
Before the next assembly dry fit a dado is cut near the bottom of all four frame assemblies to accept the plywood bottom panel.
The dry fit lets us know two things. First, the final measurement of the bottom panel can be determined. Second, the mortise in the legs for the bottom panel can be located and marked out.
I used a hand saw to define the top and bottom edges of the mortise and then cleared the inside with a chisel. I completely understand that there are a lot of people who are really into using hand tools but I’m currently not one of them. I’d much rather use a power tool any day. My super handy dandy pipe clamp vise worked like a charm here.
Once the joinery is complete both tapers can be cut on the legs. I used my multi function hold down sled for this. The main thing to be certain of here is to make sure you cut in a sequence that rotates the freshly cut edge to the top when cutting the second taper.
I really didn’t feel like pushing an entire sheet of plywood over my table saw for just a little piece so I slid the full sheet over one end of my plywood cart and cut off about 1/2” more than I needed. That allowed me to take the much smaller and more easily managed piece of plywood to the table saw and trim it down to the exact size I needed.
With the bottom panel cut to size it’s just normal assembly. I didn’t have enough clamps to do a single glue-up so I glued the legs to the long frames first and then finished the glue-up in a second phase.
At this point the top panel, or lid if you prefer to call it that, could be cut to size. I always prefer a one-sided cutoff sled but when working with larger panels like this I also prefer one with the fence on the back side of the sled. The lid was cut to the exact perimeter of the bottom of the legs. The 1/2” top-down taper on the legs results in a 1/2” lid overhang on all sides.
I wanted to try something different with this build and not use any metal fasteners and eliminate any hinges. This meant the top would be used like a tray. But I didn’t want the top to slide around if you bumped into it so during the build I left the legs taller than the sides. With the chest upside down on the bottom of the lid I traced around the legs which located where I needed to cut shallow mortises to locate the lid every time it was returned to the chest.
To cut these mortises I used my fixed base router set to a depth slightly deeper than the distance between the top of the legs and the top of the side frames. I made sure not to touch my reference lines though. Just get close. A chisel should be used to get a clean-cut on the reference lines.
It worked on the first try. A nice, no slop fit. This may not be the solution for every situation though. If your top panel consists primarily of plainsawn boards you will get more horizontal movement with expansion and contraction. If that were the case I would probably cut the mortises a little oversized. It would still work but the lid will have a little more wiggle room. I made sure the wood grain in the lid was nearly all vertical so the vast majority of the wood movement will be along the thickness of the lid. I doubt I will have any future problems with wood movement on this lid.
After some very joyous sanding my go-to finish of late is applied. Rustic Pine Briwax. Wax ON – Wax OFF.
Of everything that I have previously made the last two furniture projects for my dimensional lumber furniture room are my favorite. I’m very proud of these two pieces and for once they are actually staying here and not going to someone else. For those who are interested I do have a detailed set of plans below for this blanket chest. Thanks for stopping by folks!
Blanket Chest Plans
UPDATE: This is one piece of an entire bedroom set. If you are interested in the entire set CLICK HERE. This strong blanket chest build was designed to match my 2×4 and 2×6 bunk bed, 2×10 bookcases, and my chest of drawers build. This entire set of furniture was made from dimensional pine from a home center. Materials cost to build this blanket chest where I live is about $100 (including glue and finish) depending on where I shop. Every piece of solid pine on this project was cut from 2×10 lumber from a home center. All knots were avoided as I selected the best parts of each board for each part. The blanket chest is a solid design and a great skill builder for a few types of joinery. The frame assemblies are made with tongue and groove joints with floating panels. Material can be resawn for solid wood panels in the frames or you can use plywood. The main assembly can be either mortise and tenon, floating tenons, or dowels. There is a lot of flexibility with the project allowing you to complete it with the joinery you choose. The overall size is 19″ high, 18″ front to back, and 40-1/2″ left to right. The plans are in imperial units only at this time. The plan includes the following:
- 14 detailed pages
- shopping list
- helpful links
- access to download the SketchUp file used to create the plan
- a rough lumber layout diagram
- reference diagrams for specific part and assembly dimensions
- step by step 3D assembly diagrams with written instructions
The entire plan is included in one PDF document. Most everyone will have a PDF reader installed on their computer already but if you do not you can use the free program Adobe Reader to view the plans. You can download Adobe Reader HERE. The checkout process for this plan uses PayPal. You can use major credit or debit cards through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. To purchase the plan follow the link below. After you purchase the plan you will receive an email receipt from me containing a link to download your plan. Make sure to check your inbox and spam filter for the receipt. If you do not receive the email within 10-15 minutes or encounter any problems please contact me.
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