How to Build a Wood Chest

Building a wood chest is a fairly simple woodworking project for even a beginning woodworker. At its simplest, a wood chest is a simple box with a lid, usually hinged. Depending on the size, a wood chest is perfect for storing jewelry, blankets, keepsakes or just about anything else. This simple wood hope chest is designed to hold linens and blankets and uses simple woodworking techniques and basic tools.

  • 1 hardwood plywood sheet, 3/4 inch by 4 feet by 8 feet
  • 1 plywood sheet, 1/2-inch by 2 feet by 4 feet
  • 1 hardwood board, 1 3/4 inches by 1 3/4 inches by 8 feet
  • 1/4 pound 1 1/2-inch wood screws
  • 4 hinges
  • 1 lid support
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Stain or Finish
  • Circular Saw
  • Sander
  • Electric Drill

Cutting the Pieces of the Wood Chest

Measure 18 inches from one edge of the 3/4-inch plywood panel and mark a line along its length. Rip (cut with the grain) along the line. You'll cut the front, back and one side of the chest from this piece.

On the 18-inch section, measure and mark off two 35-inch sections for the top and bottom and one 18-inch section for the side. Cut the sections with the circular saw and set aside.

Rip a second 18-inch section along the full length of the 3/4-inch plywood.

Measure and mark one 36 3/4-inch length for the top and one 18-inch length for the second side from the second piece of 3/4-inch plywood.

Cut one 37 1/4-inch-by-20 1/2-inch piece from the 1/2-inch plywood panel. This will be the bottom of the wood chest.

Cut four 18 1/8-inch posts from the 1 3/4-inch-by-1 3/4-inch wood board. These will be the four end posts of the chest. On the interior bottom corner of each post, cut a 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch notch at a 45 degree angle. When the chest is assembled, this notch will sit on top of the chest bottom.

On each of the four posts, mark the two sides that will butt against the side, back and front of the chest. Using a router, cut a 1/2-inch-deep-by-3/4-inch-wide groove along the full length of the post starting 1/2-inch above the bottom and 3/16-inch from the outer edge. The side, front and back pieces of the chest will fit into these grooves.

Measure 3/16 inch from the bottom of the front, back and two side pieces and mark. Using a router, cut a 1/2-inch-wide-by-1/2-inch-deep square groove into the back of each piece. The bottom will fit into this groove when the chest is assembled.

Lightly sand all pieces before continuing.

Assembling the Wood Chest

Fit the back of the chest between two corner posts by sliding the wood into the grooves in the posts, making sure that the second groove on each post faces in the same direction as the groove on the back. Use wood screws and glue to secure the pieces in place.

Lay the assembled back on the work table or floor with the grooved side facing up. Fit the two sides of the chest into the grooves on the two side posts, making sure that the grooves on the sides face the interior and are at the bottom of the chest. Use wood screws and glue to secure the pieces in place.

With the open side of the chest facing up, slide the bottom into place along the side grooves and fit it into the groove in the back of the chest.

Lay the front of the chest in place, fitting the bottom front edge into the groove on the back of the front piece. Fit the front corner posts into place and secure with wood screws and glue.

Attach the four hinges along the inside back of the chest, spacing them evenly across its length. Lay the chest on its back beside the top, and open out the hinges. Attach the hinges to the inside of the top panel. Round the outer edges of the top panel. Stain chest or finish with polyurethane.

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