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Project by dclark1943 posted 05-31-2012 03:27 PM 7150 views 11 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

While visiting my sister and brother in law recently, they asked if I wanted some old barn wood that was stacked behind their garage. I said ” sure, and I’ll build you a box in payment” so that was the start of this sea chest. I did a little searching for idea’s on the web and sure enough found a great plan that you see here from “”. This is a six board chest, as these boards were up to 19” wide ! They were first cut northern wisconsin pine and were just over 1” thick, well weathered and full of worm tracks and square nail holes. All of which added to the character once it was surfaced. I did the surfacing on the drum sander so as not to knock out any of the knots. The hardware on the box was ordered from a specialty firm on the east coast and is hand wrought iron—awesome hinges. the “beckets” or handles are made from regular rope, and the cleats are cherry wood. True to tradition the bottom is fastened with ringed bronze nails, and the corners are dovetailed. As the chest is tapered the dovetails were just a little tricky. I used a leigh dovetail jig to cut them. The chest has a “till” which was used as a place for small items, and although not shown in any of the photo’s I did install a lock on the chest. These chests were tapered to provide stability when the ship was moving around, and there are skids under the chest so water could run under and it could dry out. The lid has a lip also to shed water. These chests were made to sit at the end of the seaman’s bunk and hold their clothes and other belongings. it could also be used as a bench. My sister has it in front of the couch in the TV room and uses it to store blankets.

-- Dave, Kansas City

13 comments so far

View Bennie Woods's profile

Bennie Woods

62 posts in 2945 days

#1 posted 05-31-2012 04:36 PM

Dave, Fantastic job! From the good writeup to the clean cut dovetails to the slanted sides you’ve done a terrific job. I’ve been wanting to make this very same box for awhile and was recently asked to make a retirement chest for a friend retiriing after 20 years of Naval service. He wanted it with rope handles but less tradional without the slant. I should have pics up soon for mine.
Just a few of questions: Dids you get the plan from the website or just eyeball their pics (that’s what I’ve been doing). Did you use the Leigh R9 jog for this? If so how would you rate it? I’ve been considering purchasing one for wide material such as this.

Again, great job Dave!

-- Bennie Woods, USS FRANK CABLE, GUAM

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3991 days

#2 posted 05-31-2012 06:23 PM

Beautiful chest, nice dovetails, thanks for sharing it with us.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View dclark1943's profile


270 posts in 2459 days

#3 posted 05-31-2012 07:40 PM

Bennie, I ordered the plan from the website and found it extremely helpful – - would recommend. I put the plan booklet in the chest when I gave it to my sister so she had a little “history” As I recall, it was pretty well laid out and documented—besides just dimensions. I used the leigh D4 jig and it is fantastic, however don’t lose the instruction manual – in fact I built a special easel to hold the book on top of the jig—it has a steep learning curve.

-- Dave, Kansas City

View planeBill's profile


506 posts in 2680 days

#4 posted 05-31-2012 11:28 PM

That is a superb chest. I love those sea chests and you made a fantastic one. Great job!!

-- I was born at a very young age, as I grew up, I got older.

View ducky911's profile


237 posts in 3061 days

#5 posted 05-31-2012 11:50 PM

Love it…story and chest…

View bondogaposis's profile


5220 posts in 2623 days

#6 posted 05-31-2012 11:52 PM

Really nice chest, did you make the beckets. I always wanted to learn how to make them, I’ve seen some really fancy ones.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View dclark1943's profile


270 posts in 2459 days

#7 posted 06-01-2012 12:24 AM

Bondo, Yes I did make the beckets, found a site that was all about rope knots. It had well laid out instructions. If I recall, I unwound a 3 strand rope, then formed a circle, and offset the ends and wove it back together and bound the seam with twine. In the days of the “pirates” they would then slather it with tar, then wipe it down and let it dry. And yes, I’ve seen some awesome beckets ” $$$$” and I haven’t a clue as to how to make em : (

-- Dave, Kansas City

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3591 days

#8 posted 06-01-2012 01:12 AM

The other is a resort… ;)

I think I like this better than the blanket chest! Not that it wasn’t nice too…. :)

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View Woodbridge's profile


3652 posts in 2689 days

#9 posted 06-01-2012 02:07 AM

All the elements you have included in the chest ( mega wide boards, sloped sides, the dovetails, the great looking handles, the skids….) are so very interesting. The end result is great looking chest. I’ve learned a lot very interesting facts about sea chests. Thanks for posting.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View shipwright's profile


8222 posts in 3069 days

#10 posted 06-01-2012 02:09 AM

Very nice work.
I too love sea chests.
If you’re up to the challenge you could try the traditional ropework handles. This is a photo of the pages in Hervey Garret Smith’s “The Marlinspike Sailor” that cover the topic. It is described in enough detail to actually make them but they may be a lot more work than the chest was.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View dclark1943's profile


270 posts in 2459 days

#11 posted 06-01-2012 02:41 AM

Paul, I considered it, but decided against, and made the simple rope bails. The cost of purchasing was also out of reach. If I do another, I would want to have the “real deal”

-- Dave, Kansas City

View Bluepine38's profile


3380 posts in 3357 days

#12 posted 06-01-2012 01:36 PM

You started with some really great old growth boards, added woodworking skills and came up with a great
chest. Thank you for the history and the details of construction, as well as sharing the results. Now after
I figure out the table saw and lathe, I can start on “The Marlinspike Sailor”.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View AlBCuttnWud's profile


704 posts in 2961 days

#13 posted 11-12-2012 01:05 AM

Are both the frontback and sides angled or just the sides? Just trying to figure out how to do this in my head with my dovetail jig. Any advice is appreciated…

-- -Al, Oak Harbor, WA

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