Milk Painted 6-Board Chest

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Project by HorizontalMike posted 09-28-2013 02:38 PM 6179 views 12 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch

We have had benches at our two dining room windows for a number of years. We do so because the two windows are on the corner of the house and lets us look out at a number of bird feeders while remaining in the AC during the heat of the summer and for general viewing outside to combat claustrophobia during poor weather. That being said, I wanted to build a better bench that would serve this purpose.

A 6-Board Chest came to mind, as it could readily serve as additional seating PLUS give us some additional storage space. There are several sources and several philosophies on how to make a “proper” 6-board chest.

Here are a few links for those interested:

Lacking any ready source for very wide boards (14-20in wide), I decided early on to do a glue-up in order to get the desired width. In order to “hide” this fact from the WW puritans I also decided that I needed to paint the outside of the chest. Keeping with the early country theme that such a chest can represent, I chose to use DIY Milk Paint for the majority of the coverage. More on Milk paint here.

The heavily textured milk paint “wash” (see through) on the end of the chest is evident. Many milk curds showing. Following the link above can answer why this is happening.

I chose chose the cheapest route for materials and bought traditional big box store construction lumber, AKA #2 Southern Yellow Pine. I hand picked the best 2×8 8ft boards I could find at my local HD. With the assistance of an employee, we went thru an entire pallet until we came up with the 5 best boards. Then it was off to the shop.

I first ripped off about 3/8in of each 2×8 and then planed the boards smooth. I let them sit a day and then planed most of them down to 3/4in and butt-glued them in pairs after jointing a 90-degree on each board. Glue-ups came out to 14 1/4in so I chose to use the TS to standardize all to identical 14in width. The boards came out warping from the get go, so I knew that I needed to get this thing nailed and glued up ASAP in order to minimize problems.

I had originally chosen to leave the end pieces (leg ends) at 1in width in order to have a beefier chest, however my crown-up/crown-down glue up came out looking like an “S”, so I was forced to plane it down to 3/4in to take most but not all of the “S” out of the board. I immediately dado’d and cut the slots for the sides and got the chest assembled. Where the grains of the sides and bottom matched I used glue and square cut nails. Attaching the sides to the end pieces were cross-grain so they got square cut nails only, to allow for shrink/swell. I also doubled the number of nails on the end joints.

The lid glue up came out pretty good, and flat. I was at the end of the day in the shop and just placed the lid in place so I could see what the chest was going to look like, and went inside for the night. Came back the next morning and the lid had a significant warp in it. Even with 79lb of weights on it the warp was still quite evident (below)

The warping took me for a loop and was much discussed on the Working with Construction SYP thread. By placing the lid on the chest I was trapping the natural wood moisture “inside” the chest (construction lumber only dried to 19%MC) and the outside was drying faster than the inside, hence the warping. I flipped the board over and within a couple of hours it flattened back out (below)

Knowing that this warping could come back, I decided that I needed some strong ribs on the underside of the lid to keep things straight. I chose to make these ribs out of some scrap Soft Maple, and made them 1in thick. I also “stepped” the screw holes so that the shrink/swell cycle would not be affected. While not exactly traditional, they are hidden from view, plus they add to the strength of the top since it will be frequently used for seating.

Breadboard molding was nailed only, in place with the only exception being the front molding piece that was also glued since grain direction matched.

The chest and the lid were painted with milk paint and the artwork was done with acrylic pigments from Hobby Lobby. These acrylic pigments can also be used to color your milk paint and work very well. As you can see from the closeups, the paint appears very textured. Most of that shrinks and flattens as the paint continues to dry. Once completely dry it looks much better than the images show.

Painting the Penn Dutch Hex Sign for “good luck for all 12-months”

The Tree of Life in a Shaker style.


  • Construction lumber is NOT dried to the same extent as traditional WW woods are.
  • Construction SYP is a hybrid product that has extremely wide growth rings that makes the wood UN-stable when used in a WW environment.
  • Construction SYP lumber (2×8) costs maybe 40-45% as much as the the 1×8in

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

34 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3576 days

#1 posted 09-28-2013 02:49 PM

Very nicely done—really like the milk paint and your artwork?

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Richard 's profile


394 posts in 4405 days

#2 posted 09-28-2013 02:58 PM

I am not a big fan of painting over wood and hiding the grain, but I like the contrasting colors between lid and carcass. I also like the Penn Dutch and Tree of Life designs.

-- Richard Boise, Idaho

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3556 days

#3 posted 09-28-2013 03:23 PM

That’s a Beautiful Chest, Mike.

...and kudos for ‘man-handling’ that MC.

Work Safely and have Fun. Len.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View tefinn's profile


1222 posts in 3721 days

#4 posted 09-28-2013 05:54 PM

Beautiful chest Mike. Looks as good as or better than an old original. The paint designs are top notch.

-- Tom Finnigan - Measures? We don't need no stinking measures! - Hmm, maybe thats why my project pieces don't fit.

View theoldfart's profile


12910 posts in 3735 days

#5 posted 09-28-2013 06:01 PM

Mike, nice job. I had a chance to build one of these in a class this summer. Not quite done yet, still need battens and finish. Did you use a divider or compass to layout the design? Again great project.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14192 posts in 5267 days

#6 posted 09-28-2013 06:07 PM

well done and the painting is a great touch … will become an heirloom

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View HorizontalMike's profile


7933 posts in 4198 days

#7 posted 09-28-2013 06:15 PM

Thanks guys, much appreciated. And Yes, I used a compass to lay out the Hex sign, and in doing so you only use just one radius for the initial circle and all of the petals within that circle. You set you compass pin at 12 o’clock on the circle and mark your arc, and where the arc contacts the sides of the original circle you set the pin next, and repeat. The only time I changed the radius was to make the outer circle to define a border (painted brown). My understanding is that this hex design is probably the oldest known.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View theoldfart's profile


12910 posts in 3735 days

#8 posted 09-28-2013 06:35 PM

Thanks Mike. Thinking about doing a textured design I saw the other day in Deerfield. You could see their compass marks and it was 200+ years old!

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View redryder's profile


2393 posts in 4385 days

#9 posted 09-28-2013 06:42 PM

I am not a big fan of painting over wood and hiding the grain,

You’ll always get some of these comments but I think that wood workers who can live outside the prism of just wood can find many ways to make color enhance the beauty of wood. What a great way to elevate the inside of a home than to throw in some color to a project as you have done…........................

-- mike...............

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 3108 days

#10 posted 09-28-2013 06:58 PM

Nice chest Mike and the paint job looks great too…nicely done.

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View HorizontalMike's profile


7933 posts in 4198 days

#11 posted 09-28-2013 07:26 PM

I am going to have to be honest and say that I agree with Richard in the most part. I am not a big fan of painted furniture, yet as I have filled my home with so many “naturally” finished pieces of furniture I realized that I actually needed to do some painted pieces. Shoot, our ~100yr old Larkin “Hoosier” was originally milk painted, yet over its lifetime it got stripped of its paint and “naturally” finished even though the oak under the paint was anything but fancy.

  • Paint has its place
  • Natural finishes has its place

The trick is to understand how each has been used in the past, and on what, in order to figure out how to proceed. For example, the Amish became very adept at “grain painting” lower quality woods to mimic higher quality examples in order to save on the costs. I now understand that I need to support both forms of finishing. There are great examples of both out there.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View kdc68's profile


3017 posts in 3560 days

#12 posted 09-28-2013 08:12 PM

Beautiful chest Mike….A very detailed posting from your photos and descriptions….Despite the lessons learned, the end result is this chest turned out great !

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 3431 days

#13 posted 09-28-2013 09:52 PM

Very nice piece. I like it.

View PittsburghTim's profile


232 posts in 3606 days

#14 posted 09-28-2013 10:02 PM

Very nicely done, Mike. The piece is reminiscent of some of the pieces that I’ve seen in Lancaster, PA.

When I made my workbenches with SYP, I had it stickered in my workshop for almost 6 months before I started working with it. This was more because of other projects than intent. I did have to pick out a few twisted boards, but it worked out well.


-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View Scott's profile


153 posts in 4256 days

#15 posted 09-28-2013 10:12 PM

Nice job.

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