Friday, April 25, 2014

Tumblehome sea chest 2

I decided to do a little research prior to building this chest, and this time I turned my attention to Germany to see if there were any differences compared to my earlier studies.
This is not phd grade research, so as soon as I find a serious looking page, I pretty much leave it at that.
German page on sea chests

One difference which is very visible, is the small shelf running along the back side of the sea chest. This is a feature I haven't seen anywhere else. According to the text it was also used in other chests as well.
It was used for savings, and according to the home page, it is the foundation for a well established phrase in German meaning that one has got some savings: "Etwas auf der hohen Kante". Literally meaning: Something on the high edge.

The open chest in the middle of the page has got the small shelf at the right side of the chest, indicating that the owner of the chest was a left hander.
The small shelf (hohen Kante) can be seen in this picture as well.

I cut the last set of dovetails for the chest itself, and I even remembered taking a picture of the sawing.
Using a hack saw is easy (for me at least), there is an appropriate weight to the tool, and the blade is equivalent to a rip filed saw. The toothing might be on the fine side for some, but you can get different blades so you can experiment. I am using a 24 ppi blade because that was just what I had in the workshop. The kerf is a little wider compared to a real dovetail saw, but not wider than the kerf you would get by using e.g. a bow saw.

I tested the assembly by pressing the dovetails together half way by hand, and they look decent. some glue and a little bit of planing and I think they might even look fair.

Due to a bunker operation, I couldn't get more than 20 minutes in the shop, but it was enough for me to cut the tails on the last board and do the test assembly. I have brought the pieces with me to the ECR (Engine control room), so I can mark out the position for the small shelf.
To be efficient, I try to do stuff like that whenever I have a spare moment where I have to stay put in the ECR anyway. That way I can use the precious workshop minutes on putting steel to the wood.

The dovetail sawing set up.

The test assembly (dovetails pressed half way).


  1. Great work as always. I like the top shelf/till addition idea I can see it being very functional.

    1. Thanks, I agree that the small shelf/till is a neat idea. I haven't seen them elsewhere. According to the German page they were also usual on bridal chests, where the dowries were put in the small till. Presumably that is where the expression "etwas auf der hohen Kante" originates from.

  2. Hi Jonas,
    n a scale of one to ten - how difficult is it to doing sloped end dovetails? I read one blurb on it and it confused me more than it informed me.

    1. Hi Ralph.

      I have done it in the exact same way as an ordinary dovetail. So there is really no difference.
      If I were to do it at home I would try to compensate for the angle of the slope, but I haven't got a slide bevel out here, so I just use my cardboard template.
      If you make a very steep slope you could get in trouble if you didn't compensate for the angle of the slope because of end grain run out on the pins.
      On my slopes I can see that there is a little run out, but not more than what I can accept. To overcome that, you can also make the pin a bit larger than normally.
      When the end of the chest is also sloping, you should ideally compensate for the angle on both parts. I am afraid I won't be able to describe that in an understandable way, but I think that I'll save the idea for a future blog post.
      I hope the above haven't confused you even more.
      In short, as long as the slopes are fairly mild, I just do it as a normal dovetail i.e. mark it from the edge as usual with a dovetail marker. People who see the piece are normally so impressed with the fact that it is canted, so they never seem to look at the dovetails anyway.