Check Out My Sexy Chest

Inspiration. We all want it. Getting it is the challenging part. I’ve checked with my local Walmart and they do not sell it (I’m sure if they did there would be an extended warranty option… never get the extended warranty!).

Since I’ve been woodworking I’ve found inspiration in using antique tools that more skilled hands than mine have worked. Beyond that, I have found myself attracted to and inspired by the furniture that those craftsman built. It’s as much for respect for craftsman of the past as well as admiration of their craftsmanship.

It would be ideal if amazing furniture of the past would grow legs and walk by my front yard so I could break out a lawn chair and beverage and just watch (I would of course also have a handful of singles just in case any piece really impressed me). Since I don’t believe our scientists are working on genetically modifying furniture to grow such appendages I’ve had to resort to other means by which to satisfy my desires. Enter the internet which, as we all already know, was created to satiate various human, base desires.

With websites such as Craigslist, amazing pieces of furniture can be found wandering around (amidst the herd of grazing crapola). I’ve seen so many pieces that begged for adoption but, alas, I do not have enough floor space left for such new additions. I have a tiny dog and he has nary the space to curl up and lick his butt (needless to say… nor do I have room to curl up and lick my butt). But earlier this week I could not let such trivial issues as space get in my way.

As my eyes gazed over the daily listings on my local Craigslist what pops up but some grainy pictures of an old wooden tool chest. Exactly the dual purpose treasure I’ve been seeking. You see, if my living room lacks anything, its tool storage and a coffee table. Done and done, with what my eyes were looking at (yes there are no more words in that sentence and that last word is a preposition… deal with it).

Interested I fired off an email. I have done a fair amount of Craigslisting (both buying and selling) and I know not to get too excited until I see something in person. I’ve seen listings with what appears to be fine furniture only to find out that it just wasn’t well crafted or “antiquey” at all. So I rarely expect my phaser to be set to stunned upon seeing a listing in person (agreed. No reason to have a Star Trek reference there… particularly a sad one like that). After talking with the seller and haggling a price I head over to check out the merch.

When I arrive in the late evening and look at the chest I’m first taken by the size (that’s what she… ohh forget it). I don’t know what my deal is but I always take dimensions and visualize them as something much smaller (maybe it’s just knowing that I’m highly skilled at cramming things in smaller places… no, I’m not going there). I wonder if I can even get this thing in my craptastic vehicle, a hot red Dodge Neon that generally brings my sexuality into question.

Again, I arrived in the evening and the seller had the chest sitting outside. It was very dark and only light enough to make out faint details. It weighed a ton, felt very solid, and radiated the proper vibe upon application of my tender touch. The deal was done. I could see my Neon quivering with what it knew was coming. The seller and I proceeded to jam, stuff, and wrench the chest into the cabin of the vehicle. And I was off with my booty stowed away after saying a prayer to not get pulled over for the numerous laws being broken such as not being able to use my rear view mirror or being able to turn without dislocating my shoulder.

This is where things gets cool (and the world said with one breath “finally”).

I hand truck and walk the behemoth into my home and start really inspecting it with that thing called light actually being shed upon it. The exterior has the aged and weathered black paint with primer showing throughout and of course, requisite paint drops on the top. I love that distressed look and immediately rule out any notions of refinishing it. I then open it… and wow, it’s pretty stunning.

The chest features five sliding trays that sit at one of three levels on the sides. Surprising, the trays slide fairly smoothly as is. When properly waxed I imagine I’ll be sliding them at random times for no purpose other than for tactile pleasure (honestly, I pretty much live for tactile pleasures so this should not be a surprise).

The hardware on the chest is quite nice. There’s a heavy duty, double bolt lock with, amazingly, the original skeleton key. I mean this lock is no joke… I’m pretty sure this is the kind of lock box that you could keep social security in safely (don’t get any ideas Al Gore. You cannot have this!). There’s double iron handles on each end and a couple decorative iron lifts for the lid.

As I said, I love the distressed look. But that was a few paragraphs ago… and a few block plane swipes ago. I just couldn’t contain myself between curiosity and my preference for the beauty and warmth of natural grain versus paint and stain (I’m pro-dye… anti-stain… again for grain clarity purposes). So I’m refinishing this bad boy.

In a future post I’ll share more about the construction and materials. And while I don’t like to tease (actually I like to tease as much as I like to lie), I have to say that I was surprised when I swiped that block plane to see a variety of species. Clearly we have some walnut (all the trays are solid walnut). Well, the carcass, base molding, upper molding and trim, and top appear to be all different species (I won’t be sure until my sexy chest is further stripped). Clearly this Frankenchest was intended to be painted.

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  1. December 10th, 2010 at 08:22 | #1

    Wow, you got ahold of a real beauty! With a lock like that, I bet it was made in the early part of the 19th century. (I have no experience with this—it’s just a guess.)

    The wide-angle dovetails also make it look pretty old. If you take out the screws and they do not have pointed ends, then they are pre-1850 (or thereabouts) according to Roy Underhill.

    It was traditional to paint the outside of tool chests, so it’s not surprising that it was built with whatever the maker had on hand. You might run this by someone like Stephen Shepherd to get his opinion on the age. Or you could post pics on the SAPFM forum. You will get all kinds of accurate information, instead of my novice guesses. ; )

    • December 10th, 2010 at 22:19 | #2

      Yeah Kari, I totally lucked out on this. I just looked up the SAPFM forum that you mentioned. I’m glad you pointed it out as I would have been interested in it in any event. I wonder how much grief I would get on that forum for refinishing it? I like the fact that it has multiple species… it’s a utilitarian piece and like you said it would have been made with whatever was plentiful and available at the time. That’s why I want to see the natural species as a window into that particular time.

      The backstory I got on the piece is that it was made by a graduating apprentice who worked on the railroads. I’m guessing it doesn’t date to very early in the 1900s as the dovetails on the trays look to be machined. Even though the distances between tails are somewhat variable they look rounded to me.

  2. Ed
    December 10th, 2010 at 11:10 | #3

    Check for hidden compartments which might contain founding documents.

    • December 10th, 2010 at 22:21 | #4

      No such luck finding founding documents. Just some Spanish bullion… oh well…

  3. December 10th, 2010 at 14:10 | #5

    Great find. Is that a saw till in the lid as well?

    • December 10th, 2010 at 22:26 | #6

      Thanks Alex. The saw till is in the three-tier basket. Here’s a picture of it… it’s sitting on top the stripped top. One slat of the superficial top was extremely loose so I removed it.

      Saw Till

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