21st Century Sea Chest

This is not furniture worthy of the great builders like Peter Follansbee, Chris Schwartz, or Chris Hall.  However, it is a piece of functional furniture created from nearly all recycled materials and will hopefully be with me for the rest of my life.  I’ve wanted a sea chest for about as long as I’ve known they exist.  These are the unit of personal possessions of the old mariners during the heyday of wooden ships and work well as a low table.  I’ve put off building one for many years now as I’m fairly lazy at heart (and intimidated by the huge number of dovetails and other joinery involved).  But I’m also a schemer and a planner…

DSC_0001When I took up my current post it had a fairly rocky start and I prepared for the worst.  Instead of filling my small house with bulky furniture, I built nearly everything from dimensional lumber, primarily 1 x 12″ pine as it is ultimately recyclable.  While rearranging the house over the winter I decided to remove a large set of shelves that were not being used very well.  This left me with a hefty pile of very dry, aged pine that now needed a purpose.  I decided these would just about serve to make a trunk of some sort and convinced myself to knock up a sea chest.

DSC_0002Being a 21st century guy without huge swaths of time for fine woodworking, I built this fancy box without any complex joinery, just stainless steel fasteners and wood glue.  The only purchased materials were the hinges, hasp, and Cabot’s Wood Finish (color: Midnight).  So, for a few bucks, a few weekends and evenings, and a little labor, I now have a sea chest to hold my coveted earthly possessions.

DSC_0004The chest is based on several 18th and 19th century sea chests I have seen with a lift out tray and a solid box for small objects.  The outer dimensions of the chest are 34 1/2″ x 19″ deep x 18″ high giving an internal volume of nearly 8700 cubic inches or a little over 5 cubic feet.  That is about two large backpacks worth of space for possessions.  Not too bad.

DSC_0005I should note that some scraps from the barn were added to complete the project.  The strakes that hold the handles are oak and the floor of the chest is made from tongue-and-groove yellow pine, left over from previous projects.  At the time of this post, I consider the chest about 90% complete.  The 5/8″ manilla handles will soon be covered with leather, and the lid support will be replaced with something a little nicer (it is just black para-cord at the moment).  Also, the interior needs a finish, probably shellac, to avoid the off-gassing of regular varnish.

I hope this motivates someone else to forgo garbage, mass-produce, pressboard furniture.  It is more than possible to make something worthwhile and lasting from the poor end of the lumber yard.

2 thoughts on “21st Century Sea Chest

  1. I just received a reply from the JP Morgan Library regarding an inquiry about Henry Thoreau’s journal box. It is 75.4 x 29 x 34 cm, that translates to 30″ x 11.5″ x 13″ more or less. You are in good company.

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