20 February 2021

mini-Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - The Lid

 With the carcass and skirting done, it was time to move onto the lid.  I read the ATC carefully.  The lid is a frame in panel.  I planned to follow with the frame using mortise and through tenons.    Where I planned to differ was the panel.  The full sized ATC has a beefy lid.  Given that folks often sit on the full sized ATC, use it as a saw bench, etc, this really makes sense.  If I make a full sized one, I will follow the panel as in the book.  However, for the mini-ATC I am making, it really won't get sit on so I decided to use a 1/4" panel.  

My initial plan was to use poplar that I had purchased at 1/2" thickness.  Then, I had an idea.  I had some scraps of 1/2" thick cherry.  I liked that idea that all black on the outside and a pop of cherry panel when I opened it.  I glued up the cherry and cut to size and on what would be the inside, I thinned it to 1/4" so it would eventually fit into the grooves on the panel.  I thought I was done, then, I had another idea.  

I had received a  1"x1"x12" piece of ebony on fathers day.  Why not also try and inlay the ebony into the cherry.  That way, there would be a double "surprise when opening the tool chest.  Since I haven't done much inlay, I wanted to come up with something simple that would have nice visual appeal.  It took a few days but it came to me as I nodded off to sleep.  I could turn a square piece 45 degrees and it would look like a diamond.  This would be in the center.  Then, on the edges, I would take 1"x1" squares and cut them on the diagonal and have triangles.  It was easy to make and I thought would look nice.  After cutting up the pieces of ebony, I used a freshly sharpened marking knife to trace.  Then, I mixture of chisel and small hand router plane work made the cavities.  Glued them in and planed them flush.  It really come out gap free.  I was very happy.  Before install, I finished with freshly made Garnet shellac the inside of the lid and waxed it.

For the frame and panel, I used 3/4" thick pine.  Used my plough plane to run the grooves.  Then it was onto the through mortises.  It turned out to be very difficult for me to do this.  To be fair, I haven't done many mortise tenons.  Still, it looked like a drunken beaver cut them out.  It bothered me quite a bit.  To the point, where I took some birthday money and purchased a Powermatic table top mortiser for future mortise work.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I kind of feel like I am giving up on mortises.  Then again, the birthday money my dad game me was specifically to be spent on buying some sort of tool (no it wasn't enough to cover the whole tool cost) so I bought the mortiser.  At the end of the day, I will probably do both for mortises.  Some by hand (to get better) and some with the mortiser.  As long as I am happy I think that is all that matters.  I am not a purist when it comes to working with hand tools but the first machine tool was a big step.

Unlike mortises, I really like making tenons.  I do it like Paul Sellers teaches.  I cut them fat and then use a router plane to make them fit.  It worked well.  Somehow, the back side of the mortise was wider than the front.  No idea how that happened so I will again blame the drunken beaver.  As such, I will use wedges on the back side of the tenons.  Also, to make the side gaps disappear, I used some wood filler.  Once painted, the it will look fine.

Glue up was eventful and everything was square.  From there, I installed three Horton brasses hinges and then the lid lip.  I used a chain from Rockler so that the lid wouldn't get much past 90 degrees and blow out the hinges.  The chain was a bit delicate so I put one on each side.

With the lid done, I am down to making a box for the inside top and painting the chest.  This will be in the next (and likely last) post on the miniATC series.  


  1. I've found that consistent mortising is slow going, and that I don't particularly enjoy it. I suspect that, on average, it takes way more practice than other cuts to get really proficient. So I wouldn't feel bad about getting a mortiser. It is an interesting choice as a first machine, though certainly not a bad one.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. The machine I thought I would start with would be a bandsaw. The biggest thing I hate to do by hand is thickness. After this tool chest, I had another project which I knew would have mortises so that is what drove the first purchase. This weekend I will be getting the mortiser set up and using it for the first time.