Massachusetts Block-Front Chest

This article is an excerpt from Glen Huey’s Illustrated Guide to Building Period Furniture.

Click here to download the printable project plan.

Then simply follow the steps below to create this heirloom project.

Block-front pieces may be the most sought-after American furniture style today, and the chest is the quintessential design. This sculpted gem from the Chippendale period is a superb example of what American craftsmen could deliver when challenged to move away from the more austere, flat fronts of the Queen Anne tradition.


Step 1 This project begins by making the plywood template for the Drawer Dividers The radius for the Round portion of the piece is set at 15-3/4” The radius for the inside portion is 3/4”. Set up and layout one half of the template.


Step 2 Reset the same radius and draw the second half. Carefully cut and final shape the template.


Step 3 Mill the material for the Drawer Dividers, then use the template to mark the profile. Cut the close to the profile at the band saw, leaving a small amount to trim, position the pieces as shown, and trim to the final shape with a bottom mount bearing pattern bit and your router.


Step 4 Next, use a 1/2 rabbeting bit set for an 1/8 rabbet and place that cut directly into the middle of the Divider.


Step 5 This is an 1/8” corner beading bit to which I have changed the bearing (Increase the bearing size one step!) so that it will cut leaving an eighth inch of material. Set the bit to profile each edge of the Dividers.


Step 6 With the Dividers made we can begin the work on the Case. Lay out and create the pins on the Case Bottom after you have milled it to size


Step 7 After the pins are created, trim an 1/8” off of the pin area as shown. This will allow us to cove the dovetails with a 3/4” molding.


Step 8 Place the Bottom onto the Case Sides, aligning the back edges of the two pieces, and transfer the layout onto the Sides. Remove the waste area creating the tails and fit to joint making any necessary adjustments.

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About Glen D. Huey

Glen Huey is managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, an accomplished period furniture maker and author of numerous woodworking books and videos (as well as magazine articles).