Greene & Greene-style Blanket Chest

blanketchest-150x150A simple approach to a sublime design.

by Marc Spagnuolo
pages 46-54

I’ve been enamored of Greene & Greene furniture since my early days of woodworking, well before I possessed the skills to produce such a piece. Since that time, this style has become a regular part of my woodworking vocabulary, and I enjoy making reproductions and interpretations of classic Greene & Greene designs. This blanket chest is a re-imagining of an original piece designed by the Greene brothers (Charles and Henry) for the Thorsen House in Berkeley, Calif.

My wood of choice for this project was khaya, sometimes referred to as African mahogany. The original Thorsen House box was made from red oak – so don’t hesitate to use a domestic species if exotic woods don’t suit your taste or budget.

The bottom of the blanket chest is made from 3⁄4″ plywood, and you can save a bunch of cash by using a domestic-veneered species instead of seeking out mahogany-faced stock. The ebony trim comes from a 2″ x 2″ x 12″ turning blank, which should provide enough ebony for several projects.

The case panels are glued up from several narrower boards. Take care to arrange your boards in such a way that they complement one another in both grain pattern and color. After cutting to length and width, the wide finger joints are milled on each end with a router and a template.

Simple Template
Technically you need two templates: one for the female part of the joint and one for the male. Here’s a cool way to make them both in one shot. Cut a piece of 1⁄2″ or 3⁄4″ sheet-good stock to approximately 16″ x 24″, making sure the corners are perfectly square. Rip the piece into two 4″-wide strips and one 71⁄2″-wide strip. With the 71⁄2″ strip in the center, glue the three pieces back together after sliding the center strip out exactly 11⁄16″. Just like that, you have a two-in-one template that matches the 151⁄2″ width of our case panels.

The protruding fingers of the case joints have 3⁄16″ roundovers. Save yourself some extra work later by including them in the template. I use a no-frills method for making the roundovers; use a 3⁄8″ drill bit as a layout guide, then use a sanding block to create the actual profile.

Video: Watch an interview with the author.
Web Site: Visit Marc Spagnuolo’s web site.
Web Site: Explore more Asian-inspired joinery from a pair of West coast woodworking experts.
Articles: Discover more about Greene & Greene, including projects, finishes and details.
Plan: A SketchUp model of this project is available free online.
In Our Store: Pick up a copy of Marc’s new book “Hybrid Woodworking” (Popular Woodworking).

From the April 2014 issue, #210

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