Chris Schwarz's Blog

Experiments in Board Chests

For too long now I’ve been researching vernacular forms of furniture. I dislike the word “vernacular,” so I call these designs the “furniture of necessity.” These are the pieces of furniture that aren’t heralded in books or at Sotheby’s. Yet, they have remained almost unchanged in form for hundreds of years.

One of these forms is the “board chest,” which also goes by the name “six-board chest.” I’ve lived with these chests and built several of them for a forthcoming book. And yet, that wasn’t enough for me. What makes these chests interesting to me is the processes and tools that were used to build them.

I’ve found these board chests can be built with just a handful of tools in about a day of pretty hard work (and that includes painting). I have squeezed every minute of time out of my current process to build one of these chests.

And so to look for efficiencies, I decided to tap into some other builders.

Today I had a couple friends come to the shop and start building a chest each using only a minimum amount of direction from me. They had to work with the material they were given – local poplar from the lumber yard – and were strongly discouraged from using the power tools in my shop.

I asked them to produce designs that were different than the ones I’d built. So we are using slightly different joinery, new kinds of mouldings and interesting foot shapes.

We made it pretty far in about five hours of shop time. There was, of course, a serious break to go to Eli’s barbecue. We’ll pick things back up on Thursday and get these chests completed.

Check out the short video I made of the progress today.

— Christopher Schwarz


Check out Christopher Schwarz’s “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” at for more chests and traditional woodworking.

21 thoughts on “Experiments in Board Chests

  1. carterswhittling

    What do you get when you cross a man wearing a Coexist t-shirt and a man wearing a Divided We Stand t-shirt…

    …cabinet makers. Curious.

  2. mbred

    Sorry to barge in with an unrelated topic, but I cannot figure out how to ask a question on the site. That being said, how can you do that?

  3. pmac

    The Les Nesman comment was very funny, (not only because of the tape divider) but because when you look at the video, there is a shot where Ty is looking down while applying the tape and you only see part of Ty’s glasses and his bald spot (sorry Ty) and (sorry again in advance), but he LOOKS like Les.

  4. djmueller1

    I know the clip is (mainly) about building the chests, but I gotta ask, what kind of sandwich was served-up for lunch at Eli’s.

  5. Barquester

    In the opening shot he’s clearly over his own table dividing blue tape. 3 lashes with a wet oak shaving. Wish I were there.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Nope. Those are jalapeno cheddar grits.

      The Southern boy’s form of heaven.

  6. amvolk

    Comments and Questions.

    Too many cooks in that kitchen. Cannot wait to see the foot that Tim was making, and how the tow chest turn out!

    Where did the Ty get that Coexist T-shirt? Is Tim’s T-shirt an old LAP shirt?

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Yup. That’s an old LAP shirt. Ty has a thousand T-shirts. Maybe he’ll chime in here.

    1. tjhenrik

      That was one of the first questions I asked!! He told me he would explain as soon as I was done planing ….

  7. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick

    Good to see that between them, they sported a full complement of safety gear for the power tools you wouldn’t let them use. Ty, we have a 20″ planer – at what time should I expect you tomorrow 😉

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