Friday, October 13, 2017


Although I don't collect antiques per se, I am fascinated by them. The two that have fascinated me the most are antique roll top desks and apothecary chests. The latter fascinates me having all these small drawers at which to tuck thinks into for storage. The former because I just like a desk with everything handy and a top which slides down to provide security and hide everything from view when not in use. I have a set of plans to build a roll top desk someday but I really don't have a place to put one so for now, it rests in a filing cabinet. However, a couple months ago I came upon plans for a small apothecary chest. It wasn't as big as I would have liked but it was a nice tabletop size and it might be good to experiment on a small version before messing up a large version. So about a month ago, I bought the lumber at a local Amish run sawmill and began.

It was my first time to use cherry for a project. I like oak, mahogany, and walnut but just never had the opportunity to use cherry. I also wanted to try a couple different finishing techniques to see if I can improve upon what I consider the weakest part of my woodworking game.  Working with cherry turned out to be easy enough to do and I had no major problems. I did build the drawer bodies out of cheaper poplar wood which I had plenty of problems with using a router. It seemed extremely prone to chip out where ever the router left the piece no matter what I used to prevent it from happening. As a result, I cut about 25% more blanks than I needed and still had to cut some more later and even then ended up using some I wasn't happy with to get enough parts to build the drawers. Fortunately, I was able to put most of the defects facing down or back on the drawers where they aren't really seen.

For finish, I just used boiled linseed oil thinned down with paint thinner and applied with a rag. I absolutely loved that. It was super easy to apply and came out a nice rich color. Always before I have used various stains and varnishes but never seem to get the depth of color I'm looking for. This worked great. Lots of people use spray on shellacs/laquers for the shell coat on wood projects. I don't have a sprayer and have never really thought the rattle-can shellacs aged very nice. The paintable ones work well but I only have the option to buy one gallon at a time. I've used polyurethane in the past but struggle with it. It dries so slow that it sags and runs if you are not careful, dries a lot slower and requires sanding between coats. But when completed, it provides and extremely hard and durable coat which will last forever. So when debating what to use, I found a small can of wipe on polyurethane with much faster dry times.

I really loved using it. It dried quickly, at least when it wasn't humid outside, and since it was in such a thin layer due to application with a rag, it didn't tend to run and sag. Also, because it dried quicker, it didn't get as much dust mites in it which meant it was much easier to sand. I just hand sanded with some 220 grit between coats and after the final coat wet sanded with some 600 grit. I then buffed it with some paste wax I had lying around. I'm very pleased.

This is a project I've always wanted to do but don't have any plans for it really. I'm just going to set it on a small buffet sideboard table we have in our living room for now and let time tell me what to use it for. Right now I'm thinking about moving the batteries out of our kitchen junk drawer into it and maybe a few other odds and ends. If I can't find a use for it inside, then I can always move it back out to the garage and store nuts and bolts type stuff in it since I never have enough small containers for those sorts of things.


Kelly said...

That is absolutely gorgeous - I'm super impressed! It's far too pretty for the garage, so I hope you keep it inside.

I love roll-top desks and have two (neither an antique, though the small one I got as a child might qualify before long!). I hope you'll eventually take on that project to share with us here.

Ed said...

Kelly - I hope to take it on but right now, it will have to wait. I just picked up a couple projects to build for someone else today.

Bob said...

I love antiques and I love this! My mother loved to strip, sand and refinish old furniture or pieces like this. I have some of those and when I look
at them, I see her. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this for many years and might be surprised at the eventual uses you find for it.