Sunday, March 31, 2013

The finished sea chest

This is the end of the road for this project.
I have spent 67 hours all inclusive i.e. making handles and fabricating nails.

I sanded the chest down to grit 120 which is the finest grade we have onboard (emery cloth). I had dismounted the handles before doing this, so I didn't have to work around them.

I waited about 2 hours after the sanding, to let the dust settle before applying the finish.

The finish that I have used is "clear urethane electrical isolation" I am pretty sure that it is normal urethane varnish inside a green aerosol can.
The wood absorbed the first and second coat rather fast. I waited approximately 30 minutes between each coat. Then I waited about one hour and lightly touched the surface with a schotch brite pad. Wiped it lightly with some paper and gave it a final 3rd coat.

In an ideal world, I would have waited longer between the coats, and also given it some more coats, but since I am signing of Tuesday, I had to finish the chest.

Once I determined that the 3rd coat was dry enough, I remounted the handles and carefully moved the chest out of the workshop and into a corner of the engine room where it would be out of the way and maybe drying a bit faster.

You never know if someone has got to use the workshop during the night, so I could not just leave it on the table.

Enough talk. Here are the pictures of the finished sea chest.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A tight mini skirt and a nice bottom

I found an advantage in building a chest with canted sides:
The skirt could be assembled off the chest, and later slid onto it, and the further down it is pressed, the tighter the joint gets.
Since it is a small chest with an even smaller skirt, I find it fair to call it a mini skirt.

The mini skirt extends about 1.5 cm below the bottom of the chest. This was done on purpose, and not because of some measuring error!
My theory is that a sea chest should be lifted above the floor since you could have water on the floor for different reasons: cleaning, heavy weather throwing in a lot of water when the hatch was opened, someone coming drenched from watch etc. If the bottom of the chest is lifted of the floor, the skirt might be wet, but your dry clothes inside the chest will remain dry.
This could also be achieved by a pair of sacrificial rails under the length of the chest, but I chose this option because I think it looks good.

The lid is fitted with breadboard ends that look like cleats, since they extend below the lid. This is something I have seen on pictures of the sea chests, I can't think of any particular reason why they were made like that, but sailors are pretty traditional, so I followed suit.

These are the first breadboard ends that I have ever made, and they are not quite as tight as I would have liked them to be, but they are OK.
They are drawbored, and the two outer tenons have elongated holes to accomodate the eventual seasonal movement of the wood. No glue was used.
I made the dowels by splitting some of the wood that was left over from the drawers, then they were shaped by hammering them through a 4.2 mm hole in a steel plate.
The holes in the actual top and breadboard were 4.0 mm, so they had a nice tight fit.

The handles have been mounted fairly high upon the chest due to tradition and since I had the drawer arrangement in the one end that was a bit of an obstruction. Originally the idea was to use wooden cleats and make some beckets, but being an engineer, I opted for the hardware road instead.
The tradition with high fitted lifts of any sort is that the will assure a low point of gravity when the chest is hoisted onboard using the handles. You wouldn't want a top heavy chest turning over and spilling all your clothes in the water.

The chest has been assembled, so all there is left to do is to nail the bottom through the mini skirt, sand it and then apply some finish.

Elongated hole in the tenon for the breadboard ends.

The lid and the breadboard end ready for assembly.

The tight mini skirt.

The nice bottom surrounded by the mini skirt.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Toolbox for children

My younger brother sent me this picture of a toolbox which he made for his sons. Actually he made two, one for each of them, but he only sent me one picture.

I like the sheer look of it, with nice bright colours for the door and window.

The door handle looks like it is made of a headless nail which has been bent.

he is going to make a small workshop class together with some Japanese magazine, and 10-20 children will each make their own toolbox.
I guess the workshop will take place in Tokyo (where he lives), and he speaks fluent Japanese if anybody should be interested in participating.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hardware for the sea chest (metal working)

Someone onboard have once ordered a bunch of different hinges, so I have found some nice wide brass hinges that will fit the chest with a little bit of work.

We have some metal chemical drums (5 gallons), with a metal handle on top. I have thought about using them, but they are not stainless nor brass. So I don't want them on the chest.

I ended up with the following design, which is a compromise. It should have been all brass or bronze, but we didn't have any 6 mm bronze rod, and I didn't want to waste a lot of material by turning down a 12 mm rod. Therefore the handle itself is made out of a stainless steel pipe . The holders are made of brass.

The holders are 40 mm in length (total) and have got an 8 mm thread. The plan is to drill a hole through the ends of the chest, and attach the completed handle by means of an acorn nut on each holder.
I turned them on the lathe out of some 12 mm hexagonal stock.

The handles are made out of 6 mm stainless stel pipe which has been bent and silver soldered withthe holders in place.
One of the handles is 4 mm longer than the other, but I don't think that it will show when they are mounted on the chest.

Most sea chests seem to have had a lock, which I think is rather strange, since it was unthinkable, that anybody would ever lock their sea chest while onboard. If you locked your sea chest, you didn't trust your ship mates, and that was unheard of.
I once read in an old book, that if you actually locked the chest, then yourship mates would usually nail your lid on while you were on duty, as a way of expressing disgust in that you didn't trust them.

It is still a bit like that (at least in the Danish merchant marine).

If you are in your cabin, you pull the curtain in front of the doorway. This means that someone is in the cabin and it is treated as a closed door. But the person inside is awake and you can knock on the wall next to the doorway and ask to come in and have a chat.

If you are not in the cabin, the curtain is drawn aside, and the steward can go in and do the cleaning of the cabin.

If the door is closed, the person in the cabin does not want to be disturbed, he could be sleeping or making a telephone call to his home or just wan't to be left alone.
A closed door is treated like a locked door ashore, in the middle of the night, no matter what time of day it is. It is considered to be very bad manners to knock on a closed door.

You only lock your door during port stay.
There can be exemptions, e.g. in high risk piracy zones it is OK to lock the door even at night.

The holders straight from the lathe.

Handle before straightening.

Finished handles.

Holder and silver soldered handle.

Holder on handle.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Secrets of the sea chest

As promised in an earlier post, I will show the secrets of the sea chest.

Since the sea chest itself is rather small, 50 cm long, 35 cm wide at the base and a total height of around 30 cm, the drawers are farily small, and the secret drawers are even smaller.
But the most important thing is: They are there for the curious spectator to find.

These are the two regular drawers in place beneath the till.
To give you an idea of the size; each drawer is 9 cm high.

Here, the drawers have been removed granting access to the two locking keys that hold the vertical divider in place.
Now the locking keys have been opened and the vertical divider is pulled out.
The two secret drawers are accessible from behind the vertical divider.

The entire backing plate for the lower drawer is being pulled out. It rests in a narrow dado in the side wall and in the horizontal divider just above it. There is a small secret compartment at the back end of the backing plate.

The entire backing plate for the upper drawer is being pulled out. This one too rests in a dado in the side wall and in the horizontal divider. Like the lower unit, there is also a small compratment at the back end of the backing plate.
This view from above shows the arrangement of the drawers and the secret drawers and the secret compartments.
To the left is the lower set and to the right is the upper set.

The secrets in retro perspective.
I took a little time figuring out how I was going to do this. One of the hardest parts was to accept the fact, that the secret drawers didn't have very much pratical use based on their small sizes.
The actual making of the drawers and compartments took quite some time because I had to process some stock to a small size, and then I had to glue the splitting and wait etc.
I think that I will try to make some more secret comartments or drawers in the future. I would like to do some with a series of locks, both quaker locks and sliding keys. But all in all it has been quite fun to make them and I hope my family will enjoy finding them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sea chest build part 11

Finally the drawers are all assembled.
I made an insert bottom for the two main drawers, and nailed them in place with shortened homemade nails.
The last secret drawer was glued up, and should be ready for the final trimming today.

I turned some drawer pulls, which didn’t take very long. The first one took an estimated five minutes, and the rest three minutes each.  Turning something to the correct diameter is easy on a metal lathe. Once you know which dial position corresponds to an 8 mm diameter, it is very quick work. In addition they don’t have to be 100% alike. I used the trusty hacksaw as a parting tool, to avoid changing the setting of the iron and thus disturbing my quick 8 mm setting.

The drawers with their pulls glued in place.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sea chest build part 10

I finally got started on the drawers, after gluing, waiting, grooving and dovetailing they were ready for assembly.
For the half blind dovetails on the front of the drawers, I used a hacksaw blade in a pull saw fashion.
I don't saw past my baseline, not even on half blind dovetails for a drawer. According to some very respectable sources, it was widely used in the past to cut past the baseline on this particular joint. But this is not a historic build, and I don't think saw kerfs inside a drawer are pretty. I actually don't think it is hard to execute the half blind dovetails without passing the baseline, so this is how I do it. I can fully understand if someone want's to go the historical way. So let us not get into an argument about which method is the most true. If it gets the job done, and you are happy about it, well then it is the method for you.

After gluing up the drawers, I adjusted them a little with the plane, and tried to remove the worst black fingerprints with some emery cloth. We don't carry sandpaper onboard, so I have some 35 mm wide emery cloth that will do.


Unfortunately one of the disadvantages of doing woodworking in an engine room workshop is, that a lot of the tools contain traces of used engine oil, soot, lubrication grease, metal grinding dust etc. So during the handling, the nice light coloured wood tends to look kind of dirty.

After the sanding I sprayed the drawers with some electrical urethane isolation varnish. I have decided that it will make a nice finish, I hope that I am right about it.
The other options for finish was either olive oil, soy bean cooking oil, hydraulic oil (various grades), gear oil (various grades), engine oil, compressor oil, synthetic refrigeration compressor oil, gas oil, or a mix of the aforementioned.
In addition to this there is the possibility of painting.

Actually it did look nice with the varnish, so now at least it will protect the drawers for more fingerprints while I continue the work.
I ground an 8mm drill to a brad point drill, and drilled some holes for a drawer pull in the front of the drawers. I plugged those holes with some wiping paper before spraying on the varnish, so I can later glue in a drawer pull. The plan is to make these on the lathe.

Tonight I hope to finish the last secret drawer, and to make a test assembly of the interior. Next up will be either the skirt or the lid. I haven't quite decided yet.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sea chest build part 9

I have once picked up a maxim, I can't remember where I got it from , but it goes like this: Grooving comes before dovetailing.
Out here I have had to add another maxim: Gluing comes before grooving.

The small pieces for the interior of the chest had some cracks, that needed to be glued to prevent the drawers to self destruct upon assembly.
So the grooving had to wait for another day.

In the mean time I worked on the lid for the chest. I managed to get a rather nice surface despite that fact that I was traversing the whole time. The wood seems to dull the edge pretty quickly, but I have developed a system where I can polish it and get back to work in a couple of minutes, so that isn't too bad.

My original plan was to make a panel lid with a mitered bridle joint frame, then I wouldn't have to glue up a panel.
I even made an experimental sorry excuse for a grooving plane that used the 1/4" chisel as iron. It worked, but it didn't eject the shavings, and had to be disassembled and unclogged for every stroke. I fiddled a little with it, and decided that I was wasting my time.

The new plan is to make some breadboard ends, since the glued up panel is wide enough as it is. On the sea chests that I have seen pictures of, these breadboard ends look more like battens, since they protrude under the lid. So they should be able to withstand quite a lot of stress since they will be maybe 1.5" thick.

After the glue had dried (overnight), I made some grooves using my trusty Bahco univeral toothed saw. I clamped a small piece of wood onto the work, to act as a guide.
Two kerfs right next to each other, and a little cleaning up with a screwdriwer, and I deemed the grooves to be fit for use.
So now I can get started on the dovetailing of the drawers.


We received some more stores, so I disassembled another pallet.
This is pretty much what my original supply of wood looked like.

New woodworkers onboard

It seems that my sea chest build in the engine room workshop has sparked some interest among my fellow ship comrades.

Yesterday we received some more stores, and I disassembled the pallets for whatever "nice" wood there was to find.

Yesterday one of my colleagues asked if it was OK, that he had taken one of the boards?
No problem, I just salvaged the wood, so it wouldn't be incinerated. But what did he want to make?

He wants to make a wooden fishing reel, I guess it is for deep sea fishing, but a traditional type (it has probably got some correct English term). So that is is one new woodworker. Perhaps he will like it so much that he will continue.

Half an hour ago, a second colleague (the third engineer) said that he had discovered some wood in the workshop behind the lathe. And asked if he could take a piece of it?
I had actually seen this board as the future skirt of the sea chest, but he was so enthusiastic, that I instantly decided that I could find another piece of wood.
Now he wants to make a shelf for his mobile phone. For his home.

His idea is to saw out a small shelf for a corner, and round it in the front, then remove material from the top, leaving only a small edge around the outside. I tried to explain to him that it will be very difficult given the tools we have onboard, and the fact that the wood he has chosen is by far the hardest wood we have got.

Monday, March 18, 2013

When you had hoped for a steam engine - and got a pair of socks

Do you remember those Christmas evenings. For one full year you had hoped for, dreamed of and pestered your parents about that steam engine you actually needed to get in order for you to survive.
And then Ckristmas eve: You get a nice pair of woolen home knitted socks.

Something similar happend today, only it wasn't quite as bad.

I got the wood onboard. 3 pieces of 4 feet x 11.5 inches x 1" So a total of 12 board feet.

The wood is definitely not ebony.

Actually the guy who picked it up had forgotten the name of it as well, but said that the lumber dealer had said it was a good wood.

It looks a lot like some of the lighter wood I am using on the sea chest, so I hope it is easy to plane. The wood has been passed through a thicknessing planer at a very high speed, cusing quite some ripples and some tearout in the middle of one of the boards.
The wood felt very heavy, so I was a bit puzzled due to the look like my earlier mentioned light wood.

I left it on the floor for taking some pictures, and when I removed it 5 minutes later, I realised it wasn't due to a high wood density, but due to the wood being soaking wet! Condensed water had gathered below the boards in just five minutes.

Anyway, contrary to the steam engine vs socks analogy, I am happy that I didn't end up with real ebony. A comment from Brian regarding legal ebony made me think - that perhaps this wasn't like ordering a board of pine or spruce. So I started researching the Internet, and it seems that ebony is an endangered species, and kind of illegal to harvest and import.
So by getting this wet oak lookalike wood, I have stayed out of trouble.

And I still think that I can make some sort of project out of it once it has dried.

PS. I did get a steam engine.

Close up photos of the wood, rough sawn (top), planed (bottom)

The Christmas comes early this year.

We are in port for once, and I asked one of local employees, if it was possible to find ebony down here in Nigeria.
He investigated a little, and returned and told me it was possible, but it was kind of expensive.
I asked how much, and he said that a plank was approximately 30 U$D.
Now the thing is, I have no idea of the width, thickness nor the length of this plank, but I figured that forking out 30 $ couldn't matter a whole lot, if I get some authentic ebony.

So the Christmas part is me having the butterfly feeling in my stomach like when I was a child and eagerly awaited Christmas eve with the opening of the presents.

I will post a picture of the wood once it gets here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sea chest build 8

Last night I didn't start on the drawers as I had expected. Instead I reasoned that it was a better idea to attach the bottom, since that would allow me to measure the exact size of the lower drawer and its secret cousin.

Here you can see the bottom of the till and the removable vertical divider.

On this picture the vertical divider has been removed allowing you to see the small divider that will house the secret drawer. The little dark spot in the dado on the underside of the till is for the tip of the sliding key.

The bottom mounting:
I laid out all the shiplapped boards on the bottom according to their numbering. They are not all of the same length, width or thickness, but they are flat on the side where the shiplap is.

The idea was to nail them to the bottom and then plane the outside of the bottom to a uniform thickness. When all this is complete, I can trim the ends of the boards and make a small skirt for the chest.

Here the first board is being nailed in place using the home made brass nails. I drilled a 2 mm pilot hole all the way since the nails are a little soft.

 I adjusted the distance between the shiplapped boards using a folded piece of thick paper.

This is after planing the bottom to its final thickness. Another good thing about the home made brass nails is that Iwouldn't damage the iron if I accidentally hit one of the heads. I didn't hit the heads though, since I set them below the surface using a drift punch.

The inside of the bottom.

This is my way of clamping small pieces of wood. It works remarkably well.

Tonight the plan is to make the liding key in the other end of the vertical divider, and perhaps start on making the stock ready for the drawers. But I could also end up working on the lid.
We'll see.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sea chest build part 7

I managed to glue the case together the other night. I had to use two lashings, since I didn't have enough clamps. One of the ends had started to cup, and I needed to clamp it to get it to look right.
Sadly the glue that I have been using isn't the best anymore, so I had a glue fail.

I have had suspicions on the glue being past its premium ever since I started the project. It has a shelf life of 12 months provided it is kept below 20 degrees Celsius. Those 12 months expired 3 years ago, and I guess that the average temperature in the stores room is 28 - 30 degrees Celsius.
The other glue options are contact glue or 2 component glue.
So I'll just continue to use this.

The secret compartments are slowly progressing. they are slowed down by the fact that I needed to glue in a divider, and then I had to wait for the glue to dry before being able to work on it again.

I have managed to make the first secret compartment, and tonight I plan to start on one of the drawers.

Leaning against the tool board, is the panel glue up for the lid.
The lid has been flattened on one side, and I have started doing the other side, so I don't just sit idle while the glue is drying.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Secret compartments in the sea chest

Due to the unusual thinking ahead that I have been practising, it has been fairly easy to plan and execute the interior of the chest.
In addition to the till and the two drawers, I have planned some secret compartments as well.

On this picture, the till and the vertical and horizontal dividers are in place. On the side (which is pointing upwards on this picture), a narrow 7 mm dado can be seen. this will accomodate a back for the small drawers. Behind this, the secret drawers will be located.

The vertical divider will be sliding in the dado on the underside of the till, and in a corresponding dado in the bottom. It will be secured by a small sliding key in both ends.
To access the secret drawers, you will have to remove the normal drawers completely, slide back the locking keys and pull the horizontal divider out. Then the two secret drawers can be removed, sideways compared to the normal drawers.

The secret drawers are intended to measure approximately 1" in the width, so they will be rather small.

If everyhing goes according to the plan, there will be 2 more secret compartmens. But they will perhaps be revealed later on.

I am using a hacksaw blade for sawing out the sides of the sliding key. I use it on the pull stroke.
The angle of my sliding key is 25 degrees. I decided that it looks fair, but apart from that, I have no idea if this is a traditional angle or not.

Here is a picture of the finished keyway (left), on the right side the experimental sliding key can be seen.
Much contrary to my normal behaviour, I decided to make a test before starting on the real thing.
The test keyway was made very fast, and the sliding key for it even faster. The surprising result was an immaculate fit. Just like what you would hope to see in the finished work.  Now I just hope that I can make as good a fit on the divider.