DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF A CABINETMAKER'S C H E S T
Aware of the weight these fully loaded boxes would have to support and of the abuse they would suffer during shipment, the craftsmen who built these tool chests did so with sturdiness foremost in mind. Choosing knot-and defect-free pine boards a full 1 in. thick for the box sides, they joined the planks at the corners with closely spaced (usually less than 1V2 in. apart), tight-fitting through dovetails—an exceptionally strong joint for this application. In many boxes, the sides were made from a full-width plank, eliminating the need to join up boards to sufficient width. Single-plank construction also eliminated the potential weak spot created at the juncture of two boards.
It is interesting to note how universal the overall dimensions of these chests appear to be. After measuring perhaps a dozen chests (and noting that the English-made chests were generally a bit larger than the American ones), I found that when averaging the dimensions I came up with a rectangular box measuring approximately 2 ft. wide by 2 ft. high by 3 ft. long. Many of the chests are proportioned according to the rules of the classic golden rectangle, wherein the short side of the rectangle is five-eighths the size of the long.
Like the sides, the tool-chest bottom was also made from 1 -in. pine, but instead of using a single-width plank (which could shrink and pull loose from the nails), many cabinetmakers chose to tongue and groove the edges and to run the boards from the front to the back of the box. Though these floor boards were simply nailed to the bottom edge of each
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