A place to share projects and information

Author: Wade Hutchison

13th century style chest as a tool box.

Sketchup drawing of the chest to be built.

There are many options for tool chests. There’s the (very popular) Anarchist Tool chest, based on a traditional chest design originally seen in the 18th century. But they are big, bulky and difficult to transport. A scaled down version would be fine, and could be justified as period since there are similar chests in Durer woodcuts. There is the Dutch tool chest, also popularized by Chris Schwarz. I don’t care much for the slant top of the Dutch tool chest, so that design is out for me. I’ve done lots of Scandinavian chests, and we’re pretty sure the Mästermyr chest was used as a tool chest at the end of its life, but I wanted to do something new.

I’ve made several knock-down versions of the 13th and 14th century clamp-front chest, so for the last few years I’ve been thinking a tool chest version would be nice. My friend Angus has a nice tool chest of this design, so I thought “why not” and spend the early Spring of 2021 designing a chest.

I started with an image of a 13th century chest in the Victoria and Albert museum.

Chest from the V and A. See more info at http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O93911/chest-unknown/

The original chest is a little over a meter long, which seems to be a bit large for an easily transported tool chest. Using Sketchup, I scaled it down a bit so the width of the legs matched up to dimensional lumber. I mocked up the design in cardboard to get a sense of the interior size, and thought it would be just the right size for a traveling chest to hold a minimal set of tools.

The chest I constructed is known as a “clamp front” chest. This blog post from the Quiet Workshop, along with the follow-on posts, gives a nice overview and several examples of clamp-front chests. The “clamp” is a furniture term describing the way the front and back center panels are connected (clamped) between the legs on either side. These panels are mortised into the edges of the legs, and usually pinned in place with wooden dowels or nails. The front and back of the chest are tied together by flat boards on the ends and, in the case of the chest I built, a framework of overlapped thicker timber, also mortised into the front and back legs.

This diagram, taken from Church Chests of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries in England by Philip Johnson (1907) shows the end construction of a similar chest. you can clearly see the construction of the framework on the end, along with the stub tenon that fits into a notch on the lid batten/hinge board. Not shown here, but clear in other chests of this type, is the the floor of the chest is supported by a groove in the lowest front-to-back framework piece.

End construction of an early 13th century chest at Stoke d’Abernon, Surrey

As much as I would have liked to build it out of oak, I took a lesson from past projects and further inspiration from Angus’ chest and decided to construct it out of southern yellow pine (SYP). My local builder’s supply stocks 2x material in SYP, so I purchased 3 eight foot lengths of 2x12s. I picked out the board with cleanest and most attractive grain to use for the legs. For the side and end panels, the second board and part of the third was resawn to produce 3/4 thick material.

Resawing setup. The board really is flat.

The resawn panels did cup a bit after sawing, so I had to rip them down to 5 to 6″ wide strips (which reduced the amount material that would be lost removing the cup), and glued them up into the 12″ to 13″ wide panels I needed. After gluing, the panels were planed down to a uniform 3/4″ thick to remove the resaw marks, and further reduce the cupping.

Next post – prepping the legs.

Three furniture projects for an outdoor kitchen: aubry cabinet

The least historically plausible piece of furniture is the aumbry cabinet – a 15th century form, usually used to store church vestments.

My aumbry cabinet assembled

Here are some historical examples.

a circa-1490 piece that was part of the Clive Sherwood collection sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2002. (link from https://www.core77.com/posts/87776/Be-Honest-About-Your-Inspiration-or-Else) This was the historical exemplar that Chris Schwarz used to design the aumbry in the “The Anarchist’s Design Book” which provided some construction hints and templates for the tracery.
English aumbry c. 1490 from https://www.periodoakantiques.co.uk/antique-sales-archive/a-very-rare-english-oak-aumbry-circa-1490-27-stockno-1074/. I traced and modified the teardrop tracery design from this aumbry for mine.

This was the most ambitious piece of the three I built – I don’t know that anyone has tried to make a knock-down aumbry cabinet in this style before; I certainly could not find a description of one. The basis for the cabinet is a combined back/sides and shelf unit that folds up. I’ll refer to this assembly as the carcass of the cabinet, since it can be separated from the face frame or front. The design is based on the ubiquitous folding bookshelf, except with a solid back and sides.

Fold-up bookshelf action of the cupboard carcass. After all 3 shelves are up, the side panels fold in. The semi-circular cutouts are clearance for the bent tabs that support the front of the shelves.

To reduce weight (which was only partially successful) the back is frame and panel construction, with the panels only 1/4 inch thick, and the frame pieces 7/8 inch thick. All of the carcass construction is poplar, with the outside stained to match the front and top and the interior kept natural. (The color match is better in real life. I think the flash made the back shown in the photo below much lighter and more red-toned than it is in person.)

Back frame and panel.

The top is removable; it is just held in place by two cleats that fit snugly into the top of the cabinet. The weight of the top also helps keep it in place. The top is 7/8 inch thick ash with a dark stain. I chamfered the top edge heavily to increase the visible weight. Extant examples are not chamfered, but the darker English aumbry shown above had complex molding to produce a similar affect.

Top of the cabinet removed showing the alignment/stiffening cleats on the underside.

The front is two wide boards (stiles) connected by 2 narrower rails tenoned into the edges of the left and right panel. As Chris Schwarz describes it, the cupbuard front is really a giant face frame. The front and door are 3/4 inch thick ash with a dark stain on the exterior surfaces. Carving was completed before finishing and assembly, as was the scratch-stock molding. The gothic tracery carving was done with the technique presented in this video. Iron strap hinges (purchased years before from Lee Valley) and a blacksmith made latch were nailed on the front frame (with Rivierre nails), with the nails clenched into place.

Front detached from the carcass
Back of the front, showing the clenched nails. Only the door was stained on both sides in an effort to keep the interior as light in color as possible. You can clearly see the pegs that help hold the rails in place and the hardware to attach the front to the carcass.

The hardware that allows the front to be removed is knock-down bed rail hardware. I had the idea for using it for the knock-down cooler chest, but I found there were better options for the chest. Other than trying the hardware on a small mock-up I didn’t know that any of this would work until all the assembly was done and the hardware installed. It turned out fine – it goes together very easily, and requires just a little persuasion to come back apart. The carcass folds up and is not too heavy to carry. The face frame is stiff enough to move easily, and with the latch in place the door doesn’t flop around when being transported. All-in-all a successful project. Now I just need an event to happen so I can try it out.

The key to disassembly – bed rail hardware. The hooks are on the carcass sides, which fold in for storage and transport. The plates are embedded into the front stiles, and are flush with the back surface. The weight of the front keeps the fasteners firmly connected.

Three furniture projects for an outdoor kitchen: trestle work table

Trestle work table.

I have built several sets of trestle legs in the past, none of which were based on any particular period example. for this project, I thought I’d work up a design based on a period example. In manuscript illustrations trestles are mainly depicted for dining tables and the details of the attachment of the trestle to the table top are obscured by the table cloth. I combined two designs from two 14th century manuscript illuminations (shown below) and built the top of the trestles and the attachment to the table top from an extant example. For practicality the trestles knock down for transport. The table top is connected to the trestles with dowels to better fit its role as a work table.

Sources were found at http://www.larsdatter.com/tables.htm – an excellent source of manuscript images of everyday objects. The first illumination I used for the design can be seen here (British Museum). Here’s the portion of the image with the table and trestles:

Table from Add MS 42130, f.208 r 1325-1340

Note the “A” frames in the front are attached to a rectangular board at the top, and are braced with a single triangular stretcher at the top. The legs appear to taper from the bottom to the top. It’s unclear what the coloring of the trestle pieces is depicting, but it could be chamfers or bevels along the edges.

The second source is from a manuscript at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and can be found online here. Here’s the table detail from that illumination:

Guiron le Courtois (BNF NAL 5243, fol. 75r), c. 1370-1380

Here we see another set of trestles, this time connected by a single stretcher lower on the legs. There is no detail of the connection to the top, and once again no depiction of the back legs. It clearer that the legs are rectangular in cross section, and to my eye appear to gradually taper from the bottom to the top.

Here is an article at the St. Thomas Guild website with photos of a 15th century trestle table. Construction details of how the legs were mortised into the top and how the stretchers were attached to the front legs are shown in some close-up photos. These trestles have both an upper an lower stretcher, and a third connecting the front and back legs. For my design, I combined the shapes in the two 14th century photos, but omitted the front-to-back stretcher to make knock-down easier. Here is a photo of the trestles broken down for storage/transport:

Components of a single trestle.

The material for all the components is poplar. The legs and top were cut from 8/4 rough material. The stretchers are 3/4″ thick with 3/8″ tenons. The top stretcher is glued in at the top, and pinned in place with 4 oak dowels. The lower stretcher is glued and also pinned in place. The back leg is 1 1/2″ square.

Assembled trestle. I the top is upside-down – the chamfers should be facing the floor. This is to prevent hitting a sharp corner if you reach under the table top.

The table top was constructed by gluing up poplar boards, and is 7/8″ thick. The ends are oak breadboards to resist warping (the darker wood in the top photo). There are two 1 3/4″ thick battons attached to the underside of the table. When in use, wooden dowels are run through the battons into the top of the trestles to keep the table top from shifting.

Breadboard end on the table top. Oak was used for the breadboard to better resist warping.

Here are some photos to illustrate how the front legs were constructed.

After the stretchers were mortised into the legs, before parts were cut to the final shapes. You can see how the top tenons were laid out on the rectangular legs.
A similar photo, after the legs were tapered, showing the layout of the tenons on the upper stretcher. Note the stretcher tenons are perpendicular to the inner face of the legs which is not tapered.

Before final assembly, the stretcher pieces and legs were finished with an outdoor-safe finish. The stretcher tenons were pinned in place with oak dowels with a slight amount of draw-boring. After the legs were glued up, the top board was marked for the square tenons. These tenons were drilled and then evacuated for tight fit to reduce racking. After both trestles were completed, they were positioned on the table top such that the outermost legs were lined up with the edge of the table. The battons were installed on the underside of the top, and the dowel holes lined up with the top board of the trestles, which were drilled and fit for the connecting dowels.

Three furniture projects for an outdoor kitchen: knock-down cooler chest.

Three furniture projects

In the Summer of 2019, plans were made for a 14th century deed of arms to be held in the late Spring of 2020. My friend Casey asked if I would be interested in helping prepare hospitality for the knights captured during the day. We planned to try our hand at not only producing documented recipes with proper presentation but hoped to run our camp kitchen using 14th century procedures and technology.

As part of that effort, I resolved to create some furniture to enhance the period appearance of our kitchen encampment. I started on designing three pieces in September of 2019 after discussing plans with Casey at Pennsic. The requirements were to build pieces with period appearance that could also be broken down for transport to this and other, future, events.

The first piece would be a chest to conceal a modern plastic cooler. I’d built a cooler chest many years ago based on this article at bloodandsawdust.com. That initial chest has served me at Pennsic and other events for many years. It is not really based on any particular period example, and was sized for a 60 qt Coleman cooler, with very little extra space once the cooler was placed inside. The lid, front and back were dimensional lumber pine boards, with plywood sides and floor. I used the panel brackets from Lee Valley that were shown in the Blood and Sawdust post. Unfortunately, they are no longer available.

First cooler chest in 2010, with its own rain/sun awning.
The new cooler chest

For the medieval kitchen project, I thought I’d build a chest that was more closely based on a period example. I turned to Die gotischen Truhen der Lüneburger Heideklöster, a book describing the chests (Truhen) of the six con-
vents of the Lüneburg Heath – Walsrode, Ebstorf, Lüne, Isenhagen, Medingen, and Wienhaus. The particular chest I chose to base my version on was chest number 212 from Kloster Wienhausen dated to about 1300. Here are images from the book of the front and interior of the chest:

Truhe TR-NR 212
Interior or Truhe 212

Here is an article about chests from Isenhagen from the St. Thomasguild blog:

Article about similar chests from St. Thomas Guild: https://thomasguild.blogspot.com/2012/12/medieval-chests-from-kloster-isenhagen.html

Finally, an image from the Kloster Wienhausen web page showing the variety of chest at the convent:


My approach was to copy the construction details of the original to the greatest extent possible while designing the chest to be dis-assemblable for transport. I also chose to make the chest out of tulip poplar. Poplar is much lighter than oak (the material for the original chest), readily available in central Pennsylvania from my preferred hardwood dealer (Alderfer Lumber, Mt. Pleasant Mills, PA) in a variety of thicknesses.

I’m not going to do a full construction journal here, but the gist of the design is that the front and back are one assembly, the sides are panels with narrower rabbet that fits into grooves in the front and back legs. The lid is removable, with wooden cross-beams (or cleats) that form an integral hinge with the back legs. The floor of the chest is removable and made from plywood. The floor of these cooler chests is subject to the most abuse – there’s always some leakage or condensation from the cooler, and the floor is kept enclosed and covered, so there’s a possibility of mold and mildew buildup. This means it should be as replaceable as possible, thus plywood construction with a heavy coat of varnish for protection.

I did not include the carving decoration or the piercing of the front legs in my design, but those could be done/added at any time in the future. There’s also no lock set on the chest, as I’m not planning on putting anything of real value into it. Strap hinges were added to the top for decoration – some of the other chests from Lüneburg had strap hinges in addition to the wooden hinges. Having seen this style of wooden hinge fail on other chests (both modern and period) the strap hinges were mounted such that they can be used as the real lid hinges in the future by adding another strap down the back leg.

Here’s my cooler chest broken down for transport:

All the component parts of the cooler chest, which take up relatively little space for transport.

Here’s the front panel:

The center panel is mortised into grooves on the edges of the legs, and pinned into place with oak dowels.

Here’s a view of the wooden hinge joint:

Wooden hinge with a wooden dowel hinge pin. I will replace that with a steel pin before the chest is used in the field.
Hinge detail – note that for this to work, the back of the legs and center panel have to be curved to match the radius of the lid travel. A minor detail that is not called out on the construction details of the original chest.
Assembled chest with the lid raised. The wooden hinge limits how far the lid will open. You can also see how the lid cleats/cross beams will fit into the recesses in the front legs and the clenched nails holding the strap hinges in place.
The connecting hardware that keeps the sides in place. These are Rockler surface-mount bed rail brackets, Item #38892. They work great for this application.
Interior of the chest showing the removable floor. The semi-circular cutout is for a drainage hose from the plastic cooler, and the corners are notched to clear the brackets that hold the chest together.

The next blog post will detail the work table and trestles.

Three Scandinavian Chests – Construction details of Oseberg 178 and Hedeby sea chest

These more-or-less self-contained Mästermyr instructions will take you through the steps of laying out and constructing the trapezoidal-style chest.

In this section, I’m going to discuss some of the differences between the 3 historical chests, and some overall design considerations for construction.

Oseberg 178.
This is the simplest of the 3 chests for several reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the archeological drawings and photographs.

Conservation drawingFigure 6 – conservation drawings for Oseberg 178.

Figure 7 – zoom in of conservation drawing of the end of the Oseberg chest 178, along with a photograph of the end of the chest.

Figure 8 – photo of the bottom of the chest.

Things to note with this chest – as will all 3 of these chests, the bottom of the front and back is flush with the bottom of the floor of the chest. There is a very shallow rabbet along the sides which can easily be skipped in construction. It’s also not shown in Figure 7, so the conservation drawings are not clear. The simplifying detail is the joint between the sides and the ends of the chest – the notch in the ends corresponds to the bottom of the sides, therefore no notch is needed in the sides – they are just plain trapezoidal pieces. There is also a shallow dado in the ends to house the floor, but unlike the other two chests, it does not have to be “blind,” so if you choose to cut this in, it’s much easier to create.

Now, let’s look at a drawing of the Hedeby sea-chest:

Figure 9 – Hedeby Sea-Chest drawing from Crumlin-Pedersen. Note the drawing is scaled, so the ruler was included in the scan to pull dimensions from the drawing.

The major difference with this chest and the Mästermyr chest is the lack of rabbets on the front and back boards to mate with the ends, and the design of those side boards that dip below the floor of the chest at the ends

Figure 10 – Photo of the chest from the museum.

Here’s a link to my older handout on building the Mastermyr style chest.   This will walk you through construction of the slightly more complicated chest.

Three Scandinavian Chests materials of construction

All three original chests are made of oak. None of the sources list any particular type of oak.  We can assume as North American woodworkers that our white oak (Quercus alba) would be closest in appearance and mechanical properties to sessile oak (Quercus petraea), the common oak of the old world. This video will show you how to compare the properties of different woods if you would like to use a different species.

It’s entirely possible to build the chest from pre-surfaced lumber (sold as s4s, or surfaced 4 sides). The big box stores sell poplar and red oak in addition to pine as “dimensional” lumber. perhaps other woods – I’m in central PA, so your stores may be different.  Dimensional lumber from the home center is sold by nominal size. A one by six is actually ¾’s of an inch by 5 ½ inches. Keep this in mind when you are sizing your chest.  If you have a local lumberyard (not a builder’s supply place, but a real hardwood lumber dealer) you may be able to find other species sold s4s.

If you want to purchase rough-sawn wood and surface it yourself, you should know that rough lumber is sold via a volumetric measure called “board-feet.” A 12” wide board that is 1” thick is one board-foot per foot of length. Other sizes will vary in how many board-feet per linear foot, but it comes out to 144 cubic inches of wood per board-foot. Also, standard thicknesses are expressed as quarters of an inch. A board that is nominally 1” thick is sold a 4/4, or four quarters. A two-inch thick board would be 8/4 and so on. I have never been to a lumber dealer that had less than 4/4 stock, although they may have thinner stuff surfaced (usually sold for drawer sides). Lumber yards that surface some of their stock on 2 faces (S2S) generally plane the wood down to about 7/8″, but still charge the piece at the 4/4 price.

Cuts of hardwoods – plain sawn vs. rift. vs quarter-sawn

There are also grades of hardwoods that are a measure of the amount of clear (no knots or checks) wood in the board on the best face. Generally, the most expensive is FAS (Firsts And Seconds) which will have the highest % of clear, knot or check free wood.   Some lumberyards will carry #1 or #2 common, which can have a significant percentage of flaws – up to 50%, but can be very nice “character” wood.   If you go to a lumberyard, be prepared to admit your ignorance, and ask for help.  If it’s the kind of place where you can sort through a stack of lumber to find just the boards you want, please be considerate and re-stack the pile after you’ve pulled your boards.

Finally, the most authentic method to make one of these chests is to find a freshly-felled log of oak, and rive (or split) out billets that you would then plane down into boards to make the boxes. For a zealot’s outlook on this process, see this blog article for an outline of the process and some reasons why this would be the best wood to use.

If you want to make your chest larger than the boards you have available, you will have to edge-glue two or more boards together to make the raw material for construction. This is a bit of a specialized task, but just requires that you have a way to make a square, smooth edge and lots of clamps.

For fasteners, the Mästermyr chest is held together with wooden pegs, and the Oseberg chest is nailed together. Hardwood dowels for pegs are pretty easy to find, but check and make sure they are sized correctly. If they are a little small, they won’t have any holding power, if too large you may split your boards when you pound them in. Best to drill a test board, and take that to the store with you to check the size range before you buy. Reproduction period nails are available here or here.

There are several blacksmiths both in and out of the SCA who make reproduction hinges for Viking chests. Here is one source – scroll to near the bottom of the page.

Three Scandinavian Chests what tools do I need to build them?

Of course, this is all my opinion. I’m primarily a hybrid woodworker, that is I’m comfortable using both hand tools and power tools. I find that in building these chests in a reasonable time the table saw and drill press are invaluable. That being said, I have made several with only hand tools. It takes a little longer,  but it can be done. I’ve provided links as of January, 2018 to tools that I own or recommend. As with anything woodworking – you mileage may vary.

Wood preparation

a) For rough-sawn lumber,  you’ll need some way to surface the wood smooth. There are many videos, books and magazine articles that will walk you through this process. For hand-tool work it involves stepping through several sized planes to achieve a smooth finish. For power-tool work, a jointer and planer are the tag-team needed to take rough-sawn stock to flat, smooth and square.
b) A saw of some sort. Probably 2 at least. For cutting boards to length, you’ll need a saw for effective cross-cuts. You will also probably want a rip-cut saw to make smooth cuts along the grain of the wood. There is tons of information online about saws and sawing, some of it even worthwhile.
c) A block plane to clean up the end grain. Even if you buy pre-surfaced wood, a block plane is indispensable for smoothing the end grain of the chest sides and ends, planing the angle on the chest ends before marking, and cleaning up the joinery after assembly. This could all be done with a sander or sanding block, but it will take much longer than using a plane. Lee Valley makes a very nice low-angle block plane. For about ½ the Lee Valley money you can get a WoodRiver block plane from Woodcraft.

Marking and Measuring.

a) The goal is to minimize the measuring, but you’ll need at least a ruler or yardstick longer than the longest dimension of the chest. A tape measure will work, but is less accurate and cannot be used to guide a marking knife. A small (6”) rule and/or square is invaluable.
b) Pin-type marking gauge. Especially if you’re going to use oak or ash. The pin-type is best for ring-porous woods. A knife-type marking gauge could be used on pine or tight-grained woods such as poplar and cherry. If you think you’ll be doing other woodworking in the future, a gauge that has both dual pins for mortise and tenon work and a single pin will come in handy.
c) Marking knife. This can be as simple as a box cutter. A knife with one flush surface will be the easiest to use to transfer dimensions. Woodcraft sells a reasonably priced marking knife, as does Ron Hock. There are several companies that sell marking knives for vast sums of money if you need something to spend your paycheck on.
d) Pencil. Perfect for rough-marking independent dimensions, and for highlighting a scribed line if your eyesight isn’t up to 20/20.
e) A bevel gauge. As I’ll explain in the construction section, the inclined angle of the ends of the chest sets a number of other measurements during construction. A good quality sliding bevel gauge can be set to the desired angle at the beginning of construction, and used to mark the top and bottom bevel on the ends, and the angle of cut at the ends of the front and back. It can also serve as a visual reference while chiseling out the end mortises. Even the very good quality Shinwa that I use is only about $25.00.


a) Some chisels will be needed. A medium-sized (3/4” or so – wider than your thickest board) chisel for cleanup, and a narrower (1/4” or 3/8”) chisel for cleaning up or excavating the mortises in the end boards. I really like the Ashley Iles bevel-edge chisels from toolsforworkingwood.com. Other good, affordable brands include Two Cherries and Narex.
b) Drill and drill bits – Drilling out the mortise before chiseling is the fastest way to excavate. A Forstner-style bit is the best for this, and they can be used carefully in a hand drill or brace. A drill press with a table will give the best results with minimal practice. A bit to drill out for the wooden pegs or pilot holes for nails will also be needed. Although a brad point bit will give the cleanest holes, any style bit will work for the fasteners.
c) A joinery saw. If you are roughing out your parts with a hand saw or power saw, you will still need a saw to do some of the fine joinery. This could be a western or Japanese saw. Toolsforworkingwood’s Gramery crosscut (carcase) saw is amazing, but expensive. Lee Valley makes a carcass saw that’s about 1/3 the price of the Gramercy, but still very good.
d) Work holding. Some way to clamp the pieces securely while cutting or drilling.
e) A good hammer – both for adjusting, and for driving pegs or nails.

Next up: Materials for construction

Three Scandinavian Chests Historical Background

In this and following posts, I’ll be discussing the construction of 3 different chests found in Scandinavia.   I have chosen these 3 similar chests because of both their similarity and their differences.  The Mästermyr chest is the most sophisticated in construction, and has the most complete and secure lock.  The Oseberg chest (No. 178) is the simplest construction, and has surviving hinges and a lock-plate.   The Haithabu (Hedeby) chest is a blend of the two other chests, and is a convenient sized to reproduce at full size.   It’s also decorated with incised lines, so it looks spiffy.

Mästermyr chest, displayed as found

The best documented and studied of the three is the Mästermyr chest found in 1936 in Snoder, Sproge on the isle of Gotland in Sweden.   It was pulled out of a field by a farmer while plowing, and preserved by a local historian.   Details of the chest and related finds are described in Arwidsson and Berg’s The Mästermyr Find (1983).   The date the chest was buried or abandoned is very hard to determine, as there are “few datable features” of either the chest or the tools [Arwidsson, 37].  The best guess, based on some of the tools included in the chest, is that the chest is from the “Viking age,” a time period from 793 to 1066.   Although the chest was found full of tools, it’s doubtful it was originally a tool-chest.  It had been damaged before it was abandoned, so it may have been re-purposed.   The size and shape of the chest make it unwieldy to carry many heavy items.   Based on the thickness of the boards, and the sophistication of the lock, it was probably designed to carry something more valuable than iron tools.

From Arwidsson and Berg, p. 7:

Chest of oak with lock and hinges of iron

The chest is rectangular with a lid curved in cross section and a flat bottom. The bottom is joined to the ends by mortise and tenon joints. The chest is held together by wooden pegs at the ends and sides. The ends and sides are trapezoid and therefore slope inwards at a slight angle. The ends, which are made of a slightly thicker scantling than the sides and bottom, have a rectangular mortise about 4 cm from the lower edge for the tenons of the bottom plank. The lower portion of each end thus forms a raised base.The ends, sides, bottom and lid each seem to have been made from a single piece of wood. The underside of the lid is hollowed out, leaving an oval, trough-like depression. On either side of the depression the underside of the lid is flat, where the original thickness of the plank has been preserved; this provides a good fit against the upper edges of the end planks.the sides are pegged to the ends and the bottom and the bottom is joined by mortise and tenon to the ends; a rectangular tenon at each end of the bottom plank fits into a mortise in the ends. The details of the construction can best be seen in the illustrations.The wood seems less carefully dressed on the inside than on the outside. However, it is difficult to comment on the details of the finish or on any surface treatment of the wood because of its poor condition….Chest: sides 86.0-88.5 x 20.5 x 1.8 cm and 87.5-89.5 x 20.9 x 1.8 cm; ends 22.4-26.2 x 1.8-2.5 x 24.2 cm and 21.5-26.3 x 23.8 x 1.8-2.7 cm; lid 88.5 x 24.0 x 3.2 cm.

The Hedeby sea-chest on display in the museum.

The Hedeby or Haithabu chest – often referred to as a “sea chest”- was discovered in the harbor of Hedeby during excavation of a ship wreck in 1979.   The ship can be closely dated to AD 972, but it’s not 100% clear the chest can be associated with this ship, as it was about ½ a meter deeper in the harbor mud than the ship itself [Kalmring, 282].   Although there are few photos available of the chest, there is a description of its construction:

The chest is composed of six oaken parts, with a slightly curved lid and inclined side panels (Crumlin-Pedersen 1997, p. 141 f; Roesdahl 2003, p. 225 f). It measures 52 cm in length and 23 cm in width and has a height of 27 cm. The longitudinal panels are inserted into notches in the sides. The floorboard is mortised into the side panels and was also nailed up onto the long sides’ lower edges. The vertical parts are decorated with a double line engraving [Kalmring, 282].

The original lock had been broken out of the wood, and a large rock was found in the chest.   This has led Kalmring to suppose that the chest was sunk after the contents were stolen.  It was also suggested that the shape of the chest made it suitable for an oarsman’s bench.   The only issue I have with this interpretation is the height of the chest (23 cm or just over 9 inches) makes it much too short to sit on comfortably.

Oseberg chest 178

The third chest was discovered in the Oseberg burial mound at Tønsberg (100 Km southwest of Oslo, Norway) during excavations in 1904 to 1905.   The interment of the ship in the mound dates from AD 834, but many of the goods were dated to earlier than this.  A detailed archeological report (Osebergfundet) was produced in 1917 to 1928, but no further editions were ever published, so information on the construction details of the chest are hard to come by.  Fortunately, http://www.unimus.no  now hosts many of the conservation drawings and photographs of the artifacts from the Oseberg find.   There were 3 nearly complete chests found.  Chest 149 was the largest, and bound in iron strips.   Chest 156 is similar to 149, but only the ends and one side were found.   Chest 178 was mostly intact, with hinges and the hasp and lock plate still attached.   I chose 178 to re-produce due to the simplicity of the construction, and the pleasing proportions.

Description from Osebergfundit:

Chest 178, p. 121-124 is similarly of oak but without mountings on the sides (fig. 68).  The bottom, all the sides, and the lid are preserved, the latter, however, being somewhat damaged.  Its construction about the same as the two foregoing [Chests 149 and 156].  The length at the upper edge is 62 cm, at the bottom 66.3 cm.  The width of the side pieces is 24 cm at the bottom and, originally, 21 cm at the top.  The height is 31 cm.  Two iron hinges have been mounted in the centre of the back longitudinal side.  These consist of simple iron clasps made of slender, flat, iron rods.  In front, about the centre of the upper edge, an elongated four-sided mounting of sheet iron has served for a lock.  The lock spring, which was of iron, was fixed in a narrow opening.  A stopper which is now missing, belonging to the spring, was fixed just inside the keyhole.  When it was required t open the chest the key was placed in the keyhole and the stopper forced aside.  The spring was thus free to turn through the passage and to follow the lid when lifted.

Next post: what tools do you need to build these chests?
—–Gille MacDhnouill, November 2017

Frame Saw Build

The first project I want to share is a build of a medieval-style frame saw.   One of my long-term goals is to have a toolkit of passably medieval tools that I can use at SCA demos.

Here are a couple of links to the source images that I used to create the initial design: schreiner (Schreiner) and Schreiner

This one presents the most detail for the saw:
Amb. 317.2° Folio 21 recto (Mendel I)

Next, I’ll show you what I did with the image to produce a plan to build the saw.

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