The more I work with cherry, the more I grow to love it. It doesn't normally have wild figure or great color contrasts, but I love the grain of the wood and the color it has. It frequently has small knots surrounded by interesting grain patterns and I try to work these into the design. This is a largish jewelry chest with a drawer as well as a lift out tray.
For this piece I went back to the single curve sculpted sides and top that I've been using and refining for quite awhile. The final dimensions are about 11" l x 9" w x 11" h. The width of the dovetails and their spacing varies with the final thickness of the wood (after shaping).
To make a box like this, I first draw the final curve I want on the ends of the board. Then I lay out the dovetails following the curve and the eventual thickness of the wood. I then cut the dovetails by hand as if I were making a square box. Before the final fitting of the dovetails, I saw the ends of the boards on the bandsaw following the drawn curve. Once the dovetails are fit, I glue the box up. It looks really ugly at this point.
I shape the box using a variety of handtools - a scrub plane, drawknife, and several spokeshaves. I find it best to work around the different sides, taking off about the same amount of material with each pass. A lot of time is spent eyeballing the different sides to make them match. Eventually I switch to rasps and files to remove the rough marks left by the previous tools and the box gradually starts to look pretty good. I usually let the box sit overnight several times and come back for final inspections - checking how the curves on the various sides match up. It's surprising what you can miss from one day to the next.
For the final smoothing, I resort to an electric random orbital sander. I don a face mask, turn on my shop air filter and spend at least a couple of dusty and noisy hours getting a final smooth finish on the wood.
This chest has both a lift out tray at the top and a lower drawer. I take great care in laying out the dovetails to allow for the drawer while at the same time varying their size and spacing to match the thickness of the curved sides. Fitting the drawer to perfectly match the curve of the front of the box is a very time consuming operation.
One of the kicks I get out of working with cherry for sculpted boxes is the way the grain ends up on the final piece. On the side of this piece the grain looks almost like a bulls eye target. It's difficult (for me, anyway) to predict the final look.
The drawers and tray have thin interlocking dividers and the bottoms and the bottom of the main compartment are line with velvet.
The grain on the box top also ended up with striking pattern - this after starting with a fairly ordinary piece of wood.
The drawer handle is made from cocobolo:
It consists of four interlocking pieces, cut and fit by hand in another highly time consuming operation. I usually do handles and knobs when the piece is almost finished. It's kind of relaxing to spend a few hours with handsaws and carving tools making these. Sometimes I goof them up, and then I'm not so relaxed anymore.
The finish is French-polished orange shellac. The orange shellac darkens the cherry a bit and highlights the natural color, although I expect this piece will darken quite a bit more naturally over time. Eventually it should be a rich reddish brown color.
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