Locking Jewelry Chest


This piece was commissioned as a Christmas present by "Jeff" for his wife. It was lucky he began talking with me around July, because I finished it a few weeks before Christmas. (I'm not always this slow.)

The design was a collaborative effort between Jeff and myself. He started with some requirements from his wife. The piece had to have a lock on it. She needed to be able to hang necklaces in some way and she wanted it to hold a good quantity of jewelry. 

I suggested a design based on the Pagoda chest with a locking door on the front of the cabinet. Necklaces could be hung from pegs on the rear of the door. Jeff liked this idea and I sent him some sketches. Then we got into wood choices and he settled on flame birch in a cherry stand. He wanted there to be less contrast between the birch and the cherry than the natural wood colors would have, so I agreed to stain the birch a little darker. This would highlight the figure in the birch and there still would be some color contrast between the two woods.


Jeff liked the overall style of the "Pi" chest pictures I sent him, but he wanted a lighter, more delicate look, so I adjusted the proportions accordingly. The challenge for me was the locking door. I 'd never installed a lock before and accurately fitting a door with high quality knife hinges requires painstaking work. There were also some wrinkles with the design to allow the door to open freely without hitting the frame and to allow the drawers to be removed.

The picture above doesn't do justice to the figure of the birch, but you can see the oval grain pattern that I selected for the door panel.

The grain pattern in the cherry top complements that of the door panel and there's even some pretty figure to the cherry.


Here's the back of the door showing the cocobolo pegs I carved for the necklaces to hang on. The door and drawer handles are also carved from cocobolo and the pegs for the mortise and tenon joints in the stand and door are also made from cocobolo.


The drawers have cherry fronts with maple sides and backs. The dividers in the drawer are also made from maple. I varied the number of compartments to accommodate different types of jewelry. The drawer bottoms are lined with dark green velvet.


The back of the cabinet is a frame and panel piece made from maple. The maple has some nice figure in it. I don't finish the backs of pieces as nicely as the show sides, but the back of this piece would have looked nice on the front. The panel is secured in the cabinet with small brass screws. I figure in the event that the piece needs to be repaired (a couple of hundred years from now or so), it will be easier to do so if the back can be easily removed.

This picture shows some details of the necklace pegs. I carve them by hand and they are press fit into drilled holes in the back of the door. My carving is crude enough so they look genuinely hand made. It's time consuming, but I like these little touches. It certainly beats screwing in metal cup holders or similar hardware.

Here's a last look at the chest. I was very happy with the way it turned out. Jeff and his wife were able to pick the piece up in person, and I could tell from their reactions that they were equally pleased. This certainly made my Christmas season a bit more "Merry".