Now that we’ve finally finished up my exhaustive coverage of our Fall vacation, I’ll jump back to recent history for our next story. Last week was Christmas, and I always have trouble thinking of a good gift for my wife Mary Anne. She was helpful this year, giving me the hint that she needed a new jewelry box. It’s not that she’s the Imelda Marcos of jewelry, it’s just that she’s been making do with a mixture of an old wood jewelry box, along with several small cardboard boxes. She is always wasting precious time in the morning looking for the matching earring, or, heaven forbid, asking me to help untangle two necklaces that have become intertwined.
I considered her request for a few days, she obviously needed a bigger box, along with more drawers to help keep things segregated. I came up with a great idea, revamping an old machinist’s chest. I had actually heard of folks doing this before, as at several auctions I had been to, women (or sometimes their husbands) had been energetically bidding on machinist’s chests for this very purpose. I didn’t have time to wait for an auction to find one, but luckily I had several floating around my shop to choose from. Most of them were steel, and wouldn’t be that great appearance wise. I had one wooden one, but it was an old vinyl-covered one and it was pretty beat up. It was rough on the outside, the hardware was rusty and the felt inside the drawers was in tatters. Also unluckily it had taken a header off the bench at one point and several of the drawers were broken. But other than that it was perfect and I figured that I could put it back together and fix it up, after all I had a week before the big day.
First I took it all apart, stripping all the old felt out and removing the knobs and drawers. I carefully glued and clamped all the drawers back together. Unfortunately sometime in the last 20 years that I’ve had it, one of the broken drawer sides came up missing. I had to get my friend Paul to plane down a piece of wood to make a matching new side out of. He came up with a piece of wood that was just the right size, and I trimmed it on the table saw to get the right notches and grooves in it. Once I glued it all together and stained the piece to match, you could not tell the difference. I then re-lined the drawers and top compartment with new emerald green felt.
I painted the whole box with satin black paint to cover up the worst of the age related wear and it looked OK. The knobs and hardware I painted a contrasting silver. The front of the drawers were natural oak, and I cleaned and waxed them with furniture polish. I let it dry and then assembled the whole kit and caboodle. The last item was to attach a small mirror inside the top for a finishing touch. It had a whole day to dry before I had to box and wrap it for Christmas. Mary Anne liked it just fine once the new paint fumes dissipated and she came up with a good idea to add some hooks to hang things on inside the top. Now all I’ve got to do is clean up the mess I made, at the Old Hardware Store…