GUEST POST – Ander’s Toy Chest / Entry Bench – Fir – 2013

This is the second guest post featuring my brother Brian and the explosion of creative energy happening in his thoroughly disorganized garage somewhere in north Portland (see this link for the first post or see our joint projects: music boxes and kitchen table).  Also, my nephew is cute.


By Brian Rae for Ander and Laura Rae

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Initially this project started as a bench for guests to put on their shoes in my tiny entrance to our house. It slowly morphed from a simple bench with screws to a craftsman bench/ chest for additional seating and to proactively take on rogue toys. I based the design, believe it or not from a This Old House garden bench. I really liked the simple look and use of two boards on the sides for maximum air flow (its damp in Portland). I decided on fir once again and found some beautiful barn fir from Salvage Works which after a few hours of planing (even with a power planar!) showed its beauty.

After the planning the real bulk of this project was in the joinery as there were 8 through mortise and tenons and 8 standard mortise and tenons. This gave me some great practice using the router initially then carving out the reminds by chisel. Using an old router without a fence or gauge proved challenging though I managed to make it through with only 2 mortises having real damage. The tenons were all cut by hand using the wonderful Veritas saws courtesy of a work trade with Matt.

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The real joy in this project was figuring out where to place each piece of fir. There is so much character in the reclaimed wood, especially in knots, splits and colour, I was trying to hide some portions and proudly display others. I suppose in the end the the small characteristics are only noticeable to me.

After cutting the back and laminated the lid the real do or die moment was the fitting and gluing. Thankfully I had Adam’s help and a great tip from Matt to aid me. Initially the right back leg formed a major split during the fitting process, we were able to save it quickly with glue and a team of small clamps. Next with a shop of only 4 usable large clamps I used a pegging system to hold the tenons in the mortise for the gluing period. This worked extremely well thought it was tricky to set the piece square. However I think the pegging brings about some great contrast.

My last few projects have been more on the rustic side, I think partially to my hatred of Ryobi sander that lives in my shop. I finally bit the bullet and bought a Dewalt and rocked the sanding on this project, I listened to all of Dan Boeckner’s music on headphones and sanded non stop. It really came together beautifully and with a few coats of amber stain it is now popping my living room. The major flaw is that the lid is not exactly square, this was due to working with non square lumber and some careless table saw work. But as I say to Matt, I am the only one who sees the imperfection and I am doing the project a disservice by highlighting it!

Needless to say Laura and Ander are happy with the new bench!

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– Brian Rae

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