Making an 'old' chest

Hi,     I'm going to knock up a small chest (blanket chest type thing) and thought I'd try and make something medieval looking rather than something new, so:
Does anyone know any sources for old looking iron handles/hasps/hinges that sort of thing (I'm sure there's a proper name for that stuff)?
I will probably try and get some reclaimed timber but has anyone got any hits for 'distressing' it once I've found some. I seem to remember from Lovejoy that they used to rub cigarette ash into the wood and whip it with chains to bash it about a bit. Anyone got any more subtle ideas?
FWIW this is just a bit of furniture for me so as long as it looks good superficially I don't mind if it won't pass inspection down at the Antiques auction.
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Not sure whether it would be big enough - if you know anyone with a Makro card - and if they have any left - but they were doing a nice leather topped chest set out as a hamper, i`ve thrown a pic online here:
http://www.phoenixbbs.dsl.pipex.com/chest.jpg
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Burn the outer layer of wood with a blowlamp and wire brush it then sand it. Stain it then scrape the stain off unevenly then put accidental stains on it. Use the chain as a rasp not a whip.
The science of antiquing is a lot different from the art of having fun with bits of wood. You could write a paper on it. Knowing where the furniture would wear most and how the type of wood would deform over centuries and all that, the sort of things it would have had used on it and in it is a detective story off Channel 5.
Get some mild steel hinges and snip the corners off and file them round. You could drill and file fancy shapes into them for the second box. You will know what you want more clearly after you have had the first one hanging around a while.
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Chris Blythman, 01584 878591, will hand make any ironwork to your specification, from Roman to Arts & Crafts. He's the best craftsman and most authentic there is.
Mary
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wrote:

Here's a six-board chest I made last year - it's about as simple as they get http://codesmiths.com/shed/furniture/6board.htm
Here's my latest chest, a coffered lid and wrapped in oilcloth (which was more trouble to make than the box itself) http://codesmiths.com/shed/things/boxes/sarah /
My next chest will be a clamp-front ark in riven oak, but I need to go out and fell a tree first. Riving (splitting) the timber rather than sawing it needs it to be green.
A really good book on chests is "Treasure Chests" by Lon Schleining <(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
Most of the battle in making a good repro is in choosing the right joinery (and much of the rest is the right timber). You also have the problem that many old chests simply used wide boards, but this sort of timber is no longer available. We often need to use narrow timber, either assembling it into wide boards (which might be less stable) or by using joinery that works with narrow boards instead of wide.
The first chests were hollowed logs, with a flat lid (probably a nightmare with central heating).
Then came simple six-board chests. The grain of the sides and ends runs horizontally all around. They could be butted and nailed (not in period, as nails were expensive), pegged (bamboo barbecue skewers are easy), open tenoned (Japanese or Norse work) or dovetailed (late medieval onwards).
A variant of the six-board that's more common in colonial America than medieval Europe turns the ends vertically and makes them longer, so as to make feet. The corners are now cross-grained, so they can have problems with cracking. Use a small number of large cut nails, don't glue it, don't use green timber and you should be OK.
The next stage was the clamped-front, which was in use for the longest period around the Welsh borders. This is a transitional stage between the footed six-board and the framed panel. Narrow vertical board legs appear in the front, with the horizontal panels between them set into a groove in the edge.
The "ark" is a variant on the chest that's usually in period with the clamp front, but they also appear as boarded or frame and panel. Instead of a flat lid it has a three-board trough with flat end boards. No-one knows why, they're reported as either being flour-storage chests with attached bread-mixing trugs, or as rain-shedding roofs for travelling.
The beginnings of "joinery" (as opposed to mere carpentry) were in developing the clamped front into a framed panel. Four narrow side members are assembled into a frame and a wide thin-edged panel is held inside this frame by grooving the inner edges. The panel isn't a tight fit, so it can expand and contrct with moisture. For chests, there are typically three panels in a long side and one or two in each end. Some designs frame all sides of the panels to make a side, then support this between the corner legs, others use the leg itself to make a part of the frame.

Medieval chests didn't generally have much (if any) ironwork. Smaller chests used leather strap hinges, larger and later ones used "snipe's bill" hinges, which look like two entwined split-pins. The "classic" strap hinge has as much relation to Hollywood as anything else.
An easy way to make strap hinges is to get a pair of garden-gate "tee" hinges, grind off the black paint and hot-oil blacken them. A light pummeling with a ball pein hammer makes them look entirely unrealistic! Go easy on this fake forgery, unless you're familiar with the real stuff (and then use the slightly-rounded face of a lump hammer, not a ball pein).
Locks were barely heard of on most chests, especially the "Treasure Island" strap hasp and padlock. Most chests collected a morticed lock later in history, but this is almost entirely hidden inside and there's just a keyhole visible, not even an escutcheon. A common style of lock here is to have three separate locks on a large chest belonging to a church, so that it could only be opened by all the churchwardens together.
For a medieval "strongbox", the ironwork was as much framing as it was a simple applied lock. There's no point in a lock when you can still open the box with an axe. "Armada chests" are post-medieval, but they're a good example of the type - the entire lid is filled with a complex lock mechanism. These aren't easy to replicate though - a huge amount of work. Lockable strongboxes of the period are also smaller than the typical blanket chest - you have to be able to move it, when full of coin..
If there are handles, then they're rarely more than an oval loop of round bar, split on the long side and the ends bent out at a right angle. They make a hinge stop for when you lift the loop.
Apart from some hugely expensive American repro handles, http://www.period1.com/colframe.htm there's not much around in good period ironwork. Lee Valley do some useful small hinges and some good locks, but even they over-do the fake hammerwork on some of them. Generally I prefer to make my own ironwork.

First of all, even medieval chests used to be new once. What effect are you after here ? SCA re-enactor style "period newness", the current blackened look of an original chest, or the intermediate "attractively old" look that the 1900 Crafstman movement tried to create.
Medieval chests were often highly painted, especially the "cassone" styles. Morris and Rossetti made some interesting reproductions of these in the mid-19th century.
For getting an accurate reproduction of old work, the first thing is to use the right timber. English work was oak, Scandinavian used the sort of slow-grown pine that's now almost impossible to find. American colonial period may have used almost anything. Don't just go out and buy joinery whitewood (hemlock or spruce), as it's a pain to work with and it looks lousy when finished. If you must buy new from a modern yard, try and find something decent.
For the really dark "old jacobean" you have to use oak, no question. Then finish it with 25% ammonia (any decent ironmonger) applied wet on a paper towel (work outdoors) and left to ebonise for a few hours. A few days to dry out, then finish with beeswax polish. Polish every day for a fortnight, using a real furniture brush and buff it like crazy.
For the Craftsman style, oak is again appropriate. Use ammonia fuming, but do it with the vapour in a tent, not the liquid (web search for any number of how-to guides). Finish with wax over oil, or shellac over oil for a higher gloss.
Steelwork should be polished, then browned (a controlled rusting by leaving it somewhere warm and damp for a week), then blackened. You can blacken it with an instant patina wax (Liberon do one) or by repeatedly heating it with a blowtorch and wiping it with old engine oil on some denim (wear leather gloves and expect small fires).
For real originality, avoid screws and use either nails or rivets.

The antiques trade is full of orange-skinned jerks who couldn't make a piece to save their miserable bouffant hairdos. Just avoid this sort of con-man "patination"
There are plenty of powders you can use to work patina onto wood. Pumice, rottenstone, brickdust, tripoli, whiting, all have their part. Basically you need all of them, all of the liquid or wax finishes too, then disappear for a couple of years while you experiment. Remember to experiment on samples though, or else you're experimenting on the real thing.
Personally I'd suggest using the right timber, then finishing it with wax over oil. Use a hard furniture wax (Liberon's Black Bison range is a good start), not a wax polish. From that point, and regular waxing with a stiff furniture brush, it'll build a genuine patina.
But use rottenstone on old canvas or denim, if you want something to play with that's not too crass.
Some ideas for simple repro http://www.albionworks.net/chests.html
Gustav Stickley shirtwaist of 1900
http://www.daltons.com/gusbch.jpg
Boarded and clamp-front http://www.greydragon.org/furniture/laneham/index.htm
Arks: http://www.early-oak.fsnet.co.uk/Arks.htm http://www.antiquesandfineart.com/articles/article.cfm?request
Reliquaries http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/casket.htm
American collectible trunks (might give you some ideas) http://www.thisoldtrunk.com/showcase/extendedshow/extended_showcase.htm
Medieval Woodworking Resources http://www.medievalwoodworking.com/furnpage.htm http://cls.coe.utk.edu/mcnutt/SCA/portfolio/woodworking/default.htm http://moas.atlantia.sca.org/topics/wood.htm
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Didn't I say you could write a paper on the subject?
By the way if you live near enough to France to drive to their supermarket consider doing a tour of their timberyards.
British oaks are either very expensive or firewood. Mostly firewood. Over in France the population is similar in size to ours and has much more room to grow timber. Or is it that they just grew it over their battlefields for safety? Ammo from a war over a century ago is still killing farmers there.
Anyway the point is you can import it ready barked and all. Carrying a few green boards on a car roof rack would be a snip.
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On Thu, 1 Jan 2004 07:29:45 +0000 (UTC), "Michael McNeil"

Do you mean those at places like Castorama, Leroy Merlin, Bricomarche etc. or specific timber places?

Well they do have trees along the sides of the roads so that the Germans can march in the shade..... ;-)

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On Thu, 1 Jan 2004 07:29:45 +0000 (UTC), "Michael McNeil"

You're buying from the wrong places. www.interestingtimbers.co.uk are offering sawn oak of about the right size for 5 / board foot

I don't know what the current legal status of French import timber is, but I'd expect (and hope !) that's it's now on the "seize at customs" list. Sudden Oak Death is threatening to be a real problem and uncontrolled overseas shipping of green timber isn't the sort of thing we should be doing right now.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

What about fully seasoned ? Or does it need to be properly kilned ?
Steve
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Steve wrote:

Why not just find a decent supplier of oak - and let them take care of the importation and kilning?
My current prces from local suppliers for oak are about 20 quid a cubic foot,
or 28-35 quid a square meter for floor board stuff dependent on quality and amount of machining.
Green or seasoned.
If you are in north herts/south cambs the place is Whippletree Hardwoods, between Fowlmere and Barley I think.

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wrote:

If it's dry, it should be OK - but I'm not an arborist or mycologist

Why would I want it either importing or (especially) kilning ? For most of my current oak stash, I could take you back to the wood it was felled in.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

Sorry - because I thought you were an oak chest maker, not a timber yard? :-)

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screwfix do new copies. you could distress them. Or visit your local building scrappie. Or get some big hinges and an angle grinder and make your own patterns, with a small file to get any sharp corners in.

roll it down the stairs. Pour tea and coffee over it. Slam it against a rough surfaced wall. Use a hand rasp to round the edges, but dont do it evenly. Even better use some scrap wood. Then after all that, give it a nice finish. Be sure to use some slighly warped wood strips.

If you make it the same way using the same materials you can make something good.
Regards, NT
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N. Thornton wrote:

Just use an axe to rough cut it, mark edges with a block of wood whacked..., and generally distrees with bike chain in a towel.

Mmm.
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wrote:

Another ironware supplier (a bit more rustic than most - worth visiting, if you're near Ross on Wye) http://www.arciron.com/aboutus.html
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Thanks for all the replies. You have certainly made me realise I didn't know what I was talking myself into by starting this. Its been fascinating seeing the huge variety of chests that have been described so I'm gonna have a look at some of the pictures & plans and pick something to have a go at. Thanks also for the tips on distressing and obtaining the metalwork. If the first one turns out any good I think I might have a go at another one.
M:
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