Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 1
   September 2011
   Arched-Top Hope Chest

Arched-top hope chest
The arched top adds design flair and extra storage room.

When designing a chest, it's often a challenge to make something that's different. As is always the case with my furniture, the adage "form follows function" guided my thoughts, as I designed this piece for my client's son. My design called for two main storage areas: a larger upper area to be accessed from the top and a drawer below. The serpentine arched top, the construction of which is the focus of this article, was included after I'd completed the original sketch. It added elegance that I felt was lacking originally. As for the materials, I chose two complementary woods: yellow birch for the body and the drawer and cherry for the arched top, base molding and drawer beading.

Making the Arched Top
Many cabinetmakers build the most complex parts of a piece of furniture before working on everything else. I adopted that method; that's why I elected to tackle the arched top first. Using other chests I'd made as a reference, I settled on the dimensions shown in the sketches.

  Profile pieces
  The profile pieces for the laminating form
Curved panels, such as the one needed for this top, can be made in a number of ways. I chose the vacuum-veneer method, as it would ensure dimensionally-stable panels that could be precisely fitted into the chest top. I have a veneer press, but I could have used clamps in lieu of the vacuum press to hold the laminations in place until they were dry. Other methods call for the use of solid-wood pieces glued together on a form and then shaped by machine or by hand. I am not a fan of solid-wood panels for captured panels, as the likelihood of warping is too high.
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