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chests-msg - 2/27/05


Period Chests. Referances. Making chests in the SCA. These are the large furniture/floor chests. For smaller boxes, see the file caskets-boxes-msg.


NOTE: See also the files: caskets-boxes-msg, chairs-msg, beds-msg, wood-msg, woodworking-msg, tools-msg, wood-bending-msg, wood-finishes-msg, furniture-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: rsmiley at netcom.com (Richard Smiley)

Subject: Re: sea chests information wanted

Date: Sat, 11 Feb 1995 00:45:18 GMT


Dennis VanArsdale <dvanarsd at systema.westark.EDU> wrote:

>I'm looking for some good reference works on sea chests, specifically the

>arched top variety, and most interested in the arched tops that curve

>back up on the outside edges (the stereotypical "pirate's chest" they

>like to dig up or find in movies).  I have some vague references to them but

>nothing with specifics, and no pictures.  I have a contemporary article

>on how to build one, but I'd like the background for it.  Any suggestions

>out there?  I'm doing a woodworking workshop on the last weekend of this

>month, but I'll take this info anytime.


>Ld. Denys de Houtbewerker (Denys the Woodworker, in the tongue of the Low


>mka Dennis G. Van Arsdale

>Shire of Smythkepe, Kingdom of Meridies


Most of the chests that I have seen from period are nothing like the

"camel back" trunk you describe.  There is an arched top chest in some of

the viking boolks that I have seen but it is not a compound arch.  As to

sea chests they tended to be small and flat topped.  The one that I saw

was kind of trapezoidal with no feet.


I wonder, does anyone know if there were some surviving chests from the

Mary Rose?


Malcolm MacPherson, OL

West Kingdom



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: ae775 at cfn.cs.dal.ca (Mila Little)

Subject: sea chests

Organization: Chebucto FreeNet

Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 23:15:12 GMT


When I visited the Mary Rose there was definatly a medicene chest and a

complete set of carpenter's tools but I don't recall if there were any

seamen's chests.


Aelfwyn of Longwood



From: mikes at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu (michael squires)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: sea chests

Date: 22 Feb 1995 00:17:57 GMT

Organization: Indiana University, Bloomington

Summary: other chests


In an exhibition of household artifacts held at the Metropolitan some years

ago were some chests.  Both of the common types were there - the rectangular

ones with flat tops (I'm told that these served double duty as seats, just

like Pennsic) and one with a curved top like the proverbial pirates's chest.


There was one seachest top in the Mary Rose book; it was flat and had a

board game carved into the top.



Michael L. Squires, Ph.D   Manager of Instructional Computing, Freshman Office,

Chemistry Department, IU Bloomington, IN 47405 812-855-0852 (o) 81-333-6564 (h)

mikes at indiana.edu, mikes at ucs.indiana.edu, or mikes at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu



From: folo at prairienet.org (F.L. Watkins)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: sea chests

Date: 22 Feb 1995 04:00:18 GMT

Organization: University of Illinois at Urbana


I dunno how this thread started, but by happenstance last Sunday's

"Woodwright Shop" (at least in our area) had Roy constructing a

seachest. It had a flat lid, angled sides (to fit close to the

side of the ship, Roy suggests) and held together with dovetails.

Another interesting segment you might want to keep your eye out



Yrs, Folo


Damin de Folo - F.L.Watkins - folo at prairienet.org

Baron Wurm Wald (MidRealm) - Commander Baldwin's (NWTA)



From: Dennis VanArsdale (2/14/95)

To: Mark Harris

RE>sea chests information wanted


So far, no useful messages have turned up.



"Make a pirate chest" by Warren Asa, Popular Woodworking,

August/September 1989, vol. 9 no. 2, p. 56+

*** the catch is that you have to deal with a lot of angles on the lid,

to fit them together properly.  I'm thinking of cheating a bit, using

techniques developed for curving boat sides: rout one edge in a curve,

like the side of a dowel, and then rout the next piece with a bull-nose

bit so it curves in, and the pieces fit together in a slightly flexible

unity that could be curved.  Got to experiment to get the depth right on

the female side.  {yes, I cheat on the side of convenience - so sue me! ;)


I will post anything useful received.  You are one of several who have asked.

BTW - have you looked into the Known World Architectural Guild?  The

newsletter "Sacred Spaces" usually has a least one good furniture piece.  

Your kingdom (mine is Meridies) may have a Woodwright's Guild, also.


On Sun, 12 Feb 1995, Mark Harris wrote:

> I'd love to see this article you found. where did you get it? I'm a

> beginning woodworker. Is something like this a possible project for

> me?


> Stefan li Rous

> Barony of Bryn gwlad

> Ansteorra


> >Ld. Denys de Houtbewerker (Denys the Woodworker, in the tongue of the Low

> >Countries)

> >mka Dennis G. Van Arsdale

> >Shire of Smythkepe, Kingdom of Meridies



From: ansteorra at eden.com (3/3/95)

To: ansteorra at eden.com



> > Seriously, there's been very little change in a plain wooden chest for

> > millenia.  Other than going from leather hinges to metal and from wooden pegs

> > to metal nails, they're still pretty much the same.


> I do not know if I will be able to use wooden pegs, but certainly shall

> try. What I am more concerned with is the type of joints to use. Are all

> of the boxes to just be butt joints (ie flat long grain to flat short

> grain?) or am I able to use such things as finger joints? What type of

> fastener to keep them closed? What type of handles? Most importantly,

> where can I look for this information?

There is some information in histories of furniture-making - I have one

(not ready to hand) with some illustrations of 13th-century chests, and

more with each passing century.  

I found the earlier pieces to be surprisingly different, but the

differences aren't so surprising once you think about them: when steel

isn't readily available, woodworking methods would have to avoid

extensive use of saws or planes.  (Not that they didn't exist, but think

about resharpening after every cut...)

Also, when virgin wood is all around, people didn't have to join boards!

What techniques you see would depend on century and class: the stuff that

survives is likely to be the showpieces.  The earlier or lower-class you

go, the more use of hewing techniques (broadax + froe) I would

expect to see.

One of the Frankowski SF books plausibly suggests that burning was used

to make hollow objects (e.g. to make a beehive you split a big log, burn

out the centers of the two sides, then put them back together)

Also, the price of nails was higher when each was made by hand - so not

many were used (trunnels only for the lower classes).


Hope this is of some use! E-mail me direct if you want to get more specific.


Robert Groover

groover at netcom.com

PGP key on request

patents at attmail.com




From: afn03234 at freenet.ufl.edu (Ronald L. Charlotte)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ice and fairs

Date: 1 Sep 1995 11:50:05 GMT


Mark Schuldenfrei (schuldy at abel.harvard.edu) wrote:

: Evan L. Herring <eherring at mindspring.com> wrote:

:   I'm not arguing with your figures, but what are storing ice in? Alot of the

:   problem may be in high storage temperatures, leading to higher waste rates and

:   generally innefficient use.


: A potentially helpful hint.   My wife and I wrapped our coolers in movers

: blankets (the thick quilted cotton ones) and left them under a table in the

: shade.  We needed new ice only every other day.  (Pennsic heat index was

: quite high...)  One block, or bag of cubes per cooler.


: If I build a more period appearing cooler for next year, it's going to be

: double walled, for similar reasons.  I have yet to figure out how do do that

: best, however.  (Wood exterior, wood furring strips and closed cell

: insulating foam with a plastic barrier internally?  I dunno.  It would work

: for a house, though.)  Weight is an issue too.  I may cheat, and simply

: enclose mundane coolers in veneer sheathing.  Comments welcomed, nay,

: encouraged.


One really nice design that I've seen takes a wooden box lined with the

mylar and bubble-pack thin insulation sheeting to contain one of the

inexpensive disposable coolers.  As the inner cooler gets old and too

nasty to keep sanitary it is cheaply and easily replaced.  The whole

thing was on a par with commercial coolers in weight, and kept cold very

well. The toughest part is juggling the inner and outer lids.


        al Thaalibi -- An Crosaire, Trimaris

        Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL

        afn03234 at freenet.ufl.edu



From: "Brett N. Miller" <bmiller at comshare.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Chests - period stains

Date: 21 Aug 1996 15:59:20 GMT


James Foster <jjfoster at ultranet.com> wrote:

> I have in my possession an unfinished wood chest. I want to stain (and

> adorn) it in a medieval style, but have yet to find anything

> mentioning what chests were made of (England, circa 1200). I would

> appreciate any help, and a name of a stain would be most pleasing.


> James of Shrewsbury


Not much was used in the way of stain.  If your chest is oak, then you

don't need to stain it because, as someone else has already mentioned, oak

was used a fair amount at that time.  (At least it was until deforestation

resulted from iron mongery and ship building.)  Oil (linseed et al) and wax

(actually beeswax dissolved in turpentine) were the primary finishes, if

any finish at all was used.  


If you use Linseed, use the boiled, not the raw - it dries faster.  Also,

be aware that this will darken the wood a bit.  Applying an oil finish is

also is a lengthy proposition.  It's said that you'll start a good oil

finish and your grandchildren will finish it.  (Of course, if they're

particular clods at finishing, this could be taken two ways.)


As for fittings, hand forged metal straps as well as leather coverings and

reinforcing straps were common.  (I guess if you cover it with leather,

that pretty well rules out the finish.)  Hinges (if not the crude

double-staple variety - I forget the correct term) were fastened with

rivets or clench nails (square shank, of course).  Wire nails, cut nails

(rectangular shank), or screws are right out.


Not much survives from 1200 for comparison, but most books on the evolution

of furniture cover the early oak chests in Europe/England.



(Inveterate Fencer/Woodworker)



From: rcarbol at home.com (Roger Carbol)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Looking for _small_ chest ideas or plans

Date: 29 Oct 2003 09:09:15 -0800


> I have the urge to make a small portable chest / coffer. I can't

> describe the intended purpose (lest the wrong people read this posting

> 8-)  )  but something 18" long is about right.


Let me just dig through my bookmarks...


For a good overview of chests and boxes, I recommend:



You might consider something based on the Mästermyr chest, though it

sounds like you'd want to fiddle with the dimensions:



This fellow does gorgeous work:



The chest described right at the bottom of this page is about the

right size, and it comes with a measured drawing:



I understand that some very nice chests were recovered from the

wreck of The Mary Rose, but sadly I've not been able to find

much specific information on them.


Rogez du Pont


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org