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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Old Build - Bombe Chest

Quite a few years ago I thought I was ready to build real complex period furniture.  So I picked one of the more challenging pieces a Bombe Chest with ball and claw feet.  Boy was I in for a surprise.  I thought making the case was the tough part but that turned out to be easy compared to the drawers.

I obtained a set of plans from Craig W. Bentzley.  They were excellent.  You can get them too by contacting him at

I was not doing videos in those days so all I have are still pictures. I will be posting them here if you want to follow along with the build.

A fine piece of furniture like this needs to be made from mahogany.  One thing that makes this piece so expensive is most of it is built from 12/4 stock.  Drawer fronts, sides and feet.  So I contacted Irion Lumber for pricing.   It turns out that the mahogany would have been about $1800 then.  Imagine what it would cost today.

I was not all that confident in my skills then and I did not have a spare $1800. to produce fire wood.  I decided to build the piece with Poplar.  Yes, the lowly poplar wood, probably the cheapest of the hardwoods.  Even at that, the poplar cost about $400 for the 12/4 stock.

Here it is, three 10 foot pieces of poplar.  It had good grain and color. The three pieces were about 15, 12 and 8 inches wide.   There is a little more than necessary but I thought I might make a couple of mistakes.

I started with carcass sides, thinking that this would be the hardest part.  I flattened with hand planes and squared up the stock of two pieces 20 inches wide by about 24 inches tall.  I had to glue up two pieces each to get the width since my widest stock was one 15 inches.

Then I made a template with cardboard of the shape of the side of the bombe chest. I traced the shape on the side.  

Now I was ready to hog out the inside and outside of the two bulbous sides.

You can see the pattern traced on the side of the panel.  I used my radial arm saw with a 3/4" dado blade to hog out the material in steps.  I raised and lowered the saw to follow the line leaving about 1/16" off of the line in each pass.  It it difficult to see the steps in this picture.   You can see them a little better below.  I have to do this on both sides of the chest.

I will continue soon with next steps in the bombe chest build.   Hope you enjoy the journey.


  1. I would have never guessed that was made out of poplar. What an amazing looking piece! I would love to know your finish schedule and recipe to make poplar look that amazing.

    Great job

    1. Sean, Thank you. If you follow along I will detail the finishing steps as part of the process.

  2. I agree with Sean: I never would have guessed it was poplar!