A Chest Appropriate for the 12th Century

By Master Kirk Fitzdavid (Kirk Poore)


6-board chest

The six-board chest was a common piece of furniture throughout the medieval era, with variations common in all European cultures. It´s quite versatile, since it can be used for storage, seating, or as a table. Handles make it portable. I´ve found these will hold all the usual gear (clothes, shoes, mug) for one person for a weekend event. This particular version is modelled on 14th and 15th century examples, but the basic chest is equally appropriate for the 12th Century as well.

The six-board chest is made, of course, from six boards nailed together – top, bottom, sides, and two legs, which are extended to the ground. The legs (ends) are the key pieces - each as a notch in each side to accommodate the two side boards, a dado (groove) across the middle to help hold the bottom in place, and finally a cutout on the bottom edge to form the feet. Just cut everything out and nail it together. Easy, right? Well, yes, but a little planning and a few tips will make it go faster and let you learn from some of my mistakes.


  • Wood: 13´ of 1x12 pine or 3/4” x 12” oak. Note that a pine 1x12 has an actual size of approximately 3/4” x 11.5”. Current price on two good quality 8´ pine planks is $12.50 at a home center. At hardwood stores, 3/4” x 12 oak will go for about $4-5 per board foot. (Don´t buy hardwood at home centers–it costs way too much.) Total: About $25 for pine or $55 for oak.

  • Nails: 1-1/2” cut nails. Lee Valley (LeeValley.com) item 91Z40.03. Approx $11 per pound. One pound will be more than enough.

  • Hinges: 10” Strap hinges. Lee Valley item #01H20.52. Approximately $12 each. You need two. Total $24.

  • Handles: Cast Iron handles. Lee Valley item #06W03. Approximately $9 per pair.

  • Finish: Quart can of boiled linseed oil or small can of polyurethane. About $5 at a hardware store.



  • Handsaw

  • Coping saw

  • Chisel & Mallet

  • Hand Plane

  • Drill with 1/8” bit

  • Hammer

  • Sanding block


  • Tablesaw

  • Radial Arm Saw

  • Bandsaw

  • Planer/Jointer

  • Sander

  • Strap clamp and corner clamps

  • Small (10 lb.) anvil or 3 lb. hammer

plans for chest Click image of plans for a larger version.

Continued, Part II

Marshal – Flower of Chivalry   •   Coming to Three Rivers Memorial Day Weekend 2009