Hope chests are the type of furniture that is handed down in families from child to child or given on special occasions. This makes it very important to have your hope chest made with long lasting, beautiful wood.
When people look at heirloom hope chest furniture, they look at the wonderful styling and the care that it took to create these fine furniture pieces. They also look at the type of wood that was used for the construction of these blanket chests. The better the quality of wood used equals a longer survival time for these fine wood chests which have battled the elements. Hope chests made a few centuries ago would have endured the year round temperature changes and the many changes in humidity levels since homes back then were not always well insulated. These homes may not have been evenly heated as they are now either.
Many wood workers back then, as now, understood the importance of quality workmanship, which does include the use of the best wood available. Most hope chests made in America during the 1700's and 1800's were constructed with the hardwoods found growing in the surrounding areas of their towns. Walnut, Cherry and Oak were the prime choices along with an Eastern Pine which was also a hardwood type. Along the Eastern Seaboard, some wood artisans also used hardwoods imported from South America know for their beautiful ‘inner glow’ quality finish such as Mahogany.
Imported fine wood does create a wonderful look for hope chests. It gives blanket chest furniture a unique quality. Burl wood is also a great choice if you are looking for a special look. This type of fine wood is not imported but has the wonderful feature of no two pieces of furniture ever appearing the same since the wood grain in each wood plank is extremely different from the next. Burl wood also has a ‘glowing’ finished look. It is normally used as a veneer finish since it is found only in smaller portions.
Walnut was a much used wood type in years past for hope chests since it was so readily available. Now, this wood type can be fairly expensive for fully aged wood furniture. This has put Cherry and Oak in high demand. These hardwoods are easier to find in quality plank pieces which have been kiln dried. This is a much quicker way to ‘age’ wood. It can easily take a year or more to ‘age’ wood in the normal fashion.
Kiln dried wood is very important when constructing hope chest furniture. Blanket storage chests have the need to be made strong since they are large furniture types and are able to hold very heavy amounts of personal items. The use of kiln dried wood means that your furniture piece will be able to take temperature changes. It also means that the construction quality of your blanket chest is more enduring since the wood will not try to shrink and bend out of shape. This is an important factor since most handcrafted blanket chests are made using precise joinery styles that require sturdy hardwoods.
Cedar is a wood type which has gained great popularity for the creating of hope chests in more recent times. Cedar is a wood with a huge variance in color, going from a light tan to a brownish red. This gives furniture pieces a ‘comfortable’ look. Of course the wonderful smell of cedar is also an added attraction. Many wood workers choose to line their hope chests with a thin layer of Cedar, or at least add a layer to the bottoms. The wonderful cedar smell can be rejuvenated by gentle sanding with 200 grit sand paper.
Handcrafted hope chests created from fine wood are special heirloom furniture pieces. Blanket Chest Heirlooms.com has great examples of quality made blanket chest furniture and antique reproduction hope chests.