Most of the Friars Chests have these properties:
- No veneer. All solid pieces in at or above 3/4" standard thickness. Veneer looks more intricate, but time will tell.
- No bottom mat or veneer to hide imperfections
- No bumps or open joints on adjoining pieces
- No exposed fasteners inside, underside, or outside because there are no nails, brads, staples, screws or plastics.
- Not a school woodshop project or a one-off attempt. Eight years of flawless experience - not one of them is identical.
- Although it looks like inset these they are through and through solid wood
- Mitered sides instead of weak abutted sides and trim that hide misalignment, mistakes, or small gaps
- Dovetail spline key joinery, which is very strong. It's the only style of dovetail joint that holds without glue.
- Glued with waterproof Titebond II for superior strength
- Hardwood edges for endurance and aesthetic design
- Eastern aromatic cedar. Not western cedar
- Lifted bottom to reduce humidity inside
- Rounded edges to reduce injury from kicks or bumps
- Routed bottom, which is stronger and better looking on the inside
- Lid aligning pins to reduce wear from rough handling
- Minimum visibility piano hinge is nearly full length, which is very strong. Hinge is mortised into the wood.
- Finished back side. Why some others don’t is bewildering
- Grown and hand made one at a time in North Arkansas Ozarks, USA
Whoever’s chest you purchase it should be evaluated with:
Both sides of your brain - It should be logical as well as creative in design.
A framer’s square - Getting exactly 90 degree corners shows a true craftsman.
Sunshine - Inspect every facet of the reflections for smooth consistency. The back side should be finished also. Check for complex joinery at the corners.
Feel - Run your hand along the sides where boards are adjoined to feel for the intersection. Shake the chest when it’s closed by holding onto just the lid and check for play, wobble, shake, or looseness. Feel for drips and runs in the finish. A sprayed on finish is cheap and has a thin texture like a fine linen sheet.
Magnifying lens - Inspect every corner, adjoining piece, and dovetail joint for gaps and glue overspill. There should be no exposed fasteners. Look for thin strips of wood veneer, siding, or covering that cover particle board. Corners are good indicators of fine craftsmanship. The lid should operate easily and fit exactly. Is the thickness of the wood 3/4" or greater? Does it look like it could be filled with water and not spill a drop? Although wood naturally has unequal grain, minor splits, knots, and minor cosmetic imperfections, numerous large cracks appearing months later could be due to shoddy workmanship.
Back up - Trim is easily seen from a distance. It makes manufacturing quick, easy, and cheap while it hides imperfect angles, glue overspill, gaps, and fasteners. Check for a locking device and that the finish of the hinge and lock match. If the lid is just as thick as a board and doesn’t have a rim, then it may be susceptible to warping over time. Is the hinge visible or did the hinge create a gap between the lid and the lower portion? If you choose a locking option for your purchase, then can the hinge screws be removed to bypass the lock?Check to see that the bottom lays evenly on the level floor. Is the flat bottom in direct contact with a humid floor? Is the flat bottom resting on a nailed in support, or is it inserted into a routed slot for strength and longevity? Is the hold-open on a single side or both sides?
Stand on it - Really. Stand on it. This might be used for odd purposes when you're not watching. It should be built for circumstance beyond your control and it has to last.
Name - Is it a chest you're buying or a rare art piece that appreciates in value over time? In 10 years will this be in the attic/basement or as the focus of the room it is shown in? Where will your purchase be in 100 years? When it's handed down will there be a challenge over who gets it? (then buy two)
Look for a chest that will be a living room showpiece instead of an attic box that’s put out of sight. From my research there is no other comparably valued product designed as thoroughly, strong, beautifully, and consistently accurate as these. You’re purchase shouldn’t be for just a lifetime when it could last several.