Jul 102009

As those of you who let me clutter your Facebook “Wall” already know, I recently completed a tack trunk for a friend at work. A tack trunk is a horsey box used to carry horsey thingies – boots, brushes, wraps, quilts – but not the saddle (at least not for Alexis who commissioned this piece. After seeing several expensive tack trunks fall apart at the seems (or the hinge, or the plys) she asked me to build her one that would hold up to the abuse common to life in a barn and the back of a pickup trunk. We picked up some plans from Elite Tack Design for the basic dimensions – but that’s as far as I followed the plans.

Tack trunks appear to fail in two common ways. The piano hinge which is screwed into the plys of the rear panel and must support a heavy lid will pull out the screws, or torque the wire out of shape. Any exposed ply edges, particularly along the bottom, will eventually delaminate and chip off. Some will even simply break at a seam. To avoid this I chose to build Alexis’ trunk out of marine grade mahogany panel stock with solid mahogany corner posts and edge banding. I biscuited every joint I could get a biscuit to fit in. I used non-removable-pin door hinges in lieu of the piano hinge to support the now extra heavy lid (mahogany is much heavier than birch). I installed 3 sacrificial cedar “runners” along the bottom of the trunk, hidden behind the base trim to keep the trunk off the ground, allowing air to flow underneath. All the hardware is solid brass with the exception of lid stays which also contain heavy springs to assist lifting the lid as well as hold the lid open passed about 30 degrees. I used waterproof glue on all the joints. It’s finished with 2 coats of sanding sealer (wax free shellac) and 2 coats of gloss marine spar varnish.

It took a lot more time and material than either of us had expected, but it was a really enjoyable project, and I’m very proud of the results. More importantly, Alexis is thrilled, and was the star of the barn when she finally carried it to it’s new home (with some help… it’s rather heavy).

  2 Responses to “The Tack Trunk: Underestimation at it’s finest.”

  1. I am finishing up a tack trunk for my neighbor now and I saw yours. Is the inside finished the same as the outside, sanding sealer X2 coats and spar varnish X2 coats?

    • Hi Mike, for the interior I skipped the spar varnish. I was warned that using it on the inside of a box makes it difficult for the varnish to fully cure, and that everything ever placed inside it would stink of varnish. I left it at two coats of the waxless sanding sealer.

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