When you think of treasure chests an image of a rounded chest with large leather straps and buckles may come to mind. This is one style of chest you can build, but there are others. When working in miniature it is important to keep scale in mind. Working from an inspiration piece or images of chests is a good idea to keep the details accurate.
Two main chest styles feature round-top and flat top designs. A flat top chest is easier to create, but may lack some of the drama associated with round-top chests. Other style issues to consider include the hardware, which is typically either brass (gold colored) or iron (black), and the surface finish, which can be exposed wood or covered in leather or fabric. Exposed hinges, latches and handles add detail to the chest and are easiest to install. The exterior of the chest, although made from wood, can be covered in a variety of materials.
Cut chest ends out of 3/4-inch plywood. Make them square. Cut your front and back panels and chest bottom from 1/4-inch plywood as wide as you want your chest and as high as the end pieces. Glue and staple the front, back and bottom to the edges of the ends, to create the box. Add a strip of 1/2-inch thick, wood along the front and back panels at the top to provide anchorage for the hinges and latch. Cut ends for the lid and build it the same way. Make a round top with a sheet of thin hardboard stapled to the top for shape, since it will curve. Details like patterns and engravings can be readily added with a rotary tool and accessories. Attach the lid with piano or jewelry box hinges.
Add a latch to the front of the chest and a handle on either end. Small leather belts or purse straps with buckles can be cut to length and stapled to the box as straps. To create an antique finish for your brass hardware, spray it black with flat black spray paint, then apply a light coat of gold spray on top, leaving the black showing lightly to create a burnished effect. For iron, apply flat black and give it a light "dusting" with silver to make it appear metallic.
To finish the box, add two coats of clear finish and stain for a traditional stain finish. You can also cut pieces of leather or muslin to cover the box and apply them with spray glue. Cover the edges with metal trunk edging, which comes in small sizes for jewelry boxes. Fold over the corners and nail the edging in place. Add box metal corners as well if you like. Cover the inside of your chest in satin or other fabric, applied with spray glue.