Wednesday, January 4, 2017

quadrant hinges

I had cleaned my shop and burned some old templates in the woodstove, but found this one as I was trying to help one of my readers face the installation of quadrant hinges. It is not my latest technique for installing quadrant hinges, as now I do it on the router table using a story stick technique. The pencil markings on the jig are to help my reader understand the making of it.

Readers are a source of inspiration for me. They call on occasion with questions and fresh challenges, that lead me to scratch my head, rethink my processes and attempt to clarify my techniques. Sometimes reader questions suggest articles that need to be written, or things that need to be added when I teach. The point is that we grow together.

I have submitted the idea of installing quadrant hinges to Fine Woodworking magazine, and hope to offer more information at a later date.

Quadrant hinges are complex, interesting and daunting, as my box making readers will attest.

Today students return from holiday break to the Clear Spring School. They will be excited to be in wood shop.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others love learning likewise.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

rubber bands, hinges and clamps...

I have an article in this month's Fine Woodworking on selection of hinges. It's issue 259 February 2017. The article begins on p. 50 and can also be found online at In addition, on page 17 of the same issue I offer simple shop made corner clamps.

A reader asked about the large rubber bands that I use to assemble boxes in my books and DVD on box making. At one time, I simply went into our local office supply store and bought the largest sizes they had in one pound boxes, without paying much attention to the numeric size. But our office supply store closed last year, and ordering online requires precise information. Here is what I recommend. Go to and order rubber bands in sizes 105, 107 and 109.These may be a bit large for some of the smallest boxes you would make, but those can be assembled using more common off the shelf rubber bands that would find in your desk drawer.

Friday, May 6, 2016

a simple lesson in design.

The boxes here present a simple design lesson and were made by one of my students, Dan Burke, at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. The lesson is this. Use what you know how to do to share elements of significance from your own life.

As good as your craftsmanship might be, if you are not telling something of your own story, your work might be missing something.

Dan and his wife had acquired the tiles embedded in the lids of these boxes at the Indigenous People's Museum in Quito, Equador. So the tiles became the focal point of the work, in more ways than one. They had the experience of enjoying another craftsman's work enough to buy it and bring it home. The other craftsman's work is made even more beautiful and useful through Dan's application of skill.

You can practice the principles and elements of design, and learn the useful relationship between all the colors in the world, but work is made more lovely still, when it reflects in full measure, the human being that made it.

The excellently crafted boxes are the frame surrounding the experience.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

glue injectors...

Box makers have asked about the glue injectors that I use when I teach box making and that I've used regularly in my books. They are available from here. These are great for box making but are hard to clean, as the glue will plug up the stainless steel applicator tube. To clean soak the bottle and tip in standard household white vinegar and use a large paper clip to push dried glue from the tip. If kept clean they can be used for a number of years.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

compound miter saw for box making_

I almost always use my table saw to cut miters but as an alternative in my book on tiny boxes, I felt the need to address the compound miter saw and its potential as a box making tool, as many potential box makers may not be able to afford an accurate table saw.

There are some things that must be done to make a compound miter saw safe for box making. First of all, they are intended for cutting long strips of molding as a carpenter's tool. That means that a compound miter saw comes out of the box without a zero-clearance backing board or any effective means to clamp small parts.

In the normal use of a compound miter saw, it is fairly easy to keep your hands away from the blade, as the stock  is usually long enough that holding it securely will require them to be a safe distance away. With small parts, that is not the case. In the photo shown above, cutting miters for a small box, you can see the Baltic birch backing board that I've screwed to the miter saw fence.  This gives a great deal more support than the fence that came with the saw. I've also added a stop block and  I am using two hold down blocks to keep the stock in place during the cut. I use two hold downs because when the work piece is flipped over to cut the miter on the opposite side, they will apply pressure independently to the irregularly shaped molding.

Two tips that that are essential for both safety and clean cuts: Orient the  blade angle so that the wood being cut is pushed toward the stop block, rather than away. And let the blade stop in the down position rather than lifting it back up while still spinning. The wood only needs to be cut once, and in lifting, the work piece may shift slightly and become jammed against the stop block.

A third tip is to but a really good blade. The one that came with the saw may be good for cutting two by fours, but here we're box making.

So, is this my new favorite tool? It can be useful for quick cuts, but for general box making I prefer the table saw.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to do likewise.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

routing hinge mortises

This month Fine Woodworking introduced a "clever new jig" to guide the routing of mortises for butt hinges on small boxes.  I introduced the type of template and routing technique in an earlier issue of FWW,  but also in my books dating back to 2001, and in an article I wrote for Woodwork magazine while this century was quite young.

The jig they introduce is in fact pretty nice, but certainly not state of the art.  In order to do left then right, the jig needs to be taken apart and reassembled between steps. I have a similar jig (as shown) that does not need to be altered in use. In fact, you simply slide the jig left, clamp in place, then rout, then slide right to rout the matching hinge mortise. Blocks of wood along one edge and at each end make certain of its location on the box. So it is essentially fool proof. Squaring the corners of the mortises is done with a chisel using the template as a guide. The photos show how it can be clamped on the left and right on the lid and body of a box.

This jig is useful for boxes up to 11 inches long and took less than 15 minutes to make. It can be just as quickly made for other sizes of hinge. I plan to make another one for even smaller boxes.

Make, fix and create... Teach others to do likewise.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

applying oil finish

 A reader had trouble applying finish to boxes: "
I can do the woodwork ok. It seems good to me. Finish.  I have just sanded off the second finish because I had finger prints, and runs over the top. The top looks good, but sides are bad.
I put 3 coats of tung oil, but left finger prints on sides.
Tried spray shellac and got runs.
I just put on 1 coat of tung off and then if all looks OK I plan just to wax.
Wax is a good idea and provides a way to buff out the finish if it has an uneven sheen. But one of the biggest problems woodworkers have with oil finishes has to do with what you do to it after the finish is first applied.  I don’t know what technique the reader used to apply his finish. Tung oil needs to be carefully rubbed out at the right time with a cloth… before it gets sticky. The same applies to other oil finishes. The worst mistake you can make is to brush it on and then leave it alone like you would a polyurethane finish. If there are fingerprints, then the finish had not been rubbed out properly at the right time.

Shellac takes a completely different approach, but it is at least soluble with alcohol. Even after it is applied and hardened you can take alcohol on a rag and rub it out. You can sand down your runs and then use an alcohol rag to rub over it and restore the finish, by blending in.

One of the obvious questions that I must ask, and that has been asked me when I’ve had trouble with a finish has to do with reading the instructions on the can. They can be helpful, and are often overlooked to the detriment of the finished piece.

Make, fix and create...