Sunday, May 14, 2017

pallet wood for box making...

Readers are welcome to submit questions about box making and I'll try to help.

A reader from Washington State commented:
I'm just getting started making small boxes and practicing with Oak from old pallets. At 73 I'm a bit old to be starting this but I've found I really enjoy making boxes. I'd like to get good at this so I'm reading and watching everything I can and came across your site and purchased your books. Got my wood all milled down just shy of final dimension and I've been letting it sit and now I'm getting some bowing and twisting.

I was surprised old pallet wood would do this especially after it has been sitting in a metal shed on my ranch. Seems like the more you mill down your wood the more you release it and get the deformities. I'm using my Incra I-box jig and have done a number of plywood boxes with success and a couple of pine boxes successfully but this is the first time with Oak. I guess my choice is to mill it down some more and not let it sit or try to see how it comes out the way it's milled now.

Appreciate any help/insight.
Pallet wood can have some disadvantages. It’s free, but often not without costs. Pallets are often made of lesser quality woods and nailed together green, so stresses in the wood are constrained as long as it’s held tightly together and then are released when cut apart.

Wood in pallets also is cut thin and dries quickly, so it could suffer the same problems that can result from kiln drying at too fast a rate. That effect is called “case hardening,” in which the inside of the wood and tensions on the surface of the board are inconsistent. Jointing and planing can release tension in the wood in that case.

When wood is stickered and dried, either properly in a kiln or just stacked in the barn, it gets air circulation on all sides but is still free to move some as it dries. If using pallet wood, you might go for a more rustic look, and save the finer techniques for finer wood. I think that trying to do the joinery quickly before the wood changes can be a formula for disappointment. Warping wood is a powerful force that can distort the shape of a box or cause it to break apart. When it comes to wood, each piece is unique, and worthy of scientific examination.

I have no definitive answers. Have fun, and if you get a pallet wood box to hold together, send me a photo.

Make and create...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

safety blocking...

A reader of my book, Build 25 Beautiful Boxes read in my sidebar on router table safety that I suggest the use of safety blocking to make various router table operations safe.

He had not noticed any photos in the book to help him to understand what I had in mind. The first photo is from page 16 of that book. The idea is to completely cover the router bit in such a way that the work piece can enter the cut, but the fingers cannot. In both photos the router bit is buried under the safety blocking and inaccessible. The blocking must be clamped tightly in place.

The next photo is from page 85 and shows a climb feed cut. In this photo you can see how the blocking is built in layers to provide clearance for the router bit to rotate freely.

Another reader asked where she could take classes from me. My summer calendar is shown on my website here: DougStowe.com In addition, I often travel to teach for various woodworking clubs throughout the US.

Yet another reader asked about the Porter Cable 505 half-sheet sander that I've used in my books. Porter Cable half sheet sanders are no longer available new, but my reader found one for sale on eBay. There are others there for sale as well.

Make, and create.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

beginning box making

I got an email from a reader asking the following:
Hi Mr. Stowe,

I am new to box making and find your videos fascinating. Though I am sure you hear that a lot, I just had to say it:-) While I have several of your books and have watched your videos on Finewoodworking.com, I still have a couple of questions regarding equipment. I have all of this nice near top of the line equipment since woodworking has hit me, I still do not know what I am doing most of the time.

I have several orbital sanders, should I invest in a stationary belt sander or can I use my Black and Decker 4" belt sander? It appears that I have everything else.

Lastly, when making your boxes with the hidden splines (really love those), how would you go about making sure the corners of the box really match up. Put another way, making sure all corners are near perfect? Or am I being too anal about it? Which is normal for me. In your video, I noticed the top corners of the box with the hidden spline was not (like) perfect; no disrespect. I just want to know what things I can do to make my boxes a show piece?

Thank you in advance for your advice.
Having top of the line equipment and not knowing how to use it all is a common problem these days. In contrast, I started out poor, learned one tool at a time, and had the advantage of getting to know what each piece of equipment did best. Rather than launch you in the direction of adding one more piece of equipment, I often use self-adhesive sand paper stuck down on a flat board to do what the stationary belt sander does.

I adopted this approach (particularly when teaching) because my students, new to the machine, have a tendency to screw things up, ruining the boxes they have been working so carefully (up to that point) on. I would definitely recommend against the 4 in. belt sander and would go with the sticky sand paper on a board instead. Holding a box while you attack it with a belt sander seems like a formula for injury or destruction.

Matching up the hidden splines requires careful alignment on the jig. If each corner is not carefully aligned on the jig when the routing begins, they will not align as you assemble the box. If they are aligned carefully and well clamped so they don’t shift on the jig as you cut the grooves, they have no place to go but into alignment as the box is assembled.

We all want our boxes to be show pieces. The perfection that we are used to when we go to the store or get something from Amazon is not what we can reasonably aim at as beginning craftsmen. Machine like perfection is an expression of inhumanity. The real show is not about perfection, it’s about learning. It’s about effort. It is also about forgiveness and it also about being human and having fun.

very best, and good luck with your box making.

Doug

Thursday, April 20, 2017

a jointer fence

It can be extremely dangerous to pass short pieces of wood across a jointer. For jointing a single piece, a hand plane works best. When needing to accurately join lots of pieces, setting up on the router table gives a way to safely join thin small stock while keeping the fingers a safe distance from the cutter. In this case, the router bit is almost completely buried in the fence and therefore almost completely inaccessible to the finger tips if one was to slip.

The fence itself is formed with two parallel planes with their intersection being at the cutting edge of the bit. This set-up allows shallow cuts to be made, leaving the work-piece true on one edge.

This fence is designed to take passes of just under 1/16 in. at a time. The jointer fence is quickly made from just a stick of hardwood. A through bolt and wing nut secure one end and a "C" clamp the other.

I had tried to interest a magazine in this technique, and may try again.

Make and create.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Babe-Bot...

For years I've used an accordion style glue applicator and my students have asked, again and again, "Where did you get that?" Now, I've discovered something better. The Babe-Bot glue dispenser is perfect for quickly laying a narrow bead of glue for the assembly of small boxes.

You can apply just enough glue to avoid excess and mess, and extra tips are available. The advantages over the accordion style bottle are readily apparent. The accordion bottle tips need regular cleaning, and the accordion bottles are hard to fill. The steel tips on the accordion bottle can come loose during application, making a mess, and it takes more pressure to apply glue through the old style applicator. The Babe-Bot holds more glue and seals to keep it fresh. Mine was purchased at Amazon.com and I regard it as my new box making companion.

Make and create...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

adapting plans to your own use.

Tray made to fit tools box.
A reader asked my help in locating plans for a hand crafted eyeglass case. He has copies of two of my books, Basic Box Making, and Tiny Boxes, and hoped that I might direct him to plans for what he has in mind.

I would like to take the mystery out of design, and thereby make it easier for my readers to adapt designs to fit their own needs.

So how do you craft a box to fit a particular object? The first thing is to measure it, and then use your common sense to determine the necessary space to surround it, making it easy to lift in and out of the box.  For instance, I am making a tray to fit inside my tool box. Do I need plans for that, or do I simply take measurements and cut my parts to fit? Believe it or not, the same applies for making a case for eyeglasses.

After you have measured the size of the object, what comes next? Choose a box that is made using tools that you have, and in a design you like. Then alter the dimensions so that the inside space will be what you need for the object. It is simply a process of applying math.

One of the problems with plans in books or in magazine articles, is that you begin to think they are necessary. One of the advantages of writing my own books and plans is that I am allowed to simply make things without the interference of set plans.

Make and create...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

edge banding on box sides...

A reader asked how to achieve a particular technique that he'd seen in this February 27 blog post on the Woodcraft site. He referred to the second photo, a sassafras box with the top edge inlaid in contrasting woods.

The secret is to form an banding material from solid woods and veneers, and then to rout the edge of the stock for the banding to fit prior to cutting the joints. That way the veneer traipses seamlessly around the top edge of the box.

The same technique was used in making this walnut box that was recently returned from Fine Woodworking where it was photographed for a hinge review.

Make, fix and create...