Saturday, March 2, 2013

plus or minus two

Box makers often have difficulty deciding on the proportion to make a box. I'm always aiming toward simplification, in the hopes of removing gumption traps. I want to make things as easy for you as they've become for me through my years of work. Of course the easiest way to make a box with matching grain at the corners is to make a square box. But what if square bores you? What next?

I offer a simple design rule that can be used for making most rectangular boxes, unless there is something special that must fit inside. In honor of cognitive psychologist George Miller who passed away at the age of 92 last July, we can call it plus or minus 2. Miller had written a paper, on the Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, and whether or not you consider Miller's theory as valid, my own design rule might seem more familiar. A whole set of common proportions are based on this rule which to my knowledge has never been outlined or used as I will present.

3 x 5... 4 x 6... 5 x 7... 6 x 8... 7 x 9... 8 x 10... Are any of these pairs of numbers familiar to you? Some are the common sizes that you can have photographic prints made, and if you want to go buy a picture frame at Michael's to put your picture in, these are the sizes you will find. They just also happen to be handy proportions for box making. And if you look closely, you will see that they follow the rule that if one side is x, the other will be x plus or minus 2.

There may be a simple explanation for all this having to do with the sizes of paper easily cut from larger sizes. Or are there magical qualities to objects designed according to these proportions? In any case, a two inch spacer block works great when making a rectangular box. Put it in place for cutting the short side and then remove it for cutting the long. In other words, you can set up your stop block on the miter sled and make a box and have opposite sides fit perfectly, cutting them one after the other consecutively from the stock

Make, fix and create...

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