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...

tool box progress

I've installed hardware on the tool box I've been making to demonstrate the use of the Woodhaven Portable Box Joint Jig. The hardware is from Van Dyke's Restorers and is forged steel in a natural rusted finish. I applied paste wax to preserve the brown look and prevent more rusting to take place.

The screws that came with the hardware were too long for the thickness of the sides of this box, so I screwed them into a board and sanded the sharp ends on a belt sander until flush with it on the underside. This left the screws short enough so as to not protrude on the inside of the box.

The first photo shows the use of folded business cards to provide a slight gap between the lid and body of the box as the hinges are screwed into place.

I will add a lift out tray on the inside, a turn button to lock the drawer and leather check straps to keep the lid from opening too far.

With the inevitable interruptions, I expect to have this finished in time for my summer box making classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

testing...

Used on the router table or clamped to a board.
I have been testing the Woodhaven Portable Box Joint jig. It works as I've proven in the photos below. Because it cuts larger than normal box joints, like those you would use on a very large box or small chest, I chose to make a tool box from wide boards of solid cherry to prove its usefulness to box makers.

The Woodhaven jig can be clamped to a board and used with a hand held router, or on the router table as shown.

At this point, I've assembled the carcass of the large box and am beginning to make the drawer. I've selected and ordered iron hardware to complete the finished box which I intend to use when I travel to teach.

The Woodhaven jig is adjustable for box joints, from 1/2 in. up to 1 1/2 in. wide, an relies on a 3/4 in. Porter Cable style guide and a 1/2 in. carbide spiral cutter.

Check back another time to see the finished box.

Want to see photos of box making? Check out DouglasStowe on Instagram.

The sides are routed for bottom, tray guides and drawer slides
Make, fix and create...
The back of the tool box
Assembly begins.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Use of a nail...

Despite making boxes with all kinds of glued joints, and rarely having used a nail in making them, I frequently use a cut off finish nail as a drill, particularly for pre-drilling the tiny holes required for brass screws. The following note was forwarded to me:
I have been making boxes with Brusso hinges. The experience of making several boxes at a time helps cure the mistakes that making a box once a year can not cure. Doug Stowe recommends using a finishing nail rather than a drill to make the holes for the screws that fasten the hinges to the box. I now understand Doug's reasoning and why the nail is a more satisfactory choice.

The first lid I assembled was off by at least a 1/32 of an inch, maybe a bit more. I could sand the sides of the box to compensate for the crooked lid but then the mitered corners would not be square and they would look poorly. I put the box aside and started on another box. With the second box I was very careful to get the hinges in the right spot before I assembled everything. That was better but the hinges were still a bit off. I unscrewed the screws and angled the drill with the nail more to the back of the box so the screw would pull the hinge to the back. That worked well and I learned that since the nail did not remove any wood from the screw hole, as a drill bit would have removed, all I had to do was let the nail spread the wood in a slightly different direction for the screw to follow.

If I had drilled out the hole I would have had to fill in the hole with a tooth pick and fussed around a lot more. When I finished the second box I went back to the first box and removed the hinges and re-angled the holes for the screws. They pulled the hinge in the right direction and the lid lined up perfectly with the bottom. Since the nail is only parting the wood and not really removing the wood I think that after the screws are in the wood for a while the wood would relax from being spread by the nail and actually hold the screw more securely over time. At least that is what I am thinking at this time. Another benefit from using a nail instead of a drill bit is that there is no screw dust from using the nail. That is not a great big deal but it makes for a bit less mess as I work.

I am looking forward to seeing Doug Stowe at Showcase.
I am not thinking that the nail does actually drill a hole, but I agree that it gives a bit more control in the location of the hole, and the chance of tweaking it if necessary. I use the nail generally for three reasons. The first it that the use of a nail is a technique my father demonstrated for me, and I feel a bit close to him when I use it. Secondly, the fine point of the finish nail is more precise and most drills of that size do not come with a brad point. The third is that the shape of the nail conforms to the shape of the screw.

I am looking forward to being at Showcase as well. For information on Woodworker's Showcase click here.

Woodworkers Showcase is in two weeks.I will be teaching a class based on each of my two new books, Making Classic Toys that Teach and Tiny Boxes.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

tiny hand made boxes...

Bill M sent pictures of tiny boxes he made using hand tools. Because he did not have a chisel small enough to cut tiny box joints, he ground a cut nail to a sharp point and put a handle on it.

Congratulations Bill for the tiny but exquisite work. And with hand tools, no less.

To make something useful and beautiful is to re-create oneself in that same image.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shaker boxes

I am in the process of finishing 6 Shaker boxes that were made as demonstration boxes for my high school students. As they were making boxes, I would use my own to demonstrate their next steps. As a result, I have boxes of my own that I can use for charity auctions, and give to friends.

My own Shaker boxes are not as fine as some made by more experienced and dedicated Shaker box makers. But the point is the pleasure to be found in making them.  Even with a few flaws, they are useful and will give someone pleasure to own.

I learned today that one of my students had given the one she made as a Christmas present to her Dad. It was well received. She apologized that it was not better made. But parents sometimes know the challenges involved in doing real things, and that their son's or daughter's best work will come later as they mature. In the meantime, it is a useful box that's found a place on her father's desk, and now holds precious things.

To make something useful and beautiful is to re-create oneself in that self-same image.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Infinity dovetailed splined box

I finished the box to demonstrate the Infinity Dovetail Spline system, so it will be ready to send to Fine Woodworking in a few days when the Danish oil finish is completed and fully dry.

I get repeat questions on occasion among those who are new to the boxmaking101blog. Don asked about the accordion squeeze glue bottles I have used in my books and DVD. A previous post addressed those and where to find them. Glue Injectors...

Make fix, create and assist others in learning likewise

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Too much information?

I got an email from a reader of my new book,  Tiny Boxes, asking for more information about making inlay on pages 20 and 21. He wanted to know the exact thicknesses of the strips to be cut and was curious how the patterned strips could be assembled into the pattern shown.  I provided that information to him via email. In your case, I'll ask that you go to pages 20 and 21 and puzzle out what you can, first.

I can understand that  some readers would like exacting instructions, but there is a very good reason to leave some out. The point in my writing it not to create exact clones of my own work, but to encourage the reader to take steps leading to growth. If everything is laid out in too much precision, where will the reader's own experimentation and growth occur? And is it not better to be puzzled and to work some things out for yourself?

Furniture designer/writer/craftsman Michael Cullen has a box project that my readers will enjoy. He provides just the right amount of information, enabling the  viewer after watching a 5 minute video, to take concrete steps in making his or her own box. The point, of course, is not to exactly duplicate Michael's work. That would be a form of theft, would it not? But to watch over his shoulders as he creates a very lovely band sawn box is a valuable thing. You can watch a video of his project on the Fine Woodworking website.

I am interested in creating a boxmaking 101 news journal. If you are willing to be added to the mailing list, please email me and sign up.

To make something useful and beautiful is to re-create oneself in that same image.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dovetail spline system for boxes...

I'm testing the Infinity Dovetail Spline system for a product review in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Part of my agreement is to make a box that can be used to help illustrate the success of the system.

The system uses a router platform that can either be mounted to the box, or used inverted on the router table. The router table is my system of choice. The platform has fingers that allow it to follow a standard guide bushing mounted in the router base.

The second part of the system is equally important as it allows the box maker to cut tapered dovetail shaped splines or keys that slide tightly in place with glue. To further test the system, I'll nest an additional smaller key inside the larger ones to make an even more interesting joint.

As you can see in the photos, so far, so good. After the glue has set, the keys will be routed flush with the box sides so the next step can be taken

You can find the Infinity system at InfinityTools.com



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

mesquite domino box

This lovely mesquite box for dominoes was made by my cousin David Bye and submitted for publication.

If you have a box you would like to share with other readers,  send photos.

I am currently making boxes to test an Infinity Dovetail Spline Jig, for a review in Fine Woodworking Magazine. So pictures of a box made with that jig will be available in the days to come.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

For the love of wood...

When I teach I often ask students to bring a piece of their own wood to use in class. It can be small enough to fit in a suitcase. It can be something they bought specifically to use in class, or it can be something they've saved for years. It can be something from a friend, or from family.

The point here is that creativity often starts with wood. The love of wood is why one would choose to make a box from wood rather than any other material, and having each student bring something from their own shop guarantees that at some point in the course of a week-long class in box making, each student will have done work that reflects their own values, their own sense of beauty, and their own sense of relationship.

The question my students often ask, however, is what size does it need to be in order to be useful in class? Of course it depends to some degree on the size of the box the student would want to make. Most of my box making starts with wood that is 1 in. (4 quarter) to 1 1/4 in. (5/4) thick. This leaves the wood thick enough to re-saw  using either the band saw or table saw into box sides of a reasonable thickness.

The other question my students ask, is "How much wood should I bring?" Again, that depends. Not all students will have come from a driving distance away, and whatever you bring, that you can't use can be shared and used thereby to build relationships with new friends in the class.

A third question that my students often ask is 'What woods look good together?" That was the subject of an article I wrote for Woodcraft Magazine for their June/July issue available here.

Make yourself smart and your life meaningful. Try box making.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Does the lid "pop?"

I got a letter from a reader asking about the fit of lids....
I have been following your designs from the book Basic Box Making, and am learning so very much.  Thanks so much for sharing your passion, skill, and expertise.

I do have one quick question about the small boxes with lift off lids.  How tight of a fit do you usually make the lids.  I have been in a bit of disagreement with a fellow beginning box maker, so I was wondering what you have found to be best.  Do you think people prefer a lid to slide off quite easily, or come off with a “pop?”  I know its probably a silly question, but it is one which has kept me worried about how best to cut the lip on my lids.

Thanks so much for all you do to inspire!  
I would remember that wood is a living material, even after its cut and dried, in that it expands and contracts across its width due to changes in moisture content in the air. Build too tight, and expansion can push joints apart under extreme conditions. What may fit with a “pop” today may not even open tomorrow. Part of this is solved by knowing the moisture content of the woods you are using. If the moisture content of the lid is a bit high, you can build a bit tight, knowing it will shrink. If a bit low, leave it very slightly loose in fit. It might "pop" later on but not push the sides of the box loose.

This is also a matter of personal taste. One thing in your favor in making small boxes, is that due to the size of the material, you will not have movement to the same degree as is experienced in furniture making with wide panels of wood.

I hope this helps.

tools for box making

I got a letter from a reader as follows: 
"I enjoy working carpentry as a hobby and  I would like to learn about box making, I recently discovered your blog and its great, but I'm not sure if a have the right tools, of course, have some tools but I would like to know which ones do you consider  are the essential ones to start working in box making and which ones you recommend to get for a better job."
For a beginning box maker, even one with carpentry experience,  I suggest that my reader consider one of my books, or a box making book by another fine author. They will show the kinds of tools that I routinely use and provide all kinds of techniques using those tools that will be useful in box making. I also teach summer classes and weekend classes for woodworking clubs. Having tools is sone thing. Knowing how to use them safely and effectively another.

I was reminded of a reader years ago, who knowing that his father in law was coming from Japan, wanted to make a box to give him as a gift. He chose a box from chapter 7 of my first book, then went through the book from the beginning, buying each tool. When it came time to build the box (two weeks before the arrival of his new father in law) he called me asking how to get started. Having the right tools is not the same as knowing how to use them.

That said, I use the table saw, jointer, planer, router table, clamps of various kinds, whereas the carpenter these days may use a skill saw, compound miter saw, and hammers.

In box making with kids at the Clear Spring School, we use hand saws, planes, hammers, and nails, so the full shop approach is not required, and if a person wants to get going at it, a good solution is to start with what you have and build from there.

The box shown above is by one of my 5th grade students, and made for her teacher, Hannah.



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.