Sunday, October 31, 2010

Planing thin stock

Reader Ray, asked the following:
I'm looking at one of the plans in your Basic Box Making book - the jewelery box - to find out more about dividers. You use 1/8" stock and that would seem good for the box I want to make. My thickness planer recommends 1/4" as the thinnest cut for material. How do you get material that thin? I've done a quick check at the local stores and they don't have anything like that in stock. I don't want to buy a thickness sander - although it sounds like a great tool.
Lay a piece of 3/4 inch plywood on the table of the planer and attach a cleat at the under side of the board. Use it as a support under the planer cut. Wax it so that the wood slides smoothly on it. At Marc Adams School of Woodworking, the planers are equipped with melamine boards for this purpose. The melamine provides an extra smooth passage for thin wood through the cut. I also rip thin wood on the table saw, and depending on the sharpness and quality of the blade, I can get a pretty smooth cut requiring little sanding. If using the planer to get 1/8 inch stock be sure to support it as it enters and exits the cut. I lift up on in developing some curvature which develops a tension that helps it to not be lifted by the blades during the cut. In the photo, a cleat on the underside of the board secures it in place on the planer table.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

let it begin with schooling

As many of my readers know, my first published articles and books were about box making, and still, after over 30 years as a professional woodworker, a portion of my annual income is from making small boxes to sell through gift shops, craft fairs and galleries. I got the following email on Friday describing the potential for box making in schools...
I teach woodshop at a public high school in St. Paul, MN and wanted to write you and tell you that your box making book is taking my school by storm. I recently was told to teach a reading based woodshop class where the students had to read as much as cut wood. The students found it boring to begin with but when I introduced your DVD and the first section of your book to them, including the introduction, my attendance went up and stayed up and the students loved the simple design of your lift lid box. I am just finishing up my first set of boxes today and I have students, whom I don't know, coming by and they ask to build one!

Thanks so much! It's easy to teach to students with enthusiasm! Your book made it possible.
Box making is such a wonderful way to become engaged in woodworking. The amount of materials required is small. The amount of storage space for materials and materials handling is small and far more predictable. You can learn every form of woodworking skill by making boxes, using every tool in the wood shop and learning what it and you can do. In box making you can make expressive heirloom objects that motivate students to learn.