Sunday, November 23, 2014

rabbetted bottoms

I am working on boxes for Freobel's gifts 5, 5b and 6.

One of the easiest ways to install a plywood bottom in a box is by using a router table and rabbeting bit to route the space for it to fit. Unfortunately, most rabbeting bits are large and while they can be adjusted to cut a small rabbet for small boxes, that requires adding a large bearing which keeps it from routing into the corners.

Amana has made a small rabbeting bit that is perfect for making small boxes. It has a bearing diameter of 3/16 in. and routes a 1/8 in. rabbet, which makes it perfect for use with the Froebel boxes I'm making for gifts, 5, 5b and 6.

In the photos above and below, you can see it in use.  When the rabbet has been cut, simply measure the inside space, cut the bottom to the same size and then round the corners.

For a single box, shaping each corner with a disk sander makes sense as it can be quickly done. In a production setting, many can be routed at the same time on the router table by standing them on edge and using a round over bit of the correct radius.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

frame clamps

I have been getting inquires on the red corner clamps used in my new book Beautiful Boxes, Design and Technique.  Here's the scoop. Those beautiful red clamps are available in limited supply from Van-Ton Machine in Kansas City, 913-909-2793 

Lee Valley has similar clamps in their catalog that have a quick adjustment feature.

Call Van-Ton if you want red, or Lee Valley  if you want quick adjustment. Both are highly recommended. The photo at the top went out in an email from Taunton Press.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, September 29, 2014

ltray lift template...

A woodworking teacher asked if I could help his class understand how to make the tray lift mechanism for Lucy's Jewelry box in my book Simply Beautiful Boxes. So I did the drawing here to help readers determine the exact size and arrangement of the parts. In order, left to right are shown, box side, tray side, back support arm, front support arm, and groove cut in box lid ends.

Click on the image to be able to see it in a larger size.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

the start of boxes...

Walnut and linden resawn and ready for final planing
This time of year, I usually receive an order from Appalachian Spring Gallery that sets my box making in motion. It came yesterday.

I've spent enough time at school relocating my school wood shop, that my classes are going OK and my students are having fun and learning.

Folks have asked how I find a balance between writing, teaching and woodworking, and it is simply a matter of attending the squeaky wheels. Each part of the triad, writing, teaching and woodworking in my own shop is kept fresh by regular rotation. Keeping these three things in rotation keeps me productive and prevents boredom from getting in the way of my work.

First I compared the new order with what I already had in stock, and noted the kinds and sizes of boxes in the order that I could not ship. Then I set to work on those, making them in multiples, so that I'll have enough to fill the order and replenish my inventory.

The first step is to rip walnut and linden (basswood) into widths about 1/4 in. wider than the finished stock. Then I resaw that material into thinner stock that can be planed to final thickness. Then after one edge is jointed straight and smooth, the stock will be cut to finished width before being cut to final length. I keep the prices reasonable on my boxes by working in multiples, as many as 50 or 60 at the same time.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

less than perfect miter?

A reader offered a question that is really baffling him...
"I am trying to cut simple miter joints on several boxes I am working on but am having an ongoing battle with slightly open joints. I do a test cut just like you show in your box making video, using a substantial piece of wood and get a wonderful outcome - no light between the test gauge and the wood - but after cutting the box's sides I end up with an open miter.  There may be a slight error at each corner which accumulates in one corner when I hold the box together by hand, or there may be one joint that is open.

"I use a miter sled fashioned pretty much like the one you use. One factor that has just occurred to me is that I am now using a thin kerf saw blade.  Do you suppose there is some deflection in the blade that introduces a slight bit of error into each cut? In the past I can't remember having this problem - and I am pretty sure I was not using a thin kerf blade at that time.  It is a pretty new acquisition. It was recommended by the Freud dealer for box and other small woodwork projects because of the superior, smooth surface left by the blade. It certainly does that well. My thinking is that when you are nibbling off the miter cuts at the end of each box piece there isn't anywhere near an equal pressure or resistance from wood on each side of the blade, perhaps allowing it to deform every so little. Maybe I need to build a new miter sled?"
I think there can be some noticeable deflection in a thin kerf blade. I've noticed it myself. Also, I've noticed that if any of the parts are not held tightly enough to the surface of the sled, and they are allowed to rise up slightly during the cut, it can lead to a slightly open miter. Not all woodworkers have the same strength in hands and the pressure from the blade during a miter cut seems to create a bit of lift, rather than just downward pressure that would find in a 90° cut. While I normally keep the blade as low as possible to make the cut through the wood and no more, raising the blade slightly may give it more of a downward force. Try it and see if it improves the fit of the miters.

Also, I assume that you are using a stop block to control the length of your parts. There are two things that normally go wrong with miters. Either one piece is cut to the wrong length, keeping miters from closing, or the angle is off.

I use a thin kerf blade for resawing stock and for making inlay, but for most cuts I use a full thickness blade with 1/8 in. kerf.

I'm not sure if a new sled is necessary, but they are easy enough to make.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Using a table saw for finger joints...

A reader asked about the right kind of blade for making 1/8 in. finger joints:
My grand daughter appreciated the Walnut top Lift Lid box I recently made for her and now has requested that I make a pencil box for her. Every box brings it's own challenges/opportunities and I am looking forward to making it. I was wondering, do I need a special saw blade to make the box joints or will an Alternate Tooth Bevel blade give me the cut I need. I see in your book on page 38 you recommend a dado blade. Perhaps I need to get this type of blade for this joint. Thanks.
Check out a Freud ripping blade. Some have a three way grind, with teeth that alternate between beveled and flat. Some combination blades also have this feature. You can use an alternating bevel blade but it will leave small gaps. My favorite blade for this is a Forest Woodworker II with a #1 OD special grind. It costs about $10.00 more than a regular grind Woodworker II. But if you do a lot of this kind of work, the extra cost is miniscule.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Book-a-zine, Wooden Boxes

Fine woodworking calls it "The beauty of boxes from the hands of experts." The new book-a-zine, Box Making by Doug Stowe and Strother Purdy is now available from the Fine Woodworking website. We are arranging an autographed box book-a-zine giveaway on the Fine Woodworking website and I'll alert my readers when it is time to participate.
Whether you’re a first time woodworker or an experienced hand wanting to learn more, Wooden Boxes – a special collection from the editors of Fine Woodworking magazine – is perfect for you. Here you’ll find step-by-step instructions for completing nine favorite box projects. These projects – perfect ways to learn a new skill or refine an old one – are gathered from the collections of master craftsmen Doug Stowe and Strother Purdy. Their expert advice allows you to learn new techniques to make your box-building safer, easier, and more efficient.
In my own shop, I'm working on an article for American Woodworker Magazine, and about 50 or 60 other small boxes for gallery sales. The jig at left is for holding a mitered box side on the router table for routing a groove for a hidden spline to fit.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cupping of resawn wood...

A reader wrote:
I've got a pretty basic question about lumber.

As I'm sure you know, when you reduce a board down to the desired thickness (in my case, often 3/8" or 1/2") and don't use it immediately, you may find when you do pick it up again that it has developed a bit of bow or cup or wind.

For box making, can you use pieces that are not PERFECTLY flat?

Also, I understand the things that need to be done to account for the inevitable movement of the wood in its width and length. But given that a thicknessed board can change as described above...isn't that same tendency to cup or bow wind still going to be in the individual boards in a finished piece? In this case, are we relying on the strength of the joinery to stop it from happening?
Wood can move in surprising ways. And when wood is resawn, new surfaces are exposed to humidity or lack of it, and you will often find that the top piece on a stack of resawn stock will warp while the layers beneath will not. This is due to exposure on only one side of the wood... for example one side gets slightly damp or dryer than the rest of the stock, it will either shrink or swell on that side and cause the wood to bow across its width one way or the other.

If wood is stickered so the drying (or gaining moisture) occurs on both sides of the stock equally, the bowing is less likely to occur. It is also less likely if you are using wood under the same conditions of atmospheric humidity under which it has been stored for a significant period of time.

Also, you ask about the wood after it is assembled into a box. The inside of a box and the outside of a box also offer faces to different levels of atmospheric humidity, which too, can cause complications due to expansion and contraction of wood. Normally, the humidity difference between the inside of the box and the outside of the box will not be enough to cause such severe warping as will happen in the top board of a stack. A humidor is a classic example of high humidity inside the box, while the outside conditions may be much less humid. Using mechanical fasteners, including nails, dowels, miter keys, splines, finger joints and the like, are ways to attempt to control the behavior of wood under adverse circumstances.

You can test this by leaving a board laying on the ground out of doors, or on a concrete floor. You will notice that the wood will generally cup upwards on the edges due to expansion of the downward side from absorption of humidity from the ground.

 So how do you fix this? If you've resawn wood for box sides, don't leave them in an unstickered stack if you are planning to walk away and come back next week to cut and assemble a box. Also, store your woods for a period of time in the same place and under the same humidity conditions under which you will make the box. Making the box the same day you resawed your stock is also an option.

Even leaving a piece of wood unstickered on top of your table saw overnight can be a cause for grief when you come back the next morning to make a box. It is far better to leave your box stock leaning up against the work bench where it gets adequate air circulation on all sides.

Your most difficult question has to do with whether or not you can use a piece of wood for box making that's not perfectly flat. The only reasonable answer to that is, "it depends." How perfect do you want the box to be? I've made some boxes that turned out OK despite minor cupping. But hopefully, careful handling of your stock will enable you to avoid that.

In any case, I hope this helps.

The image above is my new bookazine published by Taunton Press, including 5 chapters by me and 4 another Taunton author, Strother Purdy.