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, 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.


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