Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Me Box" Part II

After plowing the grooves, it was time to cut the sides and ends to length. Which meant it was time to come up with actual dimensions. Since I wanted the bottom and the top to be made without gluing up wider panels (this was supposed to be a quick and simple one day project), and as my stock was 1x10 (actual width 9 1/4") I set the width of the box at 8 inches. This left enough stock for the sides to be 18".

I laid-out the first side, and cut it to length. First problem. I was out of practice, and the cut was pretty bad. It needed to be squared up with a plane.

Second problem. I was using one of my newer planes, a Stanley 62 bevel up jack plane. It cuts beautifully, but I had a dickens of a time getting the end square to the face. I'd check it with the square, plane a bit - way off! Huh. Plane again, and - way off in the other direction! Now, I'm not St. Roy, but this job I can usually handle without really thinking about it. What was going on?

After much frustration, I think I finally figured it out. It was the plane (always blame your tools - just kidding!). I should clarify. It wasn't something the plane was doing; it was something it was making me do, or not do in this case. When I use my regular #5 jack plane, I extend my index finger and rest it on the edge of the iron just in front of the tote. On the #62, the iron is much lower (no frog) and without the iron to rest my finger on, I was not extending it. I was using a full four finger grip on the tote, and without that finger extended, my feedback was lacking; similar to depth perception using only one eye. It's weird how such a small detail can have such a huge, and incredibly frustrating impact. I'm sure I could learn to compensate in time, but my solution for this project was to just extend the index finger out into space - it felt odd, but it worked.

Between the sawing and planing fiascoes, my 18" side was now shorter than 18". No worries, I just used that part to layout the opposite side - as long as they were both the same length, the box would be square.

With all the parts cut to size, I needed to create the corner joints. I was tempted to go with dovetails, but I was way behind schedule (oh so easy to do when your schedule is not realistic in the first place) and decided I would just go with my standard pegged rabbet joint.

First, I marked the rabbets with a gauge:

Then I cut the shoulder with a dado saw - this one is an old Disston and you control the depth of cut by adjusting the bar across the blade:

I could have used a rabbet plane, but on cross grain work they require a nicker to sever the grain, and as the nicker cuts deeper than the iron the nicker cut is visible on the final joint. This isn't a big deal if the joint is hidden, but on this box it will be right on top, and I didn't want that nicker cut detracting from the clean joint.

So, after cutting the shoulder cleanly with the dado saw, I just used a chisel and mallet to split off the wood forming the cheek:

After that it was simple to clean up the cheek with a shoulder plane. Wait! Can I do that? Wouldn't that require a "cheek plane"? Oh English!

I made the floating panel for the bottom by cutting the stock to width, planing rabbets along the grain (rabbet plane) and sawing/splitting/planing rabbets across the grain:

Then, as time was running out, I got the box glued and clamped without major malfunction:

Time was up, and I didn't have a box yet. Although, that was actually very fitting for a "Me Box" - one of my defining characteristics is absolutely no "time reality" as my wife likes to call it.

I was going to have to find more time - hmm, maybe the gutters don't really need to be cleaned...

Concluded in Part III


  1. The gauge you used to mark your rabbets with did you make that yourself? If so have you posted anything on it? I could see that as very handy. I am trying to get into this type of woodworking. My in-laws are awesome at woodworking. They do everything with power tools. I don't live close enough to them to get to work with them or use the tools. I am more interested in hand tools (they don't get it). Guess my question is where would a guy start at putting his tools together? What would you suggest to start at? I want my first project to be a buck saw. Have all the material just need to start. Was going to go use my in-laws but for reason they have put them in storage and I would like the challenge of doing it myself. Hope you can give me some suggestions. You can email me if that is easier at
    Thanks Duane
    Can't wait to see the finished project.

  2. Duane - Yes, I made that gauge myself. Funny you should ask, because I use it all the time and during this project I thought what a great tool it has been, even though it has numerous flaws. Just goes to show that your tools don't need to be perfect to do good work. I haven't posted anything on it - maybe I should...

    As far as putting together tools, you might want to check out the post I did on the Shaker Cupboard tool kit. In particular, look at the “absolute minimal tool set”. You don't need much to get started. Oh, and don't forget how important sharpening is - there are many options, but I am very partial to Scary Sharp.

    Is your buck saw the kind for sawing firewood? Or more of a turning bow saw for the shop? I have a post on a buck saw rebuild I did, and there are a lot of great plans for bow saws on the web. Here is a great place to start.

    As far as where to get the tools, that depends a lot on where you live. If you have access to vintage tools locally, I’d start there. If not, you can do what I do and spend time on eBay – just be careful. There are also many good retailers of new, quality hand tools. Email me if you have any specific tool buying questions – I’d be glad to offer my opinion :)

    I hope this helps.