Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Me Box" Part III

Okay, here's day two of the "one day" project...

After taking the box out of the clamps, it was time to clean up the joints. Not too bad - it just fit in the vise. I was careful not to put too much pressure on it and pop a corner, and with the box resting on my saw bench, it really didn't need much clamping pressure to be very steady.

Now it was time to make the lid. I could see the end of the project in sight - the lid was a straight forward affair - just cut to width, three rabbets and done. I'd be finished in less than an hour, what could happen?

I used the extension slide on my folding rule to measure the width of the lid from the bottoms of the two grooves.

After getting the dimension, I marked the lid stock for ripping. Normally, I true an edge and then use a panel gauge to mark the waste to be cut off the far side. Here however, I wanted the grain pattern to remain centered on the lid. So I trued one edge, made the second parallel, and then marked in from both edges 1/2 the amount to be removed. A little more work, but it made for a much nicer looking lid.

I ripped the two edges off. I tried to rip as close to the lay-out lines as possible without removing them.

Then I used a plane to work down to the gauged line. I love how the cut line itself shows you when you are close by peeling up in a long curl. If both arrises peel at the same time, the edge is working square. As you can see in this shot, most of the left arris had already peeled - telling me that I was slightly out of square - easy to fix in a few passes of the plane.

With the lid cut to size, I planed the rabbets and gave the lid a test fit. Too tight.

A closer look revealed that all four surfaces needed to be relieved slightly.

I took it very slow - too much removed and the lid action would be sloppy. I knew from experience, that the perfect fit would feel too snug at first, but after several times of sliding in and out, it would loosen up a hair and be just right. However, I also had to think about movement. It's been very damp here lately and the relative humidity is right around 75%. But all too soon, the temperature will plummet and the moisture content will drop with it. By the middle of winter the relative humidity will be down in the low teens and the lid will shrink a little, so I wanted to make it as tight as possible now, but still remain functional.

Several test fits, with minimal planing between, and the lid slid home.

I was done! Mostly anyway. Just peg the joints and add the handles. And even though I was behind schedule, I had so far managed to stick to the general plan and not over complicate things with new ideas.

But - one problem. I didn't like it. I found it - well boring. Bummer.

Not that it wasn't a nice box - it was. It just didn't have much in the way of character. I didn't feel like this box represented "me". It needed something, but what?

I looked at it from different angles. I mocked up various moldings. I thought about building a skirt or low base. I tested out some feet ideas. Nope, nope, nope and nope. Nothing was making me happy.

Then I turned it over. Hmm. The piece I had used for the bottom had been slightly thicker then the rest of the stock. Because of this, the bottom had extended below the sides and the piece needed to be reduced in thickness. Since it was the bottom, and this was a quickie project, I hadn't bothered to remove the scrub plane tracks before glue up. I looked at them now and realized I kind of liked the way they looked. Hmm. What if I did something similar with the lid...

I was already a day over schedule and here I was complicating things. If I messed up the lid, I'd have to make a new one, out of different stock, which wouldn't match the rest of the box. Plus, it would take another day and I wouldn't be able to present to my students. What should I do? I took a deep breath, and had at it.

Here's the results after the scrub plane - a lot of tear out is visible in the raking light.

Time for a round plane to earn its keep. Here's a shot about half finished with the #14 round plane:

And here it is finished - and I could breath again - the idea had worked out great:

And here is a shot of the bench at the end of the lid shaping process. You can see a test piece leaning against the maul behind the finished lid. Part way through I was still getting tear out (I was sure it was ruined) and I had to stop and sharpen the plane blade. I used this piece of scrap to check if it was successful - thankfully it was. I love the shavings that the round plane made. Freshly sharpened, and set very fine, this 150+ year old plane was a true joy to use. Thank you J. Kellogg! Best of all, the new and improved lid gave the box the character it was missing. Yes!

The lid still needed finger notches, which I cut with a chisel:

And I made a template to help with boring the holes in the ends for the handles.

After that, I pegged the joints, gave it a quick rub with oil, and added the handles. Done! And in only about triple the time I had allotted. Not bad :)

Here are some shots of the finished "Me Box":

And some detail shots:

I loaded it up with my "me" items (packed in the shavings from making the box), took it to school and presented it to my students. I was very pleased that the box itself told as much, maybe more, about me than the items I put inside. A "Me Box" indeed.


  1. Loved following this little project, especially the scalloped lid. Amazing how something so simple can so completely change something's character.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Jeff - You're welcome - and thank you for reading and commenting :) And I agree, sometimes it's the overall design, and sometimes it's the details. In this case it's the detail.

  3. I've been reading for quite a while but don't really comment because calling myself a novice is overstating my abilities with handtools. I do really like your project results here. The top really sets it apart.

    I also liked your tip for getting 2 milk paint samples to have an oiled set and a plain set. Thanks for the entertaining and educational work!

  4. Stumbled across your blog from the Village Carpenter. Enjoyed your tail of the "me box". Nice touch fluting the lid. What did some of the kids submit? Don

  5. JC - I'm glad you are enjoying the blog - post a comment any time - don't let novice status get in your way. We are all there one time or another.

    Don - Thanks! The students mostly used shoeboxes which they decorated.

  6. Dan, I have been following your blog for a while and this is the first time I left a comment. I am a beginner woodworker(trying to work solely with hand tools. I loved the "Me Box" idea and I love how you finished up the lid with the round grooves. It really does give it just the right amount of character.

  7. Francisco - I'm glad you commented - it's always nice to get feedback on the blog. Have fun with the hand tools!

  8. Hi Dan,

    Another novice here. Could you please talk a little more about using the cut line to see if a piece is out of square? I didn't quite understand the technique.


  9. Anonymous - This would probably be easier to show with pictures than describe with words, but I'll give it a try (and maybe post on it if I get a chance).

    Here's how it normally works with ripping to width. First, I square one edge to the face. Then using this edge as the reference for the gauge fence, I mark one face, flip end-for-end, and mark the other face. Then I rip with the saw, staying close but not cutting into the line. After that, I hold the stock with the ripped edge up in my face vise, and I plane down to the lines. Since the lines are actually cut into the wood, they respond by peeling up as the plane reaches the near side of the line. If both lines are peeling at the same time, the planed surface is square to the face of the stock. If one line peels first, the edge is out of square and needs to be adjusted.

    You can also use this with cross-cutting, although the layout lines don't peel like with a rip cut. But you can see them easily enough after you saw or plane. Here's an example of the gauge lines, which were cut with a marking knife, being visible after cross-cutting. As all the lines were split, the end is square.

  10. I really like the texture on the lid. Great idea.

  11. Amos - Thanks! It's definitely better than the way I planned it. :)

  12. Hey Dan,
    Nice job on the lid-I'm a real fan of this 'fluting' detail.
    As always, enjoying the blog and look forward to the next project.
    keep well.

  13. Dan,

    Love the box. If I had a Use for one I'd build me one, well actually I could probably use it in the garage to store some stuff in like a Shelf with a few of them lol.

    Anyway, got a question. mr. Tool Man! lol.

    I don't have the money right now, but I've been at a Flea Market yesterday and went to an Antique Mall yesterday as well, and I found Tons of Hand Planes. Some was missing a few Parts, Some had Wooden Handles Broken, Some were brand new Stanleys, one even had a Box that holds the Plane.

    Most were smaller Planes at about 6" a few little longer then that. i'm on a Hunt for a Jointer Plane for Small projects like that box you done, but looking for other types of Planes that would help me in Smoothing smaller boards, Jointing other boards and Planeing other boards to make Small boxes and stuff.

    Any Recommendations I should be looking for, should I take a Square with me to make sure some of the Sole of the Plane is square and not warped and stuff?

    Holler at me when you can, not in a real big hurry cause we gonna be short on money this month buying wood and all for our stove, but just wanted to get a general on what I should be looking for, most of the ones I seen didn't have Brand Names on them but a few Stanleys and another one I can't recall right now.


  14. Handi - I'm glad you like the box! Thanks!

    As far as planes, I think you could get a great start by looking for a #3 smoother and a #5 jack plane. The #3 would handle most smoothing jobs - it's a little smaller than the #4, but I find its size quite handy and actually use it a lot more than my #4. The #5 jack can handle small scale jointing, such as this box project.

    The sole being square to the sides is not nearly as important as the sole being flat. But don't go crazy on it. I'd definitely try to avoid planes missing parts, unless they are really cheap and you want to mess with mix and match. You don't have to find a Stanley to get a good, usable plane, but older Stanleys are usually good planes (new ones not so much - IMHO), and some other brands are not.

    One tip I'd give is to look for general quality - smooth finishes, rounded comfortable totes and knobs, rosewood etc. Avoid cheap looking stamped parts, slab-sided totes, painted totes etc. Of course, having just said that, one of my very first planes was a pretty low quality jack, but it made for a great learning experience, and in the end worked quiet well.

    And remember, sharpening will be key – dull planes really are no fun at all!

    Have fun!

  15. Dan,

    Thanks for the input. Most of these planes I seen didn't have a Brand name on them except the Stanleys and there was one other, the rest were just there sittin on the shelf.

    All seemed to have moveable parts, the parts that allow you to shift the blade side to side, and the adjuster on the back. Sorry don't know all the names lol, all new to me.

    I just wondered if it really mattered right now on Brand and all. As far as Sharpening, that won't be a problem, I keep my Kitchen Knives Scarry Sharp as well. Enough you can shave with the Flay Knife lol.



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