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Books on Boxes

The Complete Dovetail
Ian Kirby

Fine Decorative Wood Boxes
Andrew Crawford

400 Wood Boxes
Sterling Publications

Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making
Doug Stowe

Making Heirloom Boxes
Peter Lloyd

Treasure Chests
Lon Schleining

All photographs and content ©2004 Robert Karl  

My Madness: 10 Shaker-style Candleboxes

I decided to employ the skills I acquired this spring at the North Bennet Street School and modify their box plans for a run of 10. I reduced the height of these boxes to reduce the cost involved and by consequence (I thought) improve the asthetic. After mocking up the box in cardboard and developing a cut list I hoped to know exactly how much wood I needed. A trip to Rockler would yeild lumber, but I didn't know what kind yet.

Browsing in the "stacks" of lumber I found some interesting cherry boards. I measured and figured and measured again. I'd never shopped for lumber before, so I took a long time figuring and hoped I'd gotten it right. 28 board feet came home with me and went to my brother-in-law's shop. Right now he has the machine woodworking shop in the family and I have the neanderthal shop. His machines would make this a much faster project if all worked out all right. I hauled the lumber into his basement and raided his scrap bin for stickers: the project had begun.

28 board feet of cherry awaiting butchery
Some weeks later, I finally found a time when he was at home and I was available. I was going to make a day of it, and I wanted to complete all the milling tasks before I went home. Again, I measured and marked and measured, this time tallying the parts for the boxes. The first time through I came out short tops and bottoms: I had to measure again, this time adding less "fudge factor" to the measurements. I came out with exactly 10 boxes. Almost 3 hours and I hadn't made a cut yet, but the boards were divided and marked according the parts I intended to produce from them. Whew.

I had brought the camera intending to document the process, but I was already running late. I chopped the boards into smaller sections, planned them to respective thicknesses, and then ran them accross the router table for the grooves that would hold lids and box bottoms. I chopped them down to their correct sizes and sighed in relief. It was raining a lot outside (did you hear about the flooding in NH and MA? This was the third day of that 9 days of rain) and I wanted to bring the parts back to my shop, so I wrapped them in clear plastic wrap. I was impressed with myself when I took this shot. It was good work, but I soon found that I had made significant mistakes...

Parts is Parts: Box bits ready for hand tooling
Soon, I started sorting the parts into kits. There were a lot of different boards, and it seemed like a little consideration up front would result in much better looking boxes. I laid everything out on the living room and dining room floors and started sorting them based on color, grain, and gut feeling. That's when I noticed the first mistake: I had run the grooves for the top 1/4" too low on the side pannels. Ugh.

Both the sides and ends were going to need a 1/4" removed from the top to make these boxes work. My friend Sean suggested taking the extra off using a power jointer I had purchased back in August. Great idea. I started to check over the machine and make sure it was properly set up: It wasn't. The previous owner had set the blades too high and one was crooked. Not a problem, except I couldn't free the screws that held them in. 3 days, 2 scraped knuckles, a superficial cut, and 2 ruined allen wrenches later I gave up on resetting the blades (for now).

The new strategy was Hand Tools. Tune up the Millers Falls No. 14, pull out a 1" chisel and a smooth plane (Millers Falls No. 8) and test the process on scraps from the milling process. It works beautifully. Knowing I've already made mistakes, I decide to relearn my half-blind dovetail technique using the same scraps. Good thing too. I'll post pictures of my mistakes soon.