Books on BoxesThe Complete Dovetail
Fine Decorative Wood Boxes
400 Wood Boxes
Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making
Making Heirloom Boxes
|All photographs and content ©2004 Robert Karl ||
A Shaker-style Candle Box
After building a loom for my wife, I realized some things about woodworking and myself:
made with Hand Tools
I started spending a lot of my Web time looking at sites about woodworking and/or tools in the hopes of learning something, but I found I just could not (quickly) learn enough from books and Web articles to feel like I knew what I was doing. I needed someone to teach me.
- I didn't know the first thing about hand tools
- I definately couldn't get "fluffy shavings" out of my hand plane
- I loved working with wood and seeing the result
My friend Sean mentioned that I lived pretty close to the "World Famous" North Bennet Street School and I found they had just the class for me: Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking. This was a class that would teach me what I needed to know about classic joints and classic tools. I knew I would not be a professional at the end of it, but I hoped to know quite a bit more. The class was not a project class, but they ended by giving us plans and getting us started on a Shaker Candle Box in mahogany.
I won't give you all the details, but here's how the box was built: North Bennett Street School gave us pre-milled "kits" that consisted of a top panel, a bottom panel, two end panels and two side panels. The dimensioning was right, and the end and side panels already had grooves cut for the top and bottom; the rest was up to us. As a class, we sought to create a box out of these peices following a proceedure roughly like this:
Here's what the parts looked like after all the hand work was done and before applying finish for final assembly:
- Check the parts for square and flat
- Mark the sides for half-blind dovetails and chop both tails and pins
- Hand plane the bottom panel to fit in the grooves, forming a bottom for the box
- Dry fit the box together
- Hand plane the top panel to slide in the grooves
- Chisel a finger notch to aid in opening and closing the box
- Apply finish to the the interior
Glue up (making sure to square the box while doing so)
- Smooth the exterior (bringing the tails and pins flush
- Apply finish to the exterior.
|And here they are during a dry fit:|
|Only one of us finished the box in class: there's always one guy that can do it faster and better than the rest of class (Hi David). I tried to catch up and ended up with problems as a result of rushing. I believe it was J.R.R. Tolkein who said (through the lips of Bilbo Baggins?) "Shortcuts make for long delays." Anyway, 4 months after the last class I put the final coat of wax on a box that I find very satisfying. There are errors to be found, but I won't tell you where.|
Here are a few pictures of the finished project. Notice that the marks from the dovetail layout are gone. While this is asthetically pleasing, it was not my intent to remove them (that's a LOT of hand planing). Here's what happened: I had some poorly fitting dove tails, so I used a trick that involves wielding a ball peen hammer and pounding the offending pins until they fill the space. If you ever try this, us a light hand. Otherwise you will have a lot of planing ahead to bring the box sides flush with the dents left by the hammer. When I had finally planed out the dents, only part of the layout line remained and I had to plane them off entirely or live with a silly looking line scratched just partway down one side of each end. I certainly made a lot of shavings that night.
If you are wondering whether it was worth attending the class at North Bennet Street School, I give a resounding "Yes". At the end of the class I had a well tuned hand plane, 3 well tuned chisels, a custom made dovetail chisel, a well tuned dovetail saw, a well tuned scraper, and the knowledge and experience required to tune any other tools I might need. Once we had working tools, we set to work and learned a lot about creating accurate joins with wood. I feel confident in my ability to plan and execute any project that requires a mortise and tenon or dovetail and I'm embarking on a few of them now.