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By SW_Autocord
#1287958
Hello all!

I've been lurking on the forum for a couple of weeks reading all the great info, but now I'm hoping for some help. I'm a complete novice at woodworking. I have a small selection of hand tools that I've accumulated over the last few months and am part way through my first project- a little box.

It's nothing special (well, it is to me!), just a dovetail joined pine box about 6x4 inches in size with rebated panels glued in as a lid and base, then cut in half to make a separate bottom and lid. So far it's going really well and most of the mistakes I've made aren't too obvious. Yesterday I cut the top off to make the lid, and it actually went a lot smoother than I expected!

One thing I struggled with, is flattening the two cuts (i.e. the bottom edge of the lid and the top edge of the bottom) so that the two halves sit nicely together. When I cut the box, I marked two lines 3-4mm apart to cut between, thinking that the lines would give me something easy to plane back to.

I can't for the life of me get the faces flat. I've watched the Paul Sellers video where he references a hand plane on the top and then goes round the whole edge in one go to create a flat surface, but he makes it look much easier than it is! I was checking for flatness by putting it upside down on a flat surface and seeing if it rocked from corner to corner.

In the end I got it about as good as I could get it with a plane (old No 5 Stanley) and then finished it off by rubbing it upside down on a piece of sandpaper stuck to a granite chopping board (what a wonderful noise that made!) Eventually the box halves sat together with only small gaps in places, but it took a long time and isn't particularly well finished.

Is there a better way to do this or do I just need more practice? I understand the normal method is to cut the top off with a band saw, but I don't own one and I'd like to stick to hand tools for now.

Cheers
User avatar
By will1983
#1287964
I've made a number of small wooden boxes, they make good gifts for people and use up all the odds and ends of material we accumulate.

The method I use works for me and you've already done it. However I use the surface of my table saw which is cast iron and I know is flat, 120 grit paper held down tight and just keep rubbing and checking the fit until I get it tight.

I then fit thin timber liners inside the box that marry up with the underside of the lid, holding it on. I fit these before I sand the sides flat, again using the 120 on the table saw method. I find this holds everything aligned correctly and flushes up the sides nicely. I just keep sanding until it all looks right. Most of the time the joint between box and lid becomes fairly invisible.

I am by no means any sort of expert but this works for me and I can knock out a nice little box in about an hour which is handy if you've forgotten someones birthday!
By SW_Autocord
#1287974
will1983 wrote:I've made a number of small wooden boxes, they make good gifts for people and use up all the odds and ends of material we accumulate.

The method I use works for me and you've already done it. However I use the surface of my table saw which is cast iron and I know is flat, 120 grit paper held down tight and just keep rubbing and checking the fit until I get it tight.

I then fit thin timber liners inside the box that marry up with the underside of the lid, holding it on. I fit these before I sand the sides flat, again using the 120 on the table saw method. I find this holds everything aligned correctly and flushes up the sides nicely. I just keep sanding until it all looks right. Most of the time the joint between box and lid becomes fairly invisible.

I am by no means any sort of expert but this works for me and I can knock out a nice little box in about an hour which is handy if you've forgotten someones birthday!


An hour! :shock: I'm just starting to cut out the spaces for the hinges and I reckon it's taken me about six to eight hours so far...

Thanks for the help, I think maybe I need to get more accurate with cutting the lids off so that I have less to plane off, and less to flatten by sanding.
User avatar
By will1983
#1287982
Ah maybe I should qualify that 1 hour statement slightly.

All my boxes are simple slip on lids, no hinges and I've got a few ways I increase my productivity;

I always use straightforward mitres on the corners (these are only little boxes for keeping trinkets in so a well glued mitre joint is plenty strong enough), I use the mitre saw to cut these to length which only takes a few mins. I have an auxiliary fence for this that makes lining up the cuts quick and easy.

The panels are usually the same thickness as the sides so are machined through the thicknesser at the same time as the sides, I make these oversized in length and width so I can trim them down to size once the sides have got their grooves and mitres cut.

I cut the captive grooves in the side on the table saw which again only takes a few mins once the saw is to the correct height and the fence in the right place.

Panels are trimmed on the table saw, relative measurements taken straight from the side pieces (bottom of the groove where it meets the mitre) and a little test assembly to check it'll all go together nicely.

I glue them together with masking tape to line u the corners, PVA and little drops of mitre-fix superglue so once the mitre fix is dry the box is usually strong enough to come out of the clamps if handled carefully.

The liner material is ripped on my bandsaw in to thin pieces, I hand plane one side only (the visible inside face) until it is looking good.

I cut the top off the box on the table saw, blade only high enough to cut through one side. Run through the blade x4 and catch the off-cut as the last cut finishes.

Flatten the mating faces with sandpaper and then trim and glue in the mitred trim pieces with mitrefix, less is more here, any squeeze out is a pipper to get off so go easy with it. You could use PVA here but I'm normally being nagged to get it finished.

Check the lid still fits and sand the sides flush on the table saw bed, little bit of hand sanding up to 240 and then give it a couple of coats of black bison wax which smells nice and cures quickly.

As you can see if the method is simplified and a few machines are thrown in it can be done pretty quickly, however as with everything it's as complicated as you want to make it and with complication comes time.

This is one I did recently to hold a bracelet my Mrs bought for her friend. If you wanted to see more there's about 3/4 on my website in the gallery page.
8.jpeg
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By Marineboy
#1287991
If you have a router table you can use a groover to cut off the lid. It makes a very neat and accurate job. I cut all the way through 2 opposing sides and nearly all the way through the other two. This supports the cut which you can then finish with a few strokes of a Stanley knife. Then I sand on a large piece of sandpaper spray glued to a sheet of Mdf.
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By custard
#1287993
I do this job one of two different ways, they both work so it's just a case of how I feel on the day!

The first option is a sheet of 25mm MDF (so something that's dead flat, stable, and thick enough not to flex) and glue the abrasive from a wide, industrial belt sander to it,
Sanding-Board-01.jpg


I use 80 grit on one side and 150 grit on the other, with a spray adhesive like 3M's Super77 to hold it on,
Sanding-01.jpg


It works well for boxes,
Simple-Box-13.jpg


But it's a useful thing to have in the workshop for all sorts of jobs,
Sanding-Board-03.jpg


Method number two is working around the edge with a plane like this,
Box-Making,-No-4-Plane-03.jpg


This looks simple enough, but actually there are some hidden snags that can easily catch you out. The first one is the grain direction is liable to switch, so you can suddenly find yourself planing against the grain with horrific tear out. The best solution is a closely set cap iron, you'll know when you're there because you'll start getting slightly crinkly shavings like these,
Box-Making,-No-4-Plane-04.jpg


Like I said, they both work, but on balance I'd suggest you stick to the sanding method of flattening until your hand planing skills are pretty slick.

Good luck with your box!
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By thetyreman
#1288043
on a recent project with a box I found that using a no7 was the best way to get it flat, might sound extreme but with a no4 or no4 1/2 smoother you can very easily create a dip in the centre of the long edges, which is what was happening with me, make sure you're going over the corners as well and keep checking it with a straight edge or on a flat surface. I think next time I'll plane it then try the MDF and sandpaper trick, it's a great idea custard.

Also never under estimate how long it can take to fit hinges precisely and all the little extra things like just gluing in a pull chain, and of course finishing.
By SW_Autocord
#1288424
will1983 wrote:Ah maybe I should qualify that 1 hour statement slightly.

All my boxes are simple slip on lids, no hinges and I've got a few ways I increase my productivity;

I always use straightforward mitres on the corners (these are only little boxes for keeping trinkets in so a well glued mitre joint is plenty strong enough), I use the mitre saw to cut these to length which only takes a few mins. I have an auxiliary fence for this that makes lining up the cuts quick and easy.

The panels are usually the same thickness as the sides so are machined through the thicknesser at the same time as the sides, I make these oversized in length and width so I can trim them down to size once the sides have got their grooves and mitres cut.

I cut the captive grooves in the side on the table saw which again only takes a few mins once the saw is to the correct height and the fence in the right place.

Panels are trimmed on the table saw, relative measurements taken straight from the side pieces (bottom of the groove where it meets the mitre) and a little test assembly to check it'll all go together nicely.

I glue them together with masking tape to line u the corners, PVA and little drops of mitre-fix superglue so once the mitre fix is dry the box is usually strong enough to come out of the clamps if handled carefully.

The liner material is ripped on my bandsaw in to thin pieces, I hand plane one side only (the visible inside face) until it is looking good.

I cut the top off the box on the table saw, blade only high enough to cut through one side. Run through the blade x4 and catch the off-cut as the last cut finishes.

Flatten the mating faces with sandpaper and then trim and glue in the mitred trim pieces with mitrefix, less is more here, any squeeze out is a pipper to get off so go easy with it. You could use PVA here but I'm normally being nagged to get it finished.

Check the lid still fits and sand the sides flush on the table saw bed, little bit of hand sanding up to 240 and then give it a couple of coats of black bison wax which smells nice and cures quickly.

As you can see if the method is simplified and a few machines are thrown in it can be done pretty quickly, however as with everything it's as complicated as you want to make it and with complication comes time.

This is one I did recently to hold a bracelet my Mrs bought for her friend. If you wanted to see more there's about 3/4 on my website in the gallery page.
8.jpeg


Ah ok, now I don't feel so bad for taking ten times as long haha. I planed and cut everything by hand and I'm still learning to use the tools so even the simple bits take quite some time (and often I end up removing more material than planned by the time things are right!). I don't mind though, as a hobby it's all time well spent.

That box looks awesome, I really like it. I guess the liners are used to keep the box together when it's not made with hinges etc?

Marineboy wrote:If you have a router table you can use a groover to cut off the lid. It makes a very neat and accurate job. I cut all the way through 2 opposing sides and nearly all the way through the other two. This supports the cut which you can then finish with a few strokes of a Stanley knife. Then I sand on a large piece of sandpaper spray glued to a sheet of Mdf.


I don't have any power tools to use unfortunately. Well, I have a hand router but no table for it and my "workshop" is a smallish shed so I don't have the space for anything large. If I was to get a power tool I think it would be a bandsaw so I could cut box tops off and also resaw wood from my local timber yard, as they only seem to have 3/4 or 1" timber which is too thick for the things I want to make.

custard wrote:I do this job one of two different ways, they both work so it's just a case of how I feel on the day!

The first option is a sheet of 25mm MDF (so something that's dead flat, stable, and thick enough not to flex) and glue the abrasive from a wide, industrial belt sander to it,
Sanding-Board-01.jpg


I use 80 grit on one side and 150 grit on the other, with a spray adhesive like 3M's Super77 to hold it on,
Sanding-01.jpg


It works well for boxes,
Simple-Box-13.jpg


But it's a useful thing to have in the workshop for all sorts of jobs,
Sanding-Board-03.jpg


Method number two is working around the edge with a plane like this,
Box-Making,-No-4-Plane-03.jpg


This looks simple enough, but actually there are some hidden snags that can easily catch you out. The first one is the grain direction is liable to switch, so you can suddenly find yourself planing against the grain with horrific tear out. The best solution is a closely set cap iron, you'll know when you're there because you'll start getting slightly crinkly shavings like these,
Box-Making,-No-4-Plane-04.jpg


Like I said, they both work, but on balance I'd suggest you stick to the sanding method of flattening until your hand planing skills are pretty slick.

Good luck with your box!


The second method is the one I tried, and I found it was quite tricky when it comes to the corners as it is blows out the fibres from the ends joined at the right angle (if that makes sense). Making sure the iron was super sharp and taking a wafer thin cut seemed to help a lot mind.

How far back from the cutting edge do you set the cap iron? I usually have it at about 1-2mm and it seems to work ok. I think I need to flatten the front edge of it though as it often gets shavings stuck under it.

I think I'll practice with the plane, but for the next box I'll probably sand it (that sound sends shivers up my spine though!) and hopefully it'll work better.

thetyreman wrote:on a recent project with a box I found that using a no7 was the best way to get it flat, might sound extreme but with a no4 or no4 1/2 smoother you can very easily create a dip in the centre of the long edges, which is what was happening with me, make sure you're going over the corners as well and keep checking it with a straight edge or on a flat surface. I think next time I'll plane it then try the MDF and sandpaper trick, it's a great idea custard.

Also never under estimate how long it can take to fit hinges precisely and all the little extra things like just gluing in a pull chain, and of course finishing.


Thanks for the tip, sounds like a good excuse for me to buy another hand plane :D I have a Stanley No 5 and a Silverline No 4 (I bought this when I needed to trim the edge of a door that was jamming, and knew nothing about hand planes. Although when it's sharp it seems to work well enough).

I was checking the flatness by putting it on a granite chopping board and seeing if it rocked from corner to corner. Then I figured out which corner was higher and then tried to concentrate on those. I got there in the end but I had to remove a lot of material. Ah well, it's all part of the learning curve isn't it!
By SW_Autocord
#1288428
I finished the box over the weekend and it went better than I expected. Put the hinges and lock in, and then planed the outsides to be flush which made a massive difference. Gave it two coats of danish oil and a bit of beeswax and it looks great. I used the brilliant "how to" thread here to line the inside with felt and it really finished it off nicely (plus it covered the inside of the box which looked like a dogs dinner!).

It's not great by any means, but I like it. I'm going to take a photo or two later and I'll post it up when I've had the film developed and scanned.
By SW_Autocord
#1288448
Marineboy wrote:Film? Developed? Didn’t know anyone still did that.


Yep! Film has had something of a revival in recent years, much like vinyl records. There are quite a few online companies that you can post your exposed film to, and they'll develop and scan them for you, and send you a download link within a couple of days.

I grew up using digital cameras and about five years ago got into collecting and using older mechanical film cameras (my username is from the Minolta Autocord). One of the reasons I'm excited about learning to make boxes is so that I can make nice ones to store some of my better or rarer cameras in.