Needlework Box featuring Laminated Design Pattern

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29 Jan 2017
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Today I finished making this box having been working on it for the last couple of months. The story started 9 months ago when we met up with old friends and Pat asked me if I would care to make her a replacement for her needlework box which was falling apart after many years of use. She gave me some rough dimensions saying she just wanted something of similar size and something nice enough to eventually pass on to her daughter. I was delighted to accept the challenge as I'd never attempted any serious box making before. In addition it would give me the opportunity to make use of the laminated method of producing regular geometric patterns.
This is the result:-
Box pics.jpg

I decided to maximise the utilisation of the inner volume by dividing it into 3. The bottom level would be a drawer. Above that would be an open space and then on top would be a lift-out tray. I had some leftovers of American Black Walnut which would form the box itself, a small amount of Maple and an even smaller length of Wenge for the decorative bits, drawer and tray.

The crux of the project was to make the lid pattern so the first to do was to assure myself that it was feasible.
The pattern is based on the method described in Clarence Rannefeld's book 'Laminated Designs in Wood'. I purchased it many years ago but never got round to using it until now:-


The following photos were taken during a trial attempt at the process:-

1. Make a laminated length of Wenge and Maple sandwiched between 2 pieces of American Walnut:-

2. The laminate is then cut into 'soldiers' drunk at an angle of 45°. The accuracies of the angle and the cut width are not important but they do need to be consistent, hence the jig:-


3. The soldiers are then reassembled into this zig-zag arrangement which is achieved by turning over alternate ones and gluing them together (CA used). This is called a 1st Generation Laminate Design:-


4. The next stage is to cut again according to the pencil lines on this photo. This time the angle is about 30°. Again the angle doesn't need to be accurate, just consistent. The difficulty here is that the centre of the kerf needs to pass through the centre of the rising leg of the pattern. Getting this right is the most difficult operation:-


5. Having produced a new platoon of soldiers, they are again reassembled, reversing every other one to give a 2nd generation design:-


6. Now the patterned stock length can be cleaned up by cutting off the surplus jagged edges.
7. At this stage the stock is 15mm thick so it is cut into two thus doubling the amount of stock available.
8. Finally 4 mitred lengths are cut to form the rectangle to be incorporated into the lid structure:-

Lid pattern.jpg

So having mastered survived the laminated design process I could then turn to the box itself.

The ABW was sawn and planed to give stock material 6mm thick.
I decided to try the method of getting grain continuity around the corners. This relies on having the original stock thick enough for it to be split in 2. This is how it's done:-

Box assembly.JPG

This was my best corner:-


This works well for the inner cut ends because only the saw kerf is lost but not so well for the outer ends because you're trying to match grain on the opposite sides of the original stock. I'm not sure it was worth the effort in this case as the finger joints disrupt the grain pattern. Probably works best for a mitred joint.

This was also my first attempt at finger joints. They were set out by gluing on CAD produced profiles in the correct positions and then cutting on the bandsaw. I left 1.5mm waste on the length of the fingers which allowed me to guide the sawblade accurately onto the waste-wood side of the lines. Initially I removed the waste with a chisel but turned to raking out with the bandsaw blade which was quicker.

This was my first foray into this laminated design process and I didn't find it easy although lessons were learnt so next time I'll be a bit further up the curve. The main problem I had was in the use of my Metabo mitre saw. I discovered it had little foibles such as:-

  1. on start-up the motor gave such a kick that the workpiece would move so it needed to be well clamped down for each cut. I have now fitted a soft-start triac which is an improvement.
  2. Mitre saws are not well designed for clamping small items or fixing jigs.
  3. The blade guard caused the blade to shudder as it guided itself onto the workpiece. I overcame this fitting a clip which held the guard up out of the way. Elf & Safety didn't notice!
In his book Rannefeld describes how to make a sled jig for use on a table saw. This incorporates fences and hold-down clamps to keep the workpieces in position. The emphasis is on controlling the wood rather than controlling the saw. I think this is the way to go for any future project.