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Restoring and converting an old wooden box

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Claus10

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Hello!

I have a few questions regarding an old wooden box I would like to repurpose.

I don't know what type of wood it is, but have attached a few images to the post incase anyone here knows! (I am very new to this hobby).

The finish on the box is now quite dirty and I have wiped it down with soapy water. I've removed the hinges and other fittings to clean them also (using ketchup to refresh them!)

I have no idea what finish is currently on the box. I'm tempted to remove the finish - is this a good idea? If so can you recommend what type of product I should use to do this (especially as the current finish is unknown).

The previous owner had screwed fibreboard into the inside of the box (as a protective layer) which I have removed. I would like to fill these holes - what is the best way to do this?

If anyone is able to identify the wood, what would be a good finish to use on it? The box is going to be used as a valet box and will be kept indoors only.

In terms of repurposing it - the plan is to use MDF to create a tray/shelf which can be removed to reveal extra storage space - I'm not really confident enough to use wood to do this yet and figure I can remake it later on when my skills are better!

Any feedback is welcome!

Thanks
Claus!
 

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Ttrees

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Hello
Looks like real Honduras or Cuban Mahogany to me, although I'm not 100% confident,
and it looks oiled with something.
Possibly the only place you could get that timber is salvaged from some other old piece of furniture.
The closest commercial timber you could get is probably some sapele and you would have to stain it.
Custard or someone might have a thread on doing this.

Forget about MDF unless you have a good tablesaw, not a suited material for hand tools.
Can you buy small offcuts of the stuff from somewhere like the hardwood offcuts shop?
You would still need some real wood to do the edge of whatever veneered MDF you chose,
so you might as well make a solid wood panel up instead.

You could get a nice friction fit if you make yourself a shooting board.
Edit : Now I see what you want to do after reading again

If those joints were still intact, I would make a panel for the bottom and house it with some molding
around the perimeter of the panel.
Allow a few mm cross grain for expansion/contraction as to not make your box explode.
The strips of "as decorative as you like" or just square stock sapele molding would hide the gap and those holes hopefully at the same time.
The more fancy the molding you choose, that is if you want something with a profile on it, the more effort it would be to butt up whatever compartments you want to it.

If you find some sapele off cuts, you could bookmatch it to make up the panel width, if you cannot find suitable wider stock,
and you could use that same stock for your molding that would be containing it,
i.e floating panel construction.

Tom
 

Claus10

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Hi Tom,

Thanks for your response!

Thankfully the joints etc on the box are all in good enough condition to carry on using. So I don't have to worry about replacing the base.

The design is to have a rim of wood running around the bottom 8cm of the box. I wanted to have this held by tension (no glue/screws). This would create a step onto which a tray will fit. I plan to have the tray slide in and out freely but hope to create a snug fit!

I don't know if I've explained this very well. I'm not too familiar with the terminology I should be using!

This is the first proper wood working project I'm doing. I'm not too bothered about the tray & interior rim matching the exterior just because I think it's going to be a challenge to source the wood and also the likely hood of me making some errors and having to restart is quite high!

The hardwood offcut shop is a great suggestion! Hopefully I'll get some time to visit there this weekend!

In terms of tools I have a saw, a Dremel with a router attachment and some chisels. What would you recommend as a hardwood suitable for a beginner to work with?

Would it be ok to use a filler to repair the holes created by the screws? After using soapy water the exterior is still very dirty - would white spirit be a good option to try next to clean it?

Thanks,
Claus
 

Ttrees

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Hello again
The tool you need for the job is a hand plane, preferably two of them.
I like one in the shooting board full time and a separate one for panels and such.
Something like a cheap old Stanley Bailey / Record no.4 and another no.5 1/2 plane.

You can get that "piston fit" easily with a shooting board.
Sapele would be my choice for that box.

Procuring much thiner stock for the inner tray is going to be challenge for this.
Maybe the shop has some thin stock of sapele as it is common stuff.

Tom
 

Claus10

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Thanks for your input!

I have started looking for a couple of hand planes. It would appear that buying used ones is the way to go with the brands/models you recommended. There are some good videos on youtube about restoring them so I may be able to do this.

Once I get them I will have to learn how to use them and sharpen them etc.

I will have to also create a shooting board as I had not heard of that before!

For this project as I don't have the needed tools etc I think I'll just use some MDF as a temporary solution, if nothing else it will provide templates for when I am able to get hold of some wood and the needed tools.

Thanks again!
 

Richard_C

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Your old wooden box might be a campaign trunk - sometimes called campaign chest but the chests often have drawers an dare much fancier. Do you know any of its history? If you do an internet search for campaign trunk and campaign chest and lots of pictures will appear, you might see something a bit like yours. They are mostly late 19th century - 1850s onwards - some as late as the 1914-18 war but then they were replaced by metal trunks. Most have reinforced brass corners which yours doesn't, but its worth looking them up.

It looks to me as though yours might have original handles, the chrome over-centre catches might well be a later addition. There would have been some sort of catch though, maybe hasp and staple type.

Of course it might just be an old box that someone made. If you do decide that its properly old, I wouldn't over-restore it. Soapy water is far enough - maybe a wipe clean a couple more times then a simple wax polish - briwax or beeswax. I would avoid spray wax/cleaners like pledge, you never really know what the solvents are and they can soften old finishes.

If you want a quick false bottom while you make something 'proper', cut a sheet of mdf just smaller than the box, put a finger hole in the middle so you can lift it out, put a coke can or similar in each corner of the box bottom to support it and voila - false floor. I did that to my campaign trunk while I made a proper thing, but that was 20 years ago and I'v not got round to it ......yet.
 

Claus10

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Thanks for your response!

I don't think it is properly old (atleast I hope its not lol) - it had a fibreboard lining screwed into it when I got hold of it. So any antique value has long been destroyed! I purchased it as an experiement into woodwork and to be a functional box for myself. Hopefully it has 20 years or so left in it! I will have a look at some images and try to keep anything I do in taste with what it was before though

I have just finished removing the old finish - it was some sort of varnish. Some might think I've butchered it a bit lol! I've managed to take the whole box apart and it is beautifully made. There are some splits in the wood which I will glue back together overnight today. With the fixings I've only removed rust and left them.

I have started to think about how I want to finish the exterior and interior - would using tung oil be a good choice for this wood? I want to use something simple which I will not turn into an absolute mess! The box will sit on my bedside table going forward, so no exposure to the elements or anything like that. I'm also tempted to try using some shellac - would that be an appropriate choice too?

There is no rush as such to complete the box so happy to wait for tung oil to dry/cure.

Lol I like the idea of a false bottom held up with coke cans! I think at the very least I'll get a bit of practice using the dremel router with the mdf, also have a few hours to spare tomorrow so might as well give it a go!

Thanks!
 

Ttrees

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I've only seen now, that there is indeed already a bottom panel for the chest.
Not as well designed for longevity as floating panel construction would be, not on a more refined piece anyway.
Maybe that was traditionally done on those chests, Chris Schwarz demonstrated clinched nails on a video I've seen before.

Are you repairing this bottom panel or replacing it with MDF?
Or is it the MDF you want to use for compartments?

My choice would be the floating panel design for that box.

If you choose to do so and I've read your post correctly...
You've managed to take the box apart you have two options, bearing in mind you will be keeping an eye on all those panels as they might not fit back together if one of them moves!

One is making a rebate for the panel to slot into, or the other with strips trapping the panel.
The former needing a way of cutting a rebate.

Either way its a snug fit on the end grain of the panel, as end grain doesn't experience
much movement compared to across the grain, and that seasonal gap is hidden within the slot or strips either side of the panel.

Have you got a solid bench to work on?
You can't really do anything without one, and you need a plane or two for the job at hand.


Forget about the dremel as it would die straight away and be extremely messy using it for woodworking, it may become handy one day for something.
Even if you choose to go the MDF route for the time being, its not the tool for the job and would stand a good chance of it letting out the magic smoke.

Tom
 

woodhutt

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Claus10":bvnra50t said:
Would it be ok to use a filler to repair the holes created by the screws?
Thanks,
Claus
Better to plug the holes with matching wood but you would need a plug cutter with a matching sized drill bit. Carefully matching the grain on the plug with that on the wood they will be pretty well invisible and they will take whatever finish you decide to go with on the whole box.
Pete
 

Claus10

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Ttrees":11lzl6ev said:
I've only seen now, that there is indeed already a bottom panel for the chest.
Not as well designed for longevity as floating panel construction would be, not on a more refined piece anyway.
Maybe that was traditionally done on those chests, Chris Schwarz demonstrated clinched nails on a video I've seen before.

Are you repairing this bottom panel or replacing it with MDF?
Or is it the MDF you want to use for compartments?

My choice would be the floating panel design for that box.

If you choose to do so and I've read your post correctly...
You've managed to take the box apart you have two options, bearing in mind you will be keeping an eye on all those panels as they might not fit back together if one of them moves!

One is making a rebate for the panel to slot into, or the other with strips trapping the panel.
The former needing a way of cutting a rebate.

Either way its a snug fit on the end grain of the panel, as end grain doesn't experience
much movement compared to across the grain, and that seasonal gap is hidden within the slot or strips either side of the panel.

Have you got a solid bench to work on?
You can't really do anything without one, and you need a plane or two for the job at hand.


Forget about the dremel as it would die straight away and be extremely messy using it for woodworking, it may become handy one day for something.
Even if you choose to go the MDF route for the time being, its not the tool for the job and would stand a good chance of it letting out the magic smoke.

Tom
Thanks for your message.

I've managed to repair the bottom panel - I've glued the split in the wood and it's clamped.

It's a good point I'll check first thing in the morning that it is all able to go back together again.

The MDF is only to be used for the compartments. The plan is to create strips which will hold the tray shelf in place, hopefully these will stay in place without any adhesive/fixing needed. I do have some old (20 years plus) wooden kitchen cupboards lying around which I could potentially use instead. I don't know what type of wood it is though, but it will be a job to take the doors apart.

I have a portable bench to work on (I've not really used anything else and it seems ok).
I wonder if there is a thing where people with workshops allow others to use the facilities - like a gym membership.

I've ordered a second hand Stanley bailey no4 plane - I need to figure out how to prep and sharpen it. I'm not keen on the sandpaper approach as it will be more costly and hassle in the long run and need to research more on the other methods.

Good to know about the Dremel lol I was hoping for it to get me through this project!

I've ordered tung oil to finish the wood - is it worth applying a coat before putting the box back together and glueing it?

Thanks for your feedback and advice! It is much appreciated.
 

Claus10

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woodhutt":ozbtj37g said:
Claus10":ozbtj37g said:
Would it be ok to use a filler to repair the holes created by the screws?
Thanks,
Claus
Better to plug the holes with matching wood but you would need a plug cutter with a matching sized drill bit. Carefully matching the grain on the plug with that on the wood they will be pretty well invisible and they will take whatever finish you decide to go with on the whole box.
Pete

This is the ideal solution. As I'm planning to use a tray, the holes will be hidden so I may leave them until I get hold of similar wood! Thanks
 

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