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Small glazed box (hand tools)

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AndyT

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It's far too long since I posted any woodworking projects on here. And today's offering is definitely not a major project - it's just a little box I knocked up quite quickly. But some people seem to like watching as I find excuses to use more old hand tools than Mike G would allow in his beautiful house, so here goes. :wink:

What I wanted was a shallow tray, about four inches square, with a glass lid. I sketched a cross section or two on the back of an envelope and thought about a simple construction with rebates to hold the glass, connect the parts, and hold the bottom. The corners would be plain mitres.

First, I cut a square of thin glass from an old clipframe. No pictures of this, but I think you can imagine it.

I needed a strip of hardwood about half an inch thick for the sides, and about 18" long. Here I am ripping it from a bit of salvaged mahogany-type wood. It was part of an old broken table left out in the street for anyone who wanted it.



and planing it to thickness using my new favourite plane.



I decided to go a bit thinner - ⅜".



I gauged to width and marked where my grooves and rebates would go.




To cut these, I chose my Record 405, the British copy of the Stanley 45. It's really well made, versatile and comfortable to use. There seem to be plenty about and you can still get a complete one in its box for £100 or less, which I think is the sort of stunning bargain that new hand tool workers haven't quite noticed yet. (I think I am safe in saying this unless Paul Sellers and Chris Schwarz are hanging on my every word in the hunt for new old tools to promote. :roll: )

It needs something on the bench to hold the strip at the edge - a bit of scrap ply is ideal.





Here you can see that my depth stop setting was a bit light - the bottom rebate does not quite go half way as it should.



I could reset the 405 and do it again, but I have recently been given this sweet little shoulder/rebate plane which is just the right size to adjust things:



After a bit more grooving



I produced this:



The plan is to make the box then saw it apart. This will leave a rebate at the top to hold the glass, one in the middle to fit into the lid and another at the bottom for a base.

My lack of a proper drawing and slack approach meant that the big groove in the middle looked a bit narrow when I had cut it. I needed to leave width for a saw cut, but not so much. It's theoretically possible to adjust the fence and take another pass with the same cutter in the 405, but it's quite a thin sliver of wood. I find it easier to use a side rebate plane.

I guess many people will be familiar with the Stanley 79 or the Record 2506 but I find steel side rebates can be a bit small and fiddly. Wooden ones, provided you have the space to use one, are much easier to control. This is one, easily spotted in a crowd by its distinctive vertical wedge:



Here it is awkwardly posed in its groove while I hold the camera in my other hand



and here are the ribbon like shavings it produces



You need a pair so you can always plane the smooth way of the grain.

That will do for now: next time, mitres without pain. :)
 

AndyT

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Onto the mitre cuts. Obviously, I'm not going to use a big noisy thing with a huge spinning blade. The dust extraction would take up the little remaining workshop space where I like to stand.

What I do have and have used for years is one of those cheap imported mitre saws where a framed saw slides on vertical rods, attached to a pot metal casting. Mine is the famous "Nu-tool" brand. I probably bought it in the 1980s from Great Mills or Gardiner Haskins. It's ok, but I wondered if there was anything better. Looking across the Atlantic I noticed that Miter Boxes seem a lot commoner there than Mitre Boxes over here, so I bought a lot of two at auction. The nicer one is a Stanley 150, probably from the 1920s or 30s. Its most useful feature is that it can be used with any saw - it doesn't have to be a mitre saw or even a backsaw, an ordinary hand saw will work. (For more on this, see Ron Herman on YouTube https://youtu.be/d7GY8cDs2tY and the 150 instructions leaflet https://archive.org/details/StanleyNo15 ... structions .)

However, I do also have a 22" mitre saw, so keeping the promise I made the other day, here it is set up for work.





The cuts are ok, but a little ragged, so they need planing. This is much easier if you have been given a nice old mitre chop which holds the work tight while you plane horizontally:



I worked my way round the pieces, planing all the ends and holding opposite pieces in pairs to make sure they were the same length.

Here is the box so far, stood up dry as a test. It's upside down, with the glass where the bottom will go.



That seemed ok, so I laid the four pieces out end to end on some masking tape, added some glue (Titebond liquid hide glue) and folded the pieces up together, held by the tape.



While the glue was drying, I cut some little strips of wood which will hold the glass in its rebate. These are some sort of rosewood I think - and justify having a box of rather small bits ready to be made even tinier. First, plane to thickness, about 3/16"



Then rip to width - which I did on my little 3-wheeler bandsaw as being the simplest way.



and plane down all round



The bottom of this box could be plywood, but I decided to take the risk and glue a bit of solid wood in instead. I know this creates a huge risk of failure as supernatural forces within the wood will destroy all my work in a week or two, but sometimes I like to live dangerously. Also, the wood is only 3/16" thick, it's been in the house and dry for years and the scale is tiny. :)

Here's an oversized piece being planed down to thickness



measured for size against the box it will fit into



trimmed



and glued in place



When that was all done and the glue well set, it was time to saw the lid away from the bottom. I'd left plenty of spare wood in the middle and made gauge lines to show me where to cut. An old style handscrew is a good way to tame something like this so it can be held where it matters.



But before putting the saw to the wood, there's a bit of vertical grain on the far side of the far mitre. If I leave that as it is, there's a good chance of splintering a chunk out. The solution is to turn the box round and carefully chisel away the wood so there is a ramp at the end of the cut.



And here's the first cut - away from the gauge line and leaving some wood to be trimmed away at the rebate. I thought this was better than sawing into the groove and having a tendency to slew off to the side.



Here's the same cut from the inside



and the moment of separation





I levelled off the edges in the textbook way, slewing my plane around the corners in sequence. Then I rubbed it all on some sandpaper to get it properly level. :oops:

The spare bits of wood around the rebates soon got chiselled or planed away. I tried clamping the tray to the bench





but found a bench hook was easier



provided that my camera hand could be used as well.

Some of the time the simplest way was a nice sharp knife and close attention to the run of the grain.



So I was getting closer to having a lid that could come on and off but would also stay on. I know that the difference between the two is tiny and I was not expecting to add a very thick finish.

Meanwhile, I needed to fix the glass in place. Those little strips needed mitres and on this scale anything more complicated than this felt like too much.



So each one got a few strokes of the saw and a trim with a chisel



then a trial fit. That big black shadow in the corner was a mismatch in thickness which I planed away.



When fitting glass into a rebate, it's a good idea to stain the rebate black. On this scale, that's quick and easy to do.



And here is the next stage with the glue on and some clamps in place.



And as if by magic, the glue has dried and a little bit of sanding has been done.



I wanted a dark finish for this. Fortunately, I still have some Myland's stain that Custard generously gave me when I was making my little walnut table. It's more than enough, even though I applied two coats!





After that, it was time for finishing. I didn't take any photos of this as there really isn't much to show. At first I put some shellac on, hoping to build this up into a slightly glossy finish, but it didn't work well. I think the shellac I used was too old - I have bought some flakes and have some isopropyl alcohol on order so I will soon be able to make all new stock. Meanwhile, I wiped the shellac off with some meths and added a coat of Osmo Poly-X, which is good reliable stuff.

So here's the finished thing, a bit rough and approximate in places but it's what I wanted it to be.





I hope you have enjoyed watching me pottering and pondering and if you have an offcut or two, can see how this sort of thing is pretty straightforward and a lot cheaper than an oak staircase!
 

thetyreman

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nice box andy =D>

it looks genuinely old like an antique, I like that you used the old wooden side rebate plane as well
 

Marineboy

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A lovely bit of work Andy. I like the way you have thought about the possibility of grain direction resulting in a chunk coming out and taking action to avoid it. I know from bitter experience that because a piece is on a small scale it is somehow easy. Good photos too.
 

Marineboy

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I meant to say...because a piece is on a small scale, to think it is somehow easy is a mistake
 

Doug71

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Love seeing things like this.

I have been doing traditional purpose made joinery all my life and can make anything but ask me to make a small box using only hand tools I would embarrass myself.

Great job.
 

Phlebas

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Nicely done, AndyT. Although personally I’m not sure I would have done the stain – purely an observation, not a criticism at all.

If there was an award for the highest ratio of number of hand tools to volume of wood processed, you must be up there with a shout.

A question, if I may (and obviously exposing my extensive ignorance).

Could you not have created a groove for the glass, rather than glue on the strips afterwards? Or would this have made the glue up too involved? I suppose, actually, you could have done the same with the base rather than rebating it – put it in a groove I mean. I only ask because I’m footling around with some boxes myself at the moment, playing with what looks best.

Are you going to line the box – I guess not, given you’ve stained the interior, but it would look pretty natty. But of course I don’t know what the box is for.
 

AndyT

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To answer the groove question - yes, a groove would be possible but there were reasons for the approach I took. A groove would indeed have made the glue up more difficult. Also, One if I had used a groove it would have been harder to hold the box for sawing off the lid. Another is that the glass is only 2mm thick so the groove would be smaller than my smallest plough plane cutter (3mm).

The box was for a friend to hold a fragile memento, he may well decide to line it with acid free paper.
And the dark finish hides some of the flaws a bit.
 

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