Toy box/chest

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Established Member
8 Apr 2013
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St. Albans
Hi Gang,

So as I mentioned on a previous post I have embarked upon another first in my woodworking - this time it's a box. A box with a specific initial purpose though. Let me explain...

My eight year old is one of many little girls indulging in the new craze of slime making. I'm OK with it - encourage it in fact as being something creative and loosely related to learning (science innit) but it does have draw backs. Primary amongst these is the large collections of gubbins that ends up here and there around the dining table where she likes to make and play with her slippery creations. There are lots of bits and bobs; large containers of PVA, mixing bowls, stirrers, activators, foam beads, glitter, various pigments and additives - you name it. It all adds up to a big mess my little one has trouble keeping on top of which does not much please SWMBO.

I came up with the idea that a box large enough to keep them all in one place was required. I also figured that to keep it usable the box would have to have removable dividers that would provide some order as to how they are stored and accessed. Finally I resolved to make said box with a removable lid that could double as a tray to contain the slime while she plays with it. So off I went with my tape measure and figured that the external dimensions would have to be about 16" wide by 23" long and 16" tall. This would allow a home for everything and still leave clearance for floating top and bottom.

Now if I just wanted to lash something together for the time being I would have gone down the route of MDF+Glue+Screws+Paint= job done. However as I'm a sentimental (or just mental) old fool, I want to make something that will stay with her for long time. A box this big is really a chest of sorts so if I make it well enough, hopefully she will find new purposes for it as she gets older. This meant I ruled out MDF and went for oak instead. This is where the pictures start:

All my projects start with rough sawn or waney edged stock, sawn in this case:

I ripped and cut them to rough dimensions (a couple of inches over long) and put them through my planer thicknesser to get clean square stock:


As I don't have 16" boards each side will be made up of three smaller, edge joined, pieces. I wanted the glue lines to be invisible so after machine jointing I set about them with my No. 7:


This is a tricky incremental process whereby getting your edge just so in one plane can lead to errors in another. I'm the least competent person to offer advice to others on this but I have found that given my lack of skill, only thorough, repetitive and frequent checking gets me where I want to be. The picture above illustrates this well as the small square checks that I haven't warped the edge but I use a long steel rule in the other plane to ensure I have the correct amount of spring in the joint. All a big faff but worth it in the end I hope. When the joints are nice and tight I also find that it makes selecting the sequence of boards easier as you can see how the grain meets more clearly.

To help alignment while gluing up the edges I used biscuits. Whilst doing so I did have to use a stop fixed to my bench top for the pieces to register against and still hang over the edge slightly. Holdfasts were made for this sort of imprecise stuff I've found:


With the slots cut and the cramps out it was time to get gluing up:



Having left them to cook for a couple of days, the cramps came off and all was well (phew):


The glue up worked a treat but the panels were still overlong so I had to get them down to final size.


I did this using the sliding table on my old Wadkin dimension saw:


It's tiny compared to the PK's and PP's that others have but it handles jobs like this with aplomb and meets my needs perfectly.

On to the joinery; Now I doubt my eight year old will really take in the special nature of what I'm attempting (beyond "daddy made this for you with his hands and his love" etc.) but hopefully her older self will come to appreciate such things. And if she doesn't she'll be grounded until she bloody well does :). I'm going for single kerf, hand cut dovetails on the corners. Upon measuring up I found I needed 10 on each corner. "Bloody hell. 40 dovetails." was all I could think for a while as that's about twice as many as I've ever put on a project before. Anyway no sense in putting it off. Saw, saw, saw:


Chop, chop, chop:


I'm not that bothered about all of the tails having the same rake (1:6 or thereabouts here) but I am bothered about each tail being cut square across the board and that the shoulders should also be square to the faces (slightly undercut inside to make things easier though) :


With that done I used the masking tape technique various folks have written about to mark out the pins which works a treat IME:


As I wanted her to have this box before she got her driver's license I couldn't spend the time needed to chop them out by hand, so I lashed up a quick jig and wasted most of the stock out with a router:


with final cuts to my marks done with a paring chisel:


Checking each joint for fit as I went along:


Here is where I am to date:



The joints are nice and snug but I'm a bit worried about glue. I was planning on using TB Extend but I'm concerned PVA will grab under the pressure of the joints and make life difficult. Would hot hide glue work? I have some (pearls or rabbit skin I think) but have never used it. Any advice or critique gladly received. I'll hopefully have some more updates after the weekend.

Thanks for reading thus far and hopefully I haven't bored anyone to tears just yet!
Hi Memzey,

That looks great so far and very interesting WIP. Keep up the good work. I also have clamp envy.

What a great excuse for an impressive project. Much nicer than a cheap plastic box!

I'd use liquid hide glue on something like that. Not grabby, plenty of strength and less bother than the hot stuff. (At least, I imagine it must be - I'm so happy with it I've never bothered buying a heated pot to explore the other stuff.) Really easy to clean up too.
I can't believe how close to the tape you went with the about nerves of steel, James Bond would have left more for the paring chisel!

Seriously Memzey, first class job. Immaculate edge jointing and dovetailing, and the detail stuff is well sorted, for example with needle point dovetails you've nailed it by leaving the half pins that bit fatter. Absolutely first class.

youre so good with those hand tools, I'm sure you dont actually need that wadkin, do you?

Way finer work than I will ever do, thats for sure. =D> =D> =D>

But is she going to be able to lift it once full up?
Thanks for the kind words everyone. Hold on though as there is still plenty of opportunity for this oaf to make a mess of things!

I think I’ll hold on to the Wadkin for now Bob but thanks for asking! You are right to ask about it’s weight of course, which is considerable already. The chest is intended to provide static storage and not really meant to be moved too frequently. The top will have to be easily picked up by Emi however so I am a bit concerned by that. We’ll have to see how that goes I guess. By the way please do let me know if you’d like me to bring over any of that grain filler or whatever to Cyprus this summer. We are all looking forward to meeting up at the beach bar again.

As for glue; are there any more thoughts on whether hot hide would be ok? I take Andy’s point about cold hide glue but I don’t have any in the shed so if the hot stuff would work I’d rather give that a bash.

Oh and thank you for your comment Steliz - FYI every time I come onto these boards I get skills envy. Take my word for it, cramps are much easier to acquire than skills :).
These are the hide glues I’ve got btw:

Reading the blurb on the front it seems like the pearl glue would be best (unless gesso means “gluing up tight dovetails).
Apologies for the delayed update. I’m afraid that often is the way of things with my woodworking as I have to scavenge time in the shed to make progress. This makes setbacks all the more galling...

The next thing I wanted to do was work on the top. This was to be a floating board held captive in grooves milled into the carcass. I looked through my stock and found a board that I thought was good for resawing into a bookmatched pattern. The resawing worked well but brought the stock to thinner than I was comfortable with at less than 3/8”:

I couldn’t live with bodging it in that way so off I went to my timber yard yesterday morning for a nose around. Fortunately I found this fantastic piece of 2 1/8” quarter sawn oak with some really dramatic rays:

Even better is that the rays fade out to the left as you look, which is where I hope to make the edge joint. This morning I planed up and thicknessed then resawed the board:

Interesting. Dirty big knot that wasn’t visible from the outside. Never mind. I think I can hide it but if not I’ll make a feature of it. I’ve left them stickered and cramped down to my bench to settle for a bit before I square them up and attempt a glue join. That might happen tomorrow after work, it might be in a fortnight, who knows :duno: I’ll try to make it snappy but thanks for bearing with me if it isn’t :mrgreen:
I managed to get an hour or so in the shed tonight so I checked on the boards. Still behaving themselves I’m glad to say but the moisture reading on the resawn faces is considerably higher than the outside of the boards (if you see what I mean) so I put them back in the cramps and got on with other stuff - in this case I made a start on the trays/organisers that will fit inside the finished box.

First I ripped some of Bunnings’ crappiest hardwood ply into 4” strips then cut them to final dimensions (think these will be consumables so no point going all out on them). I’ll be making three in total so for the sides of the boxes I needed six of each length:

I thought box joints would be a nice contrast to the dovetails of the chest so I brought out my home made jig and fitted 3/8” of dado stack goodness to my table saw:

A few minutes later and the sides were done:

Dead fast and quite nice looking I think although I do know box joints do rub some people up the wrong way. I just need to rebate the sides to receive the bottoms then cut and fit those too (also made of the same crappy ply). I might get the chance to do that tomorrow night after work and putting the kids to bed - fingers crossed!
Great Wip as always, looking very very good so far and 40 dovetails, you're definitely getting the hang of those.

Gesso is a mixture of whiting - a very fine white powder, chalk or gypsum and that rabbit skin glue, to a syrupy consitency - historically it was most often applied as a primer usually on wood before painting, but occasionally on canvas too even today. Another common use was being laid on in many thin layers as a plaster / filler of sorts on lower grade wood, then cut back to build up a perfectly smooth surface, usually for gilding or chinese laquering furniture to get that high sheen.

Amazing what you pick up watching antiques roadshow :)

As for the visual of the smaller boxes, you could always try your hand at a spot of veneering - chances are high there might be some lurking at Richards do in a week or I have extras bought from Crispy's clear out I could bring up for you, nothing fancy just err - lol no idea what species, but it's bamboo coloured and plenty of it bought for practising - you're welcome to a few of the 400x500 sheets.
Thanks Rafe. I guesso that’s what gesso does then (sorry!). Looking forward to seeing you next week as well. I don’t think I’m going to veneer these inner boxes as they are likely to need replacing at some point but I would like to try my hand at it Veneering in future so will see what Richards’s table of goodies has to offer in that regard (heaven knows I don’t need any more chisels).

I have made a bit more progress in bits and bobs over the course of this week:
First I cut and fitted the bottoms to the small boxes (fixed in a groove rather than a rebate) then glued them up:

This is what they’ll eventually look like stacked up inside:

Then I planed and thicknessed the bookmatched top boards as they were now stable. I need to decide which way around to join them. Either at the quarter sawn edge:

Or the rift sawn:

I think I prefer joining at the rift sawn edge as it is more likely to resemble a single board that way. Even though it will look a bit less dramatic I think making it look like a single board is more harmonious and more indicative of quality work. What would others do I wonder? Happy to hear your opinions on this.
quarter sawn.
the rift sawn looks vaguely obscene.
(aw, c'mon, its not JUST me, is it?)
Too long spent ogling bikini clad girls at the beach I think bob :). I’m going to grass you up to Pauline this summer!
If you turn the pics 90 degrees.
Quarter sawn looks like a little like a flaming broadsword. He man. Thunder cats. Ninjas. King blooming Arthur. Bosh.
Rift sawn looks like an upper class elephant is making snide comments on your choice of trainers when you wandered into the posh area at Ascot by mistake when you're a bit lashed at your man's stag do but you hit it off with the posh fellas and they end up inviting your mob in and paying for all the booze all day because their dads own Cornwall. And Hereford probably. And the lasses are surprisingly open minded it turns out after all that if you're a bit canny with how you talk to them.
Damhikt. At least not on here. :D
I got your back Memzey.
Lol - you crack me up Chris. You have exactly the same sense of humour as me. I can even see the sword and the elephant now that you mention it which reminds me of a brief convo I had with the wife last year:

Wifey: mem see that cloud over there?
Me: <squints> yes.
Wifey: what does it look like to you?
Me: <looks a bit harder> a strato cumulus. What do you think?
Wifey: a camel.
Me: ok. Yes. Definitely a camel.

I’m still grassing on bob though. Just for the giggles of it. 8)
Lol. My Mrs is a scientist. Proper one. Works on cures for cancer. Far
far far more intelligent than me. Straight up. I don't go to their work Christmas parties these days. That's what you call mutual consent.
Years back were outside at night while I had a fag. We saw a satellite spin through the stratosphere.
God. Look at that.
Yeh she says.
That's some fu*king job isn't it?
Fuc* off she says. There's no one on that.
Course there is. That's why it has headlights. So they can see where they are going.
F*ck off.
Course there is. There's loads of satellites now. It'll be like the north circular up there these days. Loads of them all trying to go to the same place at once. They'll all be queuing up. That's why the internet slows down sometimes.
Shut up I'm not listening.
I'm just saying. It has to be a bit lonely but I bet it pays well. I wonder if you have to go on a course.
Fu*k off I'm not falling for it again.
memzey, 46 and a bit years... you think she doent know I have a one track mind, and its all muddy?
:roll: :roll: :roll: #-o
Lol and lol. Seriously it’s good blokes like Custard, Chris and bob that keep me coming back to this site even with the new crappy software (oh no - he didn’t just raise that old chestnut again did he?) :)
oh no! now we have TWO "S" words.
It was bad enough when we just couldnt say silverl.... sisvli.....
now we cant say softs... sotfs......

EITHER of them!
Bob are you trying to say that the dreaded Silverline supplied the forum software? I think you’re on to something - it all adds up now. I bet if you look in their latest catalogue you’ll find find “forum software”. Last page of their “landfill” range I wouldn’t be surprised.

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