It's a ... Box (Part 1)

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Blog entry by DonGriffith posted 06-16-2013 08:08 AM 1452 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s a … Box.

Just finished a course on box making. Little did I know making such a simple item had so many steps, many of which are loaded with chances to screw up…which I inevitably did. But, not one to let a lack of talent or skill stand in the way, off I went to make my box.

Unfortunately, I didn’t I realize that I first had to pick a board of rough-sawn maple from which, like a Michelangelo sculpture, the box would eventually emerge. I was just hoping it would emerge before my wife realized I was missing for 3 hours every Tuesday night.

Anyway, here’s the board I chose for my masterpiece.

I know it doesn’t look like much, but I was assured it had potential. And since the plans called for a 7”x7” box, at 8 feet long, there was room for error. So off I went to the radial arm saw to cut it down to rough size. Allowing for a little waste (ok, more than a little waste), and surviving the weirdness of cutting with a radial arm saw, where everything is bass-ackwards, here’s “my board.”

You’ll notice my name scrawled on the face—I was so proud of my rough cut I didn’t want anyone stealing my board and claiming it as their own. So having successfully cut it down to a manageable size, they told me I had to cut the board to rough width on the band saw. “But I like this width,” I said. “And besides, saws make me nervous.” After being told that woodworkers generally must work with saws, I sucked it up and headed to the band saw.

Having survived ripping the board and not ripping my fingers, I was again pretty proud of myself. Then I learned they wanted me to actually joint and plane the thing to bring it to four square. “You mean I’m supposed to do this? I thought that’s what Home Depot was for,” I said. It was soon explained to me, though, that it’s generally frowned on in a workshop to send your work out. So off to jointer I went to flatten my board.

Several passes later my board was certainly smoother, but no flatter. Turns out they were serious about that whole “be careful where you place your pressure” thing. After a quick lesson in how to think upside down, I was able to figure out which side of the board to place the pressure and soon had a flatter board. Then off to the thickness planer…

Now, here i understand folks can disagree on whether to thickness first or straighten an edge. As I understand it, the benefit of thicknessing first allows you to reverse feed direction on the jointer to avoid tearout if you need to (since both faces are now flat, you can use either against the jointer’s fence as your flat surface,). Besides, it’s much more fun to head to the planer.

I love the planer—my kind of machine. Stick the board in one end and it comes out the other flat and a little thinner. If I had to choose a career all over, it’d probably be thickness planer operator. No pressure there—stick the board in, walk around to the other side, pick the board up, collect my pay. But, naturally, I still managed to mess it up. Turns out grain direction is important and, like my woodworking career, my board was heading in the wrong direction. After fixing that, though, and eating a little humble pie after feeling so smug about the skill level necessary in operating the planer, I had a fairly straight, flat board to work with. Here it is, in all it’s glory:

Having allowed the newly-exposed wood a few days to acclimate, I was back at it, this time at the table saw to cut to width and add a dado for the eventual plywood bottom. So it was decision time—which side would I put the dado on? While others cut to width, I pondered grain patterns. While they cut to length, I eyeballed the edges. While they headed out for beers and stories, I struggled with where the knots would end up after the board was cut. Finally, they threatened to turn out the lights and that got me moving and i flipped a coin. So here’s the board, dadoed and then cut to length.

I was feeling pretty sure of my new woodworking skills, so they threw me a curveball: “We want you to miter the corners and use splines.” I needed time to study, so like then, I’ll take a break and cover that in the next blog.

Until then, just remember: Somewhere in the world is the world’s worst woodworker, and you just read his blog.

-- Cut first and ask questions later.

5 comments so far

View jumbojack's profile


1689 posts in 3137 days

#1 posted 06-16-2013 01:29 PM

Good start to a blog. You funny! I am looking forward to the next installment.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View Makarov's profile


103 posts in 2318 days

#2 posted 06-16-2013 03:02 PM

I had to join, just so I can follow your story. Well Written

-- "Complexity is easy; Simplicity is difficult." Georgy Shragin Designer of ppsh41 sub machine gun

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3617 days

#3 posted 06-16-2013 03:30 PM

Your story reminds me why I work in a one person shop where I can discover things on my own. Mistakes went (go?)into the wood stove. Great writing!

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View getlostinwood's profile


224 posts in 3115 days

#4 posted 06-16-2013 06:27 PM

Truly an enjoyable read. I look forward to the next installment. I’m pretty sure you’re not the worst woodworker, I have a wife that so far is willing to hold that title pretty firmly, you seem to be at least a step or two better than her.

Welcome to LJ, after reading this you’ll fit right in.

-- The basis for optimism is shear terror

View DonGriffith's profile


8 posts in 2357 days

#5 posted 06-17-2013 01:54 PM

Thanks for the comments and support. What I lack in skill I’ll make up for in bad attitude.

-- Cut first and ask questions later.

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