Constructing a North Bennet street school tool box #1: Rough milling and case preperation.

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Blog entry by ELCfinefurniture posted 08-08-2012 05:26 AM 6228 reads 3 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Constructing a North Bennet street school tool box series Part 2: Layout and dovetailing »

Its time for another….
My tool box in which I made at my first semester at school is filling to the gills. Even the top of the box is becoming filled up.
I decided to make a second tool box to go back to school in September with. I was originally going to make a hanging cabinet then I decided it would be a fun experiment to see how much better and faster I have gotten since I last built my tool box.
I am making this one a little smaller and out of maple. I will do some special accents later on but thats a little ways off.

This is a blog that will hopefully inspire you to make your own, and if it does it will provide an inside look into just how we do it at school. I will try and be as detailed as possible but if something isnt covered and you are trying to build along feel free to contact me.
You WILL need some basic skills and tools for the project. A basic shop setup is needed. With a table saw and router table. Milling machines are not a must have, you could mill by hand. I am using a combo of both and you will see why.
You will need a good set of handtools. Good layout tools, chisels, dovetail saw, handplane and router plane. These tools will NEED to be sharp. A dull tool is essentially worthless. That being said, a basic knowledge of sharpening is needed.
I would say if you havent dovetailed anything before do some practice corners before this. At the same time by the time you leave this project you will understand dovetails ALOT better.

Now on to the woodworking.

I will be using hard maple for this piece. Its strong and will contrast my existing tool box well.
I start with 2 boards. I will be doing a 2 board glue to create the panels for the case. You could do virtualy as many board glue up as you want if you have thinner stock you like. I like to try and do two board glue ups for, ease, grain matching and stability reasons. I try and get all the boards for one size of panel of one board that way the color is uniform on those pieces. In this case I made the top and bottom panels of one board and the side panels out of another.
After cutting them to length I am left with this stack of boards.

Now for milling. I have very tame stock but if yours is not I strongly suggest doing this in a few small mills. Try and tame it.
Heres a problem. I only have a 6 inch jointer. My boards are wider and I need all that length essentially to get the width of my case. Wait…this is no problem! I have hand planes! I simply find the flattest side of the board and flatten it just enough to run through my planer. We dont need to perfect the flatness of this piece, just remove any cup, bow, wind or twist from it so it registers well in the planer. I do this by planing selectively cross grain (scrubbing) with my plane stop. A bench hook would work well also

After one side has been established a reference I send the boards through the planer

Make SURE you send them all through whenever you change the planers setting that way you are ensured a uniform thickness. Even if you are slightly under 3/4 thats OK (within reason) as long as they are uniform and consistant.
After the first pass check each board for flat on the newly planed face. This will reflect how well of a job flattening the first face you did. If correction needs to made make it now. Once they are all planed on a second face take your second pass on the original reference side. Now both faces should be flat and uniform.

After the boards come out of the planer take them to the jointer, (or use a handplane) to establish a flat and square edge for gluing the panels up. Also make sure one of the boards has TWO reference edges, you will need one for ripping them to width later on.

On the subject of surface prep, I like to start my surface prep as soon as possible. I find it easier to keep clean surfaces throughout the project as it makes the ultimate prep far faster and easier. That being said now would be a good time to remove any heavy defects like snipe or tearout. These will be much harder to remove after glue up esspecialy if your grain match calls for the boards to reverse grain direction. Hit them with a handplane or scraper or whatever method is needed to take care of any surface defects. A good hint as well is that dampening the surface will make it easier to scrape or plane on punky woods. It raises the grain just enough to take a light cut and still have it actualy cut.

Now dry fit your panels and glue them up! A good glue joint shouldnt need, a ton of clamp preasure.

Also when you get short on clamps it helps to know how to do spring joints. You can clamp short panels with only one clamp if they are sprung properly. If you would like to know how to spring a joint simply message me. And if enough people want to know maybe I will do a separate post about them.

After a bit of time in clamps you are ready to remove them and do whatever scraping is needed to flush the joints.

If you follow these procedures you should end up with a nice stack of 4 panels ready to be cut to length, width and dovetailed!

I hope You all enjoy this project. I would love it if even one person built along at some point or even tried a technique and posted there result. Please feel free to drop questions.

-- {Current North Bennet street school student}

6 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3163 days

#1 posted 08-08-2012 12:54 PM

Thanks for sharing this. It’s nice to see a combination approach.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View balidoug's profile


497 posts in 2987 days

#2 posted 08-09-2012 12:03 AM

I’m really looking forward to this series. Looks like it will be a great learning opportunity; heck, it already is.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3047 days

#3 posted 08-09-2012 03:20 AM

Can’t wait. I will be following this bad boy. Could you include a section about what tools you have and how you decided what goes where?

-- I never finish anyth

View ELCfinefurniture's profile


112 posts in 2828 days

#4 posted 08-09-2012 04:44 AM


You mean as far as placing the items in my toolbox?

-- {Current North Bennet street school student}

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3163 days

#5 posted 08-09-2012 12:48 PM

If that is what Phillip is asking for I second his request. The parts about actually fitting all the tools in the box seems to get skipped by a lot of these blogs.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View YupCut's profile


4 posts in 2626 days

#6 posted 08-12-2012 03:22 AM

Impressive. You seem to know what you are doing. How long have you been doing this??

Couple questions from the rookie here.
-First, I agree with the others, how do you know how to arrange your tools?
-What kind of clamps should I use?
-What glue should I use?
-Can you post a sketchup or plans for this?

Last question….I know this is probably stupid, but I may as well ask while I am at it. I want to get into mallet-making, do you have any experience with that? I think it will help with my spring joins and other joins

sorry for asking so many questions….i just figure I may as well ask from one of the best since I have the chance

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