Treasure Box #1: Getting Started

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Blog entry by TerryDowning posted 02-18-2014 08:46 PM 1555 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Treasure Box series Part 2: Raised Panel Bottom »

A while back, my Son and and his fiance’ commissioned a “Treasure Box” to hold the best wishes of the people attending their upcoming wedding and receptions (yes 2, 1 in the Seattle area where she is from and 1 in So Cal where He is from, small wedding ceremony to be held in San Francisco)

That is the why, now for the what.

I’m using Plum wood. Why Plum? It’s what I have on hand. I harvested and processed what I could of a tree 2 years ago. Tree died of natural causes (Read Heavily pruned and never came back) I blame the nit wit owner attempting to prune stone fruit trees by himself (me).

At any rate I manged to get some scales, pen blanks and enough boards to make this treasure box. Originally I was going to use most of the trunk for Turning Blanks but then I was commissioned for the box, so I processed the turning blanks into boards.

The grains is a bit tricky and i experienced a lot of tear out when planing down the boards Plum is also fairly hard with a Janka rating of 1550 according to the wood database. For comparison Sapele shows as 1500, White Oak is 1333 and Sugar Maple is 1450, so yeah pretty hard stuff.

Here is what the wood database has to say about plum wood
Color/Appearance: Plum heartwood can exhibits a cornucopia of colors, ranging from a yellowish brown, with streaks of pink, orange, red, purple, olive, or gray mixed in. Because of the small size of plum trees, swirled or irregular grain, as well as knots and other defects are common.

Workability: Areas with straight and clear grain are easy to work with hand or machine tools. Care must be taken when surfacing irregular grain or knots to avoid tearout. Plum glues, turns, and finishes well.

I highly recommend a very sharp high angle smoother for smoothing this wood. A good amount of lubrication (wax, grease, oil, whatever you prefer) is also strongly recommended as the sole of the plane likes to grab the interlocking grain. I don;t a High angle smoother and purchasing one is just not an option so I did the next best thing. I ground a 10 degree back bevel on a spare 2” plane iron giving me an effective attack angle 55 degrees and this significantly reduced the tear out.

Here is a sample as it came off of my Band saw.

The bowl blanks I processed into boards were 11 or so inches long the tree diameter was around 6”, so I had to be very careful processing this to limit the waste as much as possible. Even being careful I still had a hard time getting enough stock wide enough for the box sides and tops. I still have some smaller stock which will be used in other projects as accents or small pieces.

I now have 5 plum boards prepared for use in the box. The box dimensions are approximately 10” long, x 6” wide x 5 1/2” material thickness is approximately 3/8” thick.

I have tried full blind dovetails in material of this size and my skills just aren’t there yet and I’m not convinced there is enough material for a good joint anyways. I also built a prototype box out of cherry using glued miter joints and that joint is just not strong enough. I have decided to attempt mitered dovetails as described in this video series from Fine Woodwoorking.

I had to glue up a panel for the top as the stock I had remaining would not be wide enough. I also dis not have enough stock for the bottom panel so I used some Poplar that was left over form a project my son and his Fiance’ did a while back.

The Panels and boards are all at final dimension, cut to length and ready for the hard work to begin.
So far the only power tool I have used is the bandsaw for resawing the trunk into boards.

The bottom panel will be a raised panel the box will actually sit on the raised panel lifting the box slightly and creating a shadow line. You can see I have started the layout for the bottom raised panel I’ll cover that in the next blog entry.

-- - Terry

3 comments so far

View Airframer's profile


3117 posts in 3403 days

#1 posted 02-19-2014 03:16 AM

That plum wood sure is purty! Looking forward to seeing more.

-- Eric - "I'm getting proficient with these hand jobbers. - BigRedKnothead"

View palaswood's profile


1061 posts in 3202 days

#2 posted 03-05-2014 06:26 PM

I think that plum looks amazing, and you REALLY have to be commended on your hand planing notes on Plum wood. That advice is gold; I was just about to comment and ask how you traverse the swirling grain. Great looking panels dude.

I really would love to work with some plum, I see these cherry plum trees all over my neighborhood and im waiting for the day when I can score a log from one during tree trimming season.

-- Joseph, Irvine CA, @palas_woodcraft on Instagram

View TerryDowning's profile


1154 posts in 3568 days

#3 posted 03-05-2014 06:37 PM

Planing the plum is very tricky. Here are some additional pointers I can pass along.

I found I had to work the boards with knots from different directions as the grain direction does change. One side planing great the other popping and tearing (against the grain) Once I figured out what was happening and where the approximate change line was it was a matter working both side from different directions and when I had to straddle both directions SKEW THE PLANE!

Keep the sole well lubed, this cuts way down on the rubbing (which feels like chatter but isn’t really. It’s just a dry plane sole rubbing against the fibers, a wood bodied plane may reduce this as well)

Skew the plane to the direction of travel this helps to slice the shavings off, reduces tear out and reduces the amount of effort to drive HA plane a little bit.

Working with small stock is a challenge, be patient!

-- - Terry

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