Shaker Oval Boxes #1: A whole new angle on woodworking

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Andy Brownell posted 01-11-2010 05:32 PM 4514 reads 8 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shaker Oval Boxes series no next part

I recently came back from a woodworking class with Dale Barnard in Paoli, IN this weekend where he taught me how to make a set of five Shaker oval nesting boxes in cherry.

Dale’s workshop is set up to build just about anything, and he offers some pretty awesome classes for beginner through advanced woodworkers. Initially, I was surprised at how relatively simple the construction a set of one of these seemed to be. I guess that is pretty standard for anything from the Shakers. However, like many Shaker items, the details are what makes these a true work of art.

The first day I spent marking, cutting and shaping the top and bottom bands that will get bent.

I then boiled each of the pieces for around 5 minutes, and then bent them around a set of graduated molds and forms. These are tacked together at key points with some really fine copper tacks.

They then are placed in the forms and dry over night. In the morning I used the upper and lower bands to trace out and mark the solid lids. These are cut just proud of the line, and then sanded at a 4 degree angle.

Once fit with the upper and lower bands, the assembled pieces are then drilled and held in place with round toothpicks.
I have plenty of sanding and finishing to go, but they are really looking like the final product.

I’ll have more photos and progress to share over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, if you are interested in learning how to make these, or some other classes, I recommend giving Dale a call. You can get all of the class information for The Barnard Woodworking School here.

-- Andy Brownell

12 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4087 days

#1 posted 01-11-2010 05:35 PM

Good blog Andy very interesting.

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 4350 days

#2 posted 01-11-2010 06:34 PM

Good job Andy, it sounds like you had fun.
Where is Paoli IN.?
I am near IN 101 & IN 350

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Andy Brownell's profile

Andy Brownell

144 posts in 3761 days

#3 posted 01-11-2010 07:12 PM

West of Louisville by about 45 miles or so. Off of IN 64.

-- Andy Brownell

View Partridge's profile


296 posts in 4466 days

#4 posted 01-11-2010 09:50 PM

i have always wanted to try these. nice boxes

-- I get out in the shop when I can

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4492 days

#5 posted 01-12-2010 02:16 AM

interesting topic and well presented

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18671 posts in 4185 days

#6 posted 01-12-2010 05:16 AM

Interesting, thanks. I intend to do this when i get my band saw set up to make the sides .

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Andy Brownell's profile

Andy Brownell

144 posts in 3761 days

#7 posted 01-12-2010 08:06 PM

TopmaxSurvivor: you can get them online all in the right sizes for about $18 for the full set.

Here is the link.

-- Andy Brownell

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18671 posts in 4185 days

#8 posted 01-13-2010 01:39 AM

Thanks for the link.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1590 posts in 4075 days

#9 posted 01-13-2010 01:50 AM

I have bought from John Wilson and can say they great. Just made a set this weekend and set them out to dry.

Andy, I always seem to have trouble bending the smaller cherry bands, (splitting in the sharp bends) did they teach you any special bending technique?

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View Andy Brownell's profile

Andy Brownell

144 posts in 3761 days

#10 posted 01-13-2010 04:30 PM


There are a couple of things that may be contributing to the splitting you are experiencing.

First may be due to the fact that the wood could use additional boiling time, with a sharp bend on those smaller pieces, you should keep the water soaking for 10 minutes or so, particularly with the 000-1 sizes, 5 minutes for the larger ones, since the bed isn’t as severe.

Second, you may be bending the wood against the orientation of the grain on the wood itself. This is a little trickier to figure out. But essentially, what you do is while still dry, and before you create the 10 degree tapers on the swallow-tails, you bend the wood and look closely to see if there is slight splintering. The side that splinters is the side that you make the inside of the bend.

As this was only my first experience making these, there are probably a better set of tricks out there to predict this easier, but this is what I have been told. As with most things in woodworking, practice and experience probably eliminates this over time – being that making a mistake is one of the best ways to learn.
(As long as it doesn’t involve a finger)


-- Andy Brownell

View woodchic's profile


841 posts in 3867 days

#11 posted 01-24-2010 04:23 PM

These are cool….............great project to learn to build.


-- Robin Renee'

View Cantputjamontoast's profile


416 posts in 3942 days

#12 posted 07-19-2014 02:35 PM

very very nice my first attempt was much more rustic…provincial…crappy

-- "Not skilled enough to wipe jam on toast!"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics