Shaker Box Making Class

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Project by Karson posted 09-29-2008 12:45 AM 8609 views 21 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Sept. 28-29, 2008 the Mason Dixon Woodworking club held a Shaker Box Making Class. Seven people were in attendance. We usually want no more than 10 in the class, but a couple of people made a double set of boxes, so the drier was full on Sat night.

But that’s ahead of the story.

You select one from each pile, except for the square pieces of wood, you need two – top and bottom.

There were five sizes, 1 thru 5, we usually make a zero box, but everyone breaks their bands bending them so they are not usually in the batch going home, so we left them out this year. (We have the class every year)
You mark the patterns on the wood. The fingers on the board ends. You also mark the holes to be drilled.

You mark the end of the board so that you can taper the end on the inside of the box.

You mark the square pieces. A different pattern for top and bottom. The top is 10% larger. And of course you have a different pattern for each box number. This one is Box 3, bottom.

You go to the bandsaw and cut out the fingers.

You go to the drill press and drill the holes. They are very small because you only need to get the nail through the surface so that it can be tacked.

A moment of confession. I didn’t take my camera the first day and all of the above pictures were taken after the fact.

At this point in the process the strips are sanded on the end to get the taper made so you don’t have an abrupt edge on the inside. You then place the strips in a bucket of water to soften the strips so that you can use your utility knife to taper the front edges of each of the fingers.

Then the strips are placed in the hot water box. Each person should only put in the strips for one box, or it gets full and doesn’t heat correctly.

This box is a 48” box and is good up to a #9 box I believe.

You leave the wood in for 15 to 20 minutes. You take the box strip out and bend it around the appropriate form. (Sorry no pictures) Hopefully it doesn’t crack. (If it does you might be able to use superglue to repair the crack. Or you make another one.) You hold it for a minute or so until it cools a little. You place a mark across both pieces so that when you take it off the form you can realign it again.

You then take the strip, put in a tack and hold it over a piece of steel pipe held in a vise. You hammer the copper tack and it gets bent over by the steel pipe. (Again sorry no pictures) But, the picture of the hammering pipe is in the second picture at the beginning of this project. It’s in the vise in the front of the picture.

You take a forming block for the appropriate box and press it into the bent and tacked band.

You then take the lid strap out of the hot water and bend it around the box band, Mark it with a pencil, take it off and tack it the same as the box, and them place it back on top of the box.

It is then placed in the drying box. A small fresh air fan and a 60 watt heater. (It could be a bulb for heat.

You continue on this finishing all of your boxes. It stays in the drier over night.

You then take the box lids and bottoms and cut about 1/16” outside of the line. You then sand to the line. The sander has a 4 deg angle so that the inside of the lid is a little smaller than the outside.

You go home for the night. You come back the next day, and collect all of your boxes from the drier.

You sand off all of the marks on the box. You can’t sand the inside after it all assembled. We also have our initials on the pieces so that we can find them when they are in the water bath and in the drier overnight.

You now take your bottom and get it to fit, tightly inside the band.

You keep tweaking until you can get it pressed in. You press it a little below the surface of the edge so that you can sand the edge down to be flush with the top or bottom.

You then get an assembled box.

The nails are supposed to be all aligned up on all of the boxes. Which means the double set of nails are suppose to be exactly in the center of the box.

If the top or bottom don’t fit perfectly. Meaning no gaps at the edges, You use a litle titebond on the gap and then sand it go get the sanding dust into the gap. All gaps disappear. But once in a while you hear an exclamation from someone who got the lid sanded perfectly oval and it fits perfectly. I had two today.

It’s now time to attach the sides to the top and bottom. A small drill is set up where you push your box into the spinning drill.

You should put six holes into each end and top. Kind of like 12 o’clock (front side) and then every 2 hours. 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. You turn the box over and drill the other side. Keeping the holes aligned up on top and bottom.

Someone stole my camera and took a picture of this bald man. Usually he is not in, any of my pictures. Sorry Martin, I didn’t have on my LumberJock shirt.

You then place square tooth picks in the holes and tap them in with the side cutters.

You then snip them off.

And then use a sanding block to smoothen them to the surface,

Periodically repairs need to be made, this one is a small knot hole on the edge of a band (Should have been returned). Superglue was used to press the wood to keep it from splitting.

Other kind of boxes could be made. Ed was making a fixed handle box. These don’t have box lids. I’m putting a swivel band on my large box. That is why the nails are not in the center of the box because it will conflict with the swivel handle.

If the handles had been adjusted longer on the big boxes and smaller on the smaller box. They can be made to sit inside each other. These were not made that way.

The handles drying overnight. The square top handle is for swivel boxes, the round top handle is for fixed handle boxes. The round top handle is also longer so that it goes to the bottom of the box on the inside of the box.

A couple of boxes made previously by the owner of the shop where we held out class. He resawed the walnut himself for the sides.

The class started at 9:00 am and broke up around 3:00 on Sat. And I was done by 1:30 on Sunday. I’m going to finish the boxs before I attach the handle on my large box.

A great fellowship was had by all.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

17 comments so far

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4734 days

#1 posted 09-29-2008 12:50 AM

Super post, THANKS for all the details. I’m favoriting it.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5009 days

#2 posted 09-29-2008 02:11 AM

a great tutorial as usual Karson.
The boxes are fantastic

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View ND2ELK's profile


13494 posts in 4622 days

#3 posted 09-29-2008 05:27 AM

Very imformative! Always liked these boxes and it is interesting how they are made. Looks like you guys had a great time doing it. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Douglas Krueger's profile

Douglas Krueger

416 posts in 4572 days

#4 posted 09-29-2008 06:47 AM


So glad your camera was returned after the “bald mystery man” picture incident.

In years past this type of box would periodically show up at local midwest auctions and I always wondered how they were made. Thanks for documenting and sharing your Shake® Rattle & Roll experience.

-- I can so I wood but why are my learning curves always circles

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 4749 days

#5 posted 09-29-2008 11:02 AM

I’ve always had a fascination for these boxes Karson; thanks for taking the time to share the story.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2829 posts in 4440 days

#6 posted 09-29-2008 04:13 PM

Great Job Karson!!! It’s like a post & a blog mixed together.

-- Dennis Zongker

View itsme_timd's profile


690 posts in 4679 days

#7 posted 09-29-2008 04:53 PM

Another excellent blog Karson, I’d love to try one of these. I really appreciate the detail you give on these posts.

-- Tim D. - Woodstock, GA

View Karson's profile


35225 posts in 5249 days

#8 posted 09-29-2008 11:39 PM

I’ve gotton a couple of coments as to where to buy the bands, tacks etc.

John Wilson Boxmaker purchased an original tack making machine when the company went out of business. He carries supplies, tacks, patters etc. Phone# 517-543-5325 500 E. Braodway Hwy. Charlotte, MI 48813

The bands are different sizes, tacks are different lengths and the top and bottom sizes.

I’ll scan in the page of all of the sizes from #000 to #20 Boxes from 1” x 2” to 25 7/8 X 38 1/3

By the way the #8 is the largest size that cn be made in a 48” water tray. The size 20 box has a band 14 1/4 X 114” A big box.

If you want a copy of the band sizes send me a private e-mail address and I’ll return it to you.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View woodup's profile


145 posts in 4791 days

#9 posted 09-30-2008 12:33 AM

I’ve had these boxes on my mind for awhile. I just got a new woodslicer blade for my bandsaw and it wont be to long before I try my own hand at these boxes. Thanks for positng.

-- Michael, Fort Worth, TX. "I wood if I could!"

View Grumpy's profile


26603 posts in 4699 days

#10 posted 09-30-2008 02:37 AM

Excellent post Karson & great project.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5148 days

#11 posted 09-30-2008 01:21 PM

You’re sure busy aren’t you?

Thanks for the nice walk through.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4782 days

#12 posted 09-30-2008 07:36 PM

This is very cool, Karson! Thanks for sharing! Favorited.

-- Robb

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1612 posts in 4413 days

#13 posted 10-03-2008 11:04 PM

Hey great looking boxes, looks like you all were having a good time. Thanks for the reminder-I need to order some bands so I can make a few of these this fall.

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

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4772 days

#14 posted 10-27-2008 05:27 AM

It looks like you had a good time with it and the boxes came out very nice, I like the burl top on the big one.

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 4548 days

#15 posted 10-31-2008 03:57 AM

Great documentary, Karson. I lived for for 6 years in Kentucky, just up the road from Pleasant Hill. These boxes were all over the place. You brought back some great associations, and now I see I’m going to need to make some of these…

Great t-shirt, BTW!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

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