Oak box with round dovetails and vertical cherry spines.

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Project by exit116 posted 10-30-2013 03:17 PM 3997 views 3 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a long post, so don’t feel bad skipping to the pic’s (can’t seem to copy and paste the pic’s in place) this is meant to take at lest one person out of a bad day and put them back in the workshop.

Off subject, I started making my own cigarettes. I put them in a Tupperware box. I was looking around my room, now the man who owned the local lumber mill built my house 100 years ago so there is a lot of old wood in my house, and my wife and I were lucky enough to have filled this place with old wood furniture that has been passed down a few generations. Except for the Tupperware box of ugliness sitting on my nightstand so I went out to the shop to make a simple box. I mentioned the cigarettes, as they were the reason for the box. So, Please know I’m not trying to make them seem good, or cool I’m fully aware that they are a bad habit with horrible consequences so let’s keep any comments about the woodworking, fell free to tell me how it could be better as I post on lJ because I like to share and I want to be better.

Now back to what matters. The magic trick, how to turn an afternoon into two years. Find a box hidden in a tree and lose your mind in the process.

Two years ago, I moved into this house and my neighbor was clearing out his backyard of bushes. He had offered to help us unload the moving truck without knowing us, which I thought, was nice so I offered to help him clear his yard. Halfway through the yard and there it was a gnarly looking tree. I asked what it was and he said it’s a Japanese spruce, I have never heard of it so I look it up and nothing I found at that time looked quite like it all the info stated 2 to 4 inch trucks with 1 inch branches this thing had a 14 inch truck and 8 inch limbs and was teller by about 10 feet. He had a bush that somehow turned into a tree and when I say gnarly, I mean this tree looked like it could cast a spell on you. He said he was going to turn it into chips and my soul shed a tear at the thought of it. Looking at the sadness in my face, he said you could have it if you want but you have to cut it down. I do not own a chain saw nor have I ever turn a tree into lumber so I am not sure why I said yes but turning this thing to mulch just seemed wrong, so I said yes. The next day armed with my small garden saw and hand axe and the hate I keep stored in my gut I went to work on this magic tree. It took a few hours of sawing to reach the max depth on my garden saw so I had to switch to a handsaw than an hour later the tree fell; I cut it into two 6-foot pieces and laid it in the garage on some bricks. I read somewhere online about covering the end-grain so it will not crack so I put some wax on it after cutting a clean line. I had left it there for a year before I took the bark off as I mentioned I do not know a thing about rough cutting a tree into dimensional lumber. When I did take, the bark off I left the thin layer under the bark on the tree as I was hoping to slow down the drying process. When I finally got around to cutting up some pieces, I found it extremely awkward to hold down when cutting. I screwed a 3” board with a semicircle cutout on each side of my bench and used a tie-down strap in the middle to help keep everything in place. Once I got my rough length, I had to flatten one side so I hewed with a hatchet and drawknife and man I am bad at that. Phew glad that is over, what is that tree gods in order to use my table saw I need to flatten another side. Damn this is hard work and after a little while it cons you in to thinking it’s cool so you keep doing it until you have six feet flat and then you bust out the hand planes and tell flat what flat really is, and then on to the other side. You start saying things like its only one more foot, now you have more than you need and when did ninety degrees ever feel so good. Than it hits you, you spent all day and by all day, I mean two days using hand tools. You have used muscles that you didn’t know you had, and there might not be enough bengay left in the world, and you’re only in your thirties so why the hell do you know what bengay is. You spend the next three days getting out of chairs like a pregnant woman in her 3rd trimaster. All awhile, you have been talking to this tree but nobody knows what you mean, I promise Lumber Jockers I will seek out professional council when this post is over. I set up my table saw, start ripping the blank, increasing the blade height slowly until the max cut was made. Than move the fence over an inch, and start again. When I got to the end, I realized that I needed to flip the piece over to complete the rip. Now back to the madness of flatten the top, but this time it went by quick and begin to get fun now I know I going crazy. I used the existing kerfs to set the fence, flipped the wood back over and ripped out the blanks. I know what you are thinking, he stickered the planks in a dry place so they could acclimate to his shop and since he could not work on them for a few days he placed them in a bag so no warping could take place, but you would be wrong. After all this work, I simply put them down in the basement and allowed the warping to commence. Luckily, one of the planks stayed true and when I ripped it in half and laid it side by side an odd feeling happened. This was the first time for many things in my shop but book matching for the first time was awesome. Awesome may not be the right word perhaps magical is more fitting. After all this was a gnarly tree that looked like a colossal magic wand. I said it looked like it could cast a spell and maybe it had, if freedom was a spell. All the hard work had paid off in a sense of freedom. What I mean by this, is hard work in the shop normally pays off with an item, as we take forty-five pieces and make one big piece and there you go, a coffee table, a nightstand that is what woodworking is, this however this took all the woodworking things I knew just to get the wood in the first place. Whereas this was not an item or a part of an item just yet, it was already whole, a standalone piece of art (to me anyway) cocooned in the middle of gnarly tree and I found it and a sense of accomplishment. In reality, it is just two thin boards; anyone of us could have bought at a store for a few bucks. This was not about the money saved or the uniqueness of the wood, I did not care about how no one else would have a piece just like this, although that would come to mind later. This was about freedom to do what I wanted, to be free from what the store had available that day and would overly charge me for, this kind of freedom I had not felt since riding my bike without training wheels for the first time. I know I might be making a bigger deal out of this than I should and I can feel my narcissism gland swelling, it’s right behind the eyes but don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that was a thing most people do not. Now I have to glue this together and spend an excessively amount of time smoothing it out. I now have a true respect for card scrapers. If this is going to be the top of a box than the box has to be better than I know how to make. I had a few oak boards and thought oak would work nicely with the Japanese spruce. After cutting the dovetails, it occurred to me that I spent a lot of time trying to get the corners just right and what ends up happening is very run of the mill job. I don’t cut them by hand I use the porter cable jig with the miniature template yes the full size dovetails do look nice but on small boxes like this, the miniature jig is the way to go. That being said I was looking to mix it up a bit as I am still founding out what works for me on a style level. Just because the joint lines up flat doesn’t mean it has to end up that way. I rounded over the corners by hand and if you are anything like me this is a bad idea, as you end seeing all the mistakes that no one else would ever see. After staring at this box for a few days, I now feel the rounded corners are just what I needed for this box and as a personal design point. I will be buying a round over bit to speed this part up. When I had everything sanded down to 320 grit paper and a little oil on the dovetails I felt like something was missing but I did love how I could not tell the which part slide in what direction, so how rounded over the joint made it look less mechanical and a bit more magical. I was cleaning up the shop when I walked into the first tool that I had ever bought an old backsaw. I kept putting it down but not away like I was supposed to use this thing, next I found some thin cherry strips about 1/16” under the scroll saw not sure why they were there but whatever. Staring again at the box I had spent so much time finishing and thought why not cut right in line with the dovetails and put in some vertical splines of a slightly darker wood to break up the side from the front. That is when it hit me, the backsaw that is. How smart can you feel cutting yourself on a saw that is not even moving, my ego may have moved out? Turns out the backsaw kerf and cherry strips where very close in thickness. I don’t have a thickness planer but I remember seeing someone put there plane in a vise and ran the work piece across the plane so that’s what I did. It only took maybe two passes to fit the cherry, I like the way it all turned out. Next thing I got was a supper thin piece of cedar from a local tobacco shop. The employee said it was from a cigar box that had broken, it was free and he said it would help the smokes, I don’t know if that is true but it looks and smells nice. Oil and wax for the finish. If no inspiration was found here, I hope it made you laugh or smile and if nothing else, I hope you like the box.
The pic with the plane metal screw next to the brass one is a good tip sorry I can’t remember who gave it to me. Here it is, brass screws will break in the wood so buy a screw the same size and with the same thread and use it in every hole for the hinges and only when your done everything else put the brass screws in the pre-drill and threaded holes. Small brass bits are hard to remove from small boxes so save yourself the time and hardship.

-- Money: if you do not have fun earning it, have fun spending it, I do not enjoy spending it so I have fun earning it.

12 comments so far

View exit116's profile


140 posts in 2866 days

#1 posted 10-30-2013 03:20 PM

No more late night pots of coffee for me, my next post will be of few words.

-- Money: if you do not have fun earning it, have fun spending it, I do not enjoy spending it so I have fun earning it.

View ex-member's profile


186 posts in 2849 days

#2 posted 10-30-2013 03:46 PM

Brilliant story…lovely box. “Show flat what flat really is” made me laugh out loud.

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 2898 days

#3 posted 10-30-2013 03:57 PM

Very nice box and the wood grain id beautiful…well done.

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View Sanding2day's profile


1016 posts in 2921 days

#4 posted 10-30-2013 04:34 PM

Great looking box… Really like the rounded over dovetails with splines… Wish I had read that advice on prethreading earlier, still have two broken screws in my bs table due to not doing this. Thanks for sharing…

-- Dan

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30615 posts in 3412 days

#5 posted 10-30-2013 05:19 PM

The box looks great.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Antti's profile


114 posts in 3684 days

#6 posted 10-30-2013 05:48 PM

i can see you are a man who knows his tools: the Finnish made Fiskars axe gave you away!

View bygrace's profile


198 posts in 3043 days

#7 posted 10-30-2013 11:25 PM

I don’t usually read long posts, but this was great. Love the box, especially what you did with the cherry. I’ll have to remember that trick. Looks great!

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View eztrigger's profile


162 posts in 3002 days

#8 posted 10-31-2013 12:23 PM

made my morning. thanks for posting.

-- "Some get spiritual 'cause they see the light, and some 'cause they feel the heat." --Ray Wiley Hubbard

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3941 days

#9 posted 10-31-2013 02:03 PM

It’s a great looking box and the wood is beautiful.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View tefinn's profile


1222 posts in 3511 days

#10 posted 10-31-2013 03:10 PM

Great looking box. Really like the rounded dovetails with the cherry accent.

-- Tom Finnigan - Measures? We don't need no stinking measures! - Hmm, maybe thats why my project pieces don't fit.

View exit116's profile


140 posts in 2866 days

#11 posted 10-31-2013 04:48 PM

thanks for all the nice comments

-- Money: if you do not have fun earning it, have fun spending it, I do not enjoy spending it so I have fun earning it.

View Boxguy's profile


2897 posts in 3342 days

#12 posted 10-31-2013 07:14 PM

Exit, I know you are a hand tool guy, but you might consider these ideas in box building. I love the rounded corners; they really add to the look. The cherry insets are lovely. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

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