# "Art Box" Tutorial

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Finishing

The tutorial is under construction.
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Making the box

Part 3
updated 1/15/12

Regarding size:
Size and proportions are important…to a point.
We will be building a box that will start out at 11 1/8 W x 7 D x 4 1/2 H. (After shaping it will finish out at about 10 3/4'' x 6 3/4'' x 3 1/8 h depending on how much shaping is done.)

I like the proportions of this box, they just look good to my eye. They are loosely based on the Golden Ratio which is a ratio of 1.618. There is much more to it than that, but simply put, here is how it works in relationship to this box. We multiply Height x GR= Width.

The height is 3 1/2 plus the lid and medallion add another 3/8 each, for a total of about 4 ¼ for the overall height. We multiply x 1.618 =6.875 and if we multiply that x 1.618 we get 11.125''.
As you can see this box is very close to the Golden Ratio. After shaping it is going to be a little more off of that ideal, but it is only a guide. It will be up to you to decide what pleases your eye, and for the intended purpose of the box,and the material you have on hand.

But just so we are all on the same page from start to finish, lets work with these dimensions.

Lets start cutting some wood.

Make sure your board is flat. Any twist will not allow your mitered corners to come together.
Start by milling the board to 3/4'' thick.
Rip a strip 3.5'' wide and 38'' long minimum.
Orient the grain direction from left to right and mark out your pieces just to be sure you cut each piece in proper order. Its easy to flip the board front to back and miter the wrong side.
Make sure and mark the front and top of the board for the lid and set it aside for now.

Next step is to cut a dado to receive the bottom. I use 1/4'' plywood and size the kerf to fit the actual thickness, since it varies. I make the kerf about 1/4'' deep which will allow for more shaping.

Next step is to miter your 4 box sides. I prefer to use a miter saw with a simple jig to make repeatable cuts.
There are many ways to get the same results, including a table saw with a sliding cutoff sled. I just prefer this setup because I get great results and its simple.

The photo below shows cutting a miter using the first stop.
The saw is always kept at the same position for every cut.

Then flip front to back and trim away just enough to get a full miter, that ensures the grain on the face will continue unbroken.

The flip front to back for the next cut using the second stop.

Its a good idea to use backer boards to prevent tearout, but you will need to take that in to account when setting up a jig like this. They will push your board away from the fence which will change where the saw enters your board,making each piece longer. I prefer putting wide masking tape on the entire back. I did not use any here because I just had this 96 tooth sharpened.

As you can see in this last picture, my cuts dont land on my orientation marks. They are only there to keep me from doing something boneheaded. The preset stops are what determine the length of each cut.

Here are all four sides ready to assemble.

Next we want to temporarily tape the box together so we see how well we did with our miters.
I either use my table saw fence for a backstop or a board screwed to by bench to keep all the pieces in line for taping them together.
I use 3/4" yellow masking tape, it really takes the strain and doesnt leave a lot of gunk behind to clean off. I personally dont like blue tape, it doesnt allow me to get enough pressure on the joints, and it will often slacken off without me realizing it. Some people use duct tape or clear packing tape. Find what works best for you.

This photo is simply showing the faces taped tightly together, edge to edge. The orange highlighted circle shows how I let the edges ride over a little bit, so when its folded it up to form the box this really pulls it tight since its trying to stretch the tape even more. But, just a little overlap is plenty, or the tape may break.

This photo is of the inside after its all taped together.

Next,
we are going to measure for our bottom and fit it, then we will glue and tape up the box.

Cut the bottom so it fits snug but wont interfere with the closing up of the miter joints.
I allow about 1/8" gap. I glue in the bottom, its plywood so its dimensionally stable and wont cause the box to split. You dont need to glue it in if your joints are tight and especially if you add corner splines. I just prefer to, for the added strength and the solid sound the bottom makes when tapped on. Its a personal thing-)

NOW is the time to tape the box up tight and see that everything fits nicely together, the miters should be snug and the bottom should fit right and it should be square. If not, you will see if you can tweek it where needed or recut everything.

Bottoms Up
When you have your bottom prefitted, add two new bands of tape to act as your clamps. The bands of tape you have been sticking and un-sticking for your dry fitting, are getting pretty sad looking but are ok to just leave on for the actual glue up.

Be prepared.
This all needs to be done fairly quickly! The glue starts grabbing within a few minutes, so work fast. If its very warm, you will need to move quickly or the glue will start to skin over and your joints will not close up tightly. This will cause them to be very noticeable. I use Titebond 3 because it has a little longer open time.
If the miters dont pull up tight you will need to coax them a little with some screw clamps, so have them handy.
Have a damp rag at hand for drips.

Brush a thin layer of yellow glue on each miter face and while that soaks in, brush glue into the dado groove for the bottom if you wish. Then go back and put another coat of glue onto each miter face if has soaked in all the way. This will of course depend on the woods porosity and the glue you are using. Move quickly but dont be sloppy.

Now you can slip the bottom in and fold up the box pulling it closed with the tape.
Check your miters and add more tape as need to tighten it up.

Flip the box over and check the top edges of the miters too. Clean any excess glue off and place the box on a perfectly flat surface, like your table saw and make sure it doesn't rock. If it rocks much at all, then it is out of square. I use a block of wood and a mallet and smack it hard on the high corner to level it out. You will then need to put another band of tape around it to tighten up that joint and keep it in that position. A little rocking is acceptable as long as your joints look good. I will show you how I get the bottom flat later on._

Check from corner to corner with a tape measure to double check that its square. But be sure the miters are tight!
one of the best tutorials i have ever read! Thanks!

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22
Corner Splines

Updated 1/15/12

We now have our box assembled and glued up. Depending on the temperature, let it dry for a couple of hours, or overnight to be safe.
Take the tape off and clean up any dried glue.

This is a good time to smooth up the bottom to get rid of any rocking.
You can double stick sandpaper onto a very flat and firm surface and slide the bottom across that. The problem with this approach is that sheet sandpaper is way too small. You can stick down several sheets and if you go very slow, you may not tear the paper.You can also use a sanding block or a hand plane. I have a Jet 6×48 belt sander/disc combo, but is just not quite wide enough.

I decided there had to be a better way.
I work for a cabinet shop,( in the office only, where I design and blah,blah,blah) and we have a 36" wide Time Saver sander. We toss the belts after they are worn out but I knew they had a little life left so I snagged one to make a sanding platform. After a little trial and error it looked like this:

I use it for the bottom, top and for leveling out the sides after cutting off the splines.
The belts I get are 36'' wide and a 60'' loop. I split them in half lengthwise ( they rip very straight after you get it started with a cut from a razor knife.)
and that gives me a sanding surface of about 18×24.
Do not try ripping these on the table saw…kids!
The angle of the sanding bed gives a nice working position and the ell leg lets it hook onto the edge of a bench, keeping it in place. ( I am sorry but the ell leg I am refering to is not shown in this photo, its at the operators end, its not the one to the right in the picture.) The taper lets the rod progressively tighten the belt by wedging it in place. Simply pull the rod back and the belt slackens so you can rotate it to a new clean section.

There is still enough life in these belts for this purpose. Just check with a local cabinet shop and offer them a few bucks for discards. They will probably just give them to you, but you may get turned away if you go asking for a handout.

Or you could order a new one from Klingspore
They sell this same size but they also have a 17" x54" and they cost about \$33 plus s&H

Another shot.

Next we are going to cut for the corner splines (aka slip feathers or corner keys ).

Layout, and how many you use is strictly up to you. You can just place them randomly if you wish making each corner unique.

Tip:
If you are going to really do some wild shaping then placement isnt that critical, since your eye wont be able to align one side with the other anyway. Maybe after a few drinks you might be able to.
This is the layout we will use for this box. The reason the top spline is placed further from the top edge than the bottom one is from the bottom edge, is that this will allow for more aggressive shaping of the top without getting into the spline too much.
Another reason, is that if you are going to make a box that has a lip on only three sides of the lid to nestle into and you will be using butt style or barrel hinges, then this will ensure the cutout for the lid at the back doesnt cut
down into the splines.
This will become clear a little later on.

Tip:
If I want the center one to be exactly centered between the top and bottom ones, I dont measure its location ne until I have cut the bottom and top kerfs. It easy to be off a little when allowing for blade thickness, etc…

Here is the layout I used, but yours can be whatever you want.

Here is my corner spline jig that rides overtop of my saw fence. It cant move to the side ensuring a straight cut.
I placed sticky back felt on the inside surfaces so it slides freely.
There are several other versions on LumberJocks to model yours after.

For clean flat bottom kerfs the correct saw blade is important. I bought a flat grind toothed blade by Forrest since all I had was a selection of ATB ones which leave a veed or angled bottom. I would carefully try and flatten the bottoms with a file, but it was very difficult not to mess up the sides. I understand why some still use an ATB blade, its a chunk of money for a blade that I only use for kerfs.
If you arent sure what type of blades you have, do a test by cutting shallow kerfs in a board with each one, you might just have a flat cutting blade on hand.

Tip:
You will get better looking kerfs if you only push the box through the blade once, and do it like a machine.
Stop after you go over the blade and raise the box up to clear the blade before pulling it back through.
It doesnt take much…a little wiggle…a little sideways pressure…or even a blade with poor runout, and you will get a sloppy cut. Even a little slop is visible when you glue in a spline that contrasts with the box.
Thats the whole idea isnt it, to draw the eye to the splines?
So do your utmost to make them crisp.

Next we need to cut some splines and I have decided to use Maple for this Bubinga box.
There are several methods for doing this, including an adjustable stop that sets to the left of the blade. You can also rip them on the bandsaw and run them through a thickness sander, and you can even take your chances with a planer to size them if you wish but they usually just spit it out like scrabble pieces.
This is my approach and it works very well for me.
As you can see it is simply a push stick with a heel, a good handle, and a flat side that rides against the fence.

I set the blade to the approximate width of the spline and make a pass or two until I get it just right testing with some scrap wood. Yes, the thin strip is between the blade and the fence but is prevented from shooting out the back because of the matching heel on the push stick. Just be sure and use a good wood with an intertwined grain such as this White Oak one shown here so the heel doesnt break off too easily. Its a little scary at first, but its safe.

Slide them in and out to be sure they are snug, but not so tight that you need to force them in while they are still dry. They will swell pretty quickly with glue on them and they may not even bottom out. Its a fine line between too tight and even a little too sloppy. A loose fit will mean that you will see the glue around the spline.

Cut the splines to about 1 1/2'' long using a handsaw or bandsaw. I always cut extra so I wont be tempted to use one thats too tight or too loose. Now you are ready to start glueing them in the slots.

Tip:
It is very easy to mess this up!
Dont get in a hurry, and do one at a time. Quit texting your girlfriend and focus!

Use a small brush to apply the glue. ( I use acid brushes for soldering. They are natural animal hair and can be used over and over. They are cheap too. I cut the bristles shorter with a chisel and mallet.)

Have a wet rag at hand to wipe away excess glue and another acid brush to clean around the slots, just to be sure the splines are seated all the way to the bottom of the slots. You may need to coax it into place with a mallet.
Do this slowly and carefully on each one. And, be sure you dont bump the others out of position.
If there is any gap anywhere, it will show when you trim the splines flush. Not much you can do to fix it. So, be careful.

After you have them all done, give it an hour or so to dry and trim them flush. I have a 14" bandsaw, so I can just fit one of these boxes through to trim off the ends. A handsaw will work too. So will a trained beaver if happen to own one.

And then on to the sanding platform to flatten the sides. It doesnt really need to be pretty, just flat for referencing off of a fence or measuring for hinges, etc.. The sides of this box will be shaped anyway, so dont waste time on getting all the marks out…unless you want to….which I usually do

quick question: what grit do you use for the sanding of the bottom?

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20
Corner Splines

Updated 1/15/12

We now have our box assembled and glued up. Depending on the temperature, let it dry for a couple of hours, or overnight to be safe.
Take the tape off and clean up any dried glue.

This is a good time to smooth up the bottom to get rid of any rocking.
You can double stick sandpaper onto a very flat and firm surface and slide the bottom across that. The problem with this approach is that sheet sandpaper is way too small. You can stick down several sheets and if you go very slow, you may not tear the paper.You can also use a sanding block or a hand plane. I have a Jet 6×48 belt sander/disc combo, but is just not quite wide enough.

I decided there had to be a better way.
I work for a cabinet shop,( in the office only, where I design and blah,blah,blah) and we have a 36" wide Time Saver sander. We toss the belts after they are worn out but I knew they had a little life left so I snagged one to make a sanding platform. After a little trial and error it looked like this:

I use it for the bottom, top and for leveling out the sides after cutting off the splines.
The belts I get are 36'' wide and a 60'' loop. I split them in half lengthwise ( they rip very straight after you get it started with a cut from a razor knife.)
and that gives me a sanding surface of about 18×24.
Do not try ripping these on the table saw…kids!
The angle of the sanding bed gives a nice working position and the ell leg lets it hook onto the edge of a bench, keeping it in place. ( I am sorry but the ell leg I am refering to is not shown in this photo, its at the operators end, its not the one to the right in the picture.) The taper lets the rod progressively tighten the belt by wedging it in place. Simply pull the rod back and the belt slackens so you can rotate it to a new clean section.

There is still enough life in these belts for this purpose. Just check with a local cabinet shop and offer them a few bucks for discards. They will probably just give them to you, but you may get turned away if you go asking for a handout.

Or you could order a new one from Klingspore
They sell this same size but they also have a 17" x54" and they cost about \$33 plus s&H

Another shot.

Next we are going to cut for the corner splines (aka slip feathers or corner keys ).

Layout, and how many you use is strictly up to you. You can just place them randomly if you wish making each corner unique.

Tip:
If you are going to really do some wild shaping then placement isnt that critical, since your eye wont be able to align one side with the other anyway. Maybe after a few drinks you might be able to.
This is the layout we will use for this box. The reason the top spline is placed further from the top edge than the bottom one is from the bottom edge, is that this will allow for more aggressive shaping of the top without getting into the spline too much.
Another reason, is that if you are going to make a box that has a lip on only three sides of the lid to nestle into and you will be using butt style or barrel hinges, then this will ensure the cutout for the lid at the back doesnt cut
down into the splines.
This will become clear a little later on.

Tip:
If I want the center one to be exactly centered between the top and bottom ones, I dont measure its location ne until I have cut the bottom and top kerfs. It easy to be off a little when allowing for blade thickness, etc…

Here is the layout I used, but yours can be whatever you want.

Here is my corner spline jig that rides overtop of my saw fence. It cant move to the side ensuring a straight cut.
I placed sticky back felt on the inside surfaces so it slides freely.
There are several other versions on LumberJocks to model yours after.

For clean flat bottom kerfs the correct saw blade is important. I bought a flat grind toothed blade by Forrest since all I had was a selection of ATB ones which leave a veed or angled bottom. I would carefully try and flatten the bottoms with a file, but it was very difficult not to mess up the sides. I understand why some still use an ATB blade, its a chunk of money for a blade that I only use for kerfs.
If you arent sure what type of blades you have, do a test by cutting shallow kerfs in a board with each one, you might just have a flat cutting blade on hand.

Tip:
You will get better looking kerfs if you only push the box through the blade once, and do it like a machine.
Stop after you go over the blade and raise the box up to clear the blade before pulling it back through.
It doesnt take much…a little wiggle…a little sideways pressure…or even a blade with poor runout, and you will get a sloppy cut. Even a little slop is visible when you glue in a spline that contrasts with the box.
Thats the whole idea isnt it, to draw the eye to the splines?
So do your utmost to make them crisp.

Next we need to cut some splines and I have decided to use Maple for this Bubinga box.
There are several methods for doing this, including an adjustable stop that sets to the left of the blade. You can also rip them on the bandsaw and run them through a thickness sander, and you can even take your chances with a planer to size them if you wish but they usually just spit it out like scrabble pieces.
This is my approach and it works very well for me.
As you can see it is simply a push stick with a heel, a good handle, and a flat side that rides against the fence.

I set the blade to the approximate width of the spline and make a pass or two until I get it just right testing with some scrap wood. Yes, the thin strip is between the blade and the fence but is prevented from shooting out the back because of the matching heel on the push stick. Just be sure and use a good wood with an intertwined grain such as this White Oak one shown here so the heel doesnt break off too easily. Its a little scary at first, but its safe.

Slide them in and out to be sure they are snug, but not so tight that you need to force them in while they are still dry. They will swell pretty quickly with glue on them and they may not even bottom out. Its a fine line between too tight and even a little too sloppy. A loose fit will mean that you will see the glue around the spline.

Cut the splines to about 1 1/2'' long using a handsaw or bandsaw. I always cut extra so I wont be tempted to use one thats too tight or too loose. Now you are ready to start glueing them in the slots.

Tip:
It is very easy to mess this up!
Dont get in a hurry, and do one at a time. Quit texting your girlfriend and focus!

Use a small brush to apply the glue. ( I use acid brushes for soldering. They are natural animal hair and can be used over and over. They are cheap too. I cut the bristles shorter with a chisel and mallet.)

Have a wet rag at hand to wipe away excess glue and another acid brush to clean around the slots, just to be sure the splines are seated all the way to the bottom of the slots. You may need to coax it into place with a mallet.
Do this slowly and carefully on each one. And, be sure you dont bump the others out of position.
If there is any gap anywhere, it will show when you trim the splines flush. Not much you can do to fix it. So, be careful.

After you have them all done, give it an hour or so to dry and trim them flush. I have a 14" bandsaw, so I can just fit one of these boxes through to trim off the ends. A handsaw will work too. So will a trained beaver if happen to own one.

And then on to the sanding platform to flatten the sides. It doesnt really need to be pretty, just flat for referencing off of a fence or measuring for hinges, etc.. The sides of this box will be shaped anyway, so dont waste time on getting all the marks out…unless you want to….which I usually do

I had one or two similar experiences with FWW… like old aunts with their secret cake recipes, they keep out some ingredient.

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