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Finishing

The tutorial is under construction.
Well said Patron !!!! How True!
Wow, it looks like it's up to 114 comments now…...........

Gonna be a lotta beautiful boxes out there after Andy shares his skills with us.
What a fan base you have Andy !!!!
 

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Intro

Updated 1/15/12

How to make an Art Box

by Andy Campbell

Safety

Be safe! Guards, etc…may not be visible in the pictures. This is written for woodworkers of all skill levels.
But, please keep in mind that this is not woodworking #101. I am writing this in a step by step manner that should be easy for a beginner to follow, but some basic understanding of tools and terminology is required.
I ask that the more advanced woodworkers be patient and not be offended. I don't wish to test your patience or appear to be condescending…just helpful to a mixed audience. I have my own way of doing things, but as a self taught woodworker, some of them are unconventional. I am not trying to teach you how to do things my way, but just showing you how I do things. Do each step in a way YOU are comfortable with.

Style
Definition of Art Box -A box with a medallion in the lid that resembles a picture in a frame. The body and lid may be shaped or not.
Let's take a look at a few styles, each with a slightly different lid and hinge set up. Note how the shaping varies on each one.
1) The first one hinges on brass pins allowing it to swing down into the box.

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2) The main difference here is that the lid sets into a lip of the box body on only three sides. It uses barrel hinges so it does not drop into the box at the back.

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3) This box is very different from the other two. It has a frame and panel style top, uses butt style hinges and does not set into a lip at all. The lid is sliced off the box after assembly. It uses butt style hinges. The shaping is very different and the bottom was raised up enough to allow cutouts to add a footed look.

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The construction is very similar for all of these boxes, but at a certain point they head off into their own direction.

The Chapters will cover the following:
#1- Introduction
#2- Wood Selection
#3- Making the Box
#4- Corner Splines
#5- Cutting the Lip of the Box
#6- The Lid
#7- The Medallion
#8- The Handle
#9- It all Hinges on This
#10-The Pin Hinge
#11-Butt or Barrel Hinges
#12-Shaping
#13-Finishing
#14-Dividers

Andy
Goog beginning Andy, can't wait for the main feature and then the grand finale!!!!!

Thanks agian for doing this !
 

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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:

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Test your splines!
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.

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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.

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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 :)

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Way to go Andy, great blog and detailed instructions…...........
I probably won't comment on "all" steps/phases, but I sure am watching and reading each one
with baited breath for the next step.

I also like the sanding platform. I have tried the smaller sheets and it can be a pain becasue they do tear, like you say.

Thanks again for doing this….................
 

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The Medallion

Updated 1/15/12

Now we need to cut a recess in the lid for the medallion to set down into.
DONT cut your medallion until you have routed out the home for it.
I typically make the medallion about 1" to 1.5" smaller on all sides than the lid depending on the box size and the piece of wood I have for the medallion.
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We are now going to make a simple jig for a router to set on and run back and forth making several passes of incrementally deeper cuts. There are a several ways to do this next step and it will depend on the router bit you use and the thickness of the material you have to make your template.
Here is how I made this one:

#1-The photo below shows two layers of strips of 1/2" melamine butted tight to the lid. This will hold the lid in place and make a flat base for the next layer of strips. I used scraps about 3'' wide, running one end past the other, all the way around the lid.

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#2- Next I mounted a block of wood the exact size of the medallion, centered in the top of the lid in the exact spot I want the recess to be.
You can use double stick tape, but I prefer screws so it cant get bumped out of place. The holes go away with the milling.
Now add the last layer of strips, rotating the joints so they are offset with the ones below. Butt this layer up to the center block, making sure its snug, but remember you will need to be able to remove the block.

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The height will depend on the pattern bit you use. My bit was 1 1/4" PLUS THE BEARING so I ended up with a template stack of 1 1/2". ( 3 layers of 1/2" melamine )
Thats on the extreme edge of reach for most routers to travel, so If you are buying a bit for this project just get a shorter one and make your jig accordingly.
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Tip:
Make it smooth on the inside or you will get bumpy sides. You need to allow the bit to ride on a perfectly smooth face down the sides of your jig, for about 3/8'' of travel. I always do a practice run on a scrap just to be sure the quality of the cut is smooth.

Its a good idea to remove most of the material in the center using a forstner bit, that way the router bit is only cutting one edge instead of two. If you just plunge into the center of a hardwood like bubinga the bit will chatter because it is trying to cut on all its edges at the same time. Thats not so bad as long as you stay away from the edges, but it can break a 1/4 shank bit. Its hard to believe but this chattering and even chips bouncing around can cause small uneven cuts along the edge that will show up. The only way to fix it is to reposition the jig and recut the recess.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to:
Work from the center out
Work at a slow and even pace
Keep the chips cleared as you get closer to the sides
Wet the edges with a damp rag
Make multiple passes

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And here is how the test block fits into the recess.
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This photo shows the lid nestled into the rim of the box and the medallion setting in its recess. The medallion doesnt need to be this thick, it can be flush with the lid. It all depends on how you want to shape the top. Sometimes I will split a 3/4 board in two pieces and use it for two medallions and just shape a gentle dome on the top.

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The handle comes next.
I've been following along and this is wonderful Andy…........... you are doing a great job and providing great instructions and tips. Keep it up and thanks again.
 

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It all hinges on this.

Updated 1/16/12

This is where you need to decide how you want to open your box.

I mentioned at the outset about some of the different boxes I have made and how they hinge differently from one another. All are good, but you may have a preference in style or it may be your ability that decides for you.

The pin hinge is what we will mainly be focusing on and was used on this box.

Chapter 10 will discuss this style.

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The Deco box uses a standard brass butt hinge with a stop strap. ( The Deco box has a comepletely different type of lid as you can see but was included because it has butt hinges.)

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You could also use a butt hinge with built in stops, they cost about $30 a pair.
Or you could use barrel hinges like I did on the Secret box, they run about $16 a pair.

Chapter 11 will cover this style.

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Or you can just make a lift off lid like I used for the Designer boxes.
I am not going to cover this style at this time.

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I am really enjoying your entire series, what a fantastic job!!!

I am knee deep in 4 commisioned boxes now but when I am done, I am going back through all the series and start an "Art box" of my own, with your wonderful inspiration. Thanks again Andy !!!!!
 

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Shaping

Updated 1/16/12

This is the fun part!

Its scary too!
The idea of taking a nice crisp box, one you have spent countless hours making, and attacking it with a tool designed for slag removal is…well…its a little disturbing. Maybe I was influenced by old Hitchcock movies more than I know.

Seriously, what I enjoy is the freedom this gives me. Everything up to this point has been tied to measurements and careful setups. This is where we can cut loose a little. But slow down Hotrod!
A little care must be used or you will wind up with a ruined box. That has happened to me more than once when I first started playing around with this concept. Just go slow and you will be fine.

I like to mount my box to a stool or a low bench to keep it from moving. This places it at a comfortable height and allows me to shape the top, front and both sides. To shape the back, I remove the box and reset it facing backwards.
( An adustable stool with a top a little smaller than the box would be perfect since you could get at the top and all four sides, and raise it as needed.!)
I simply screw it to the stool right through the bottom, about center. The hole will get covered on the inside with a liner and a tag with the name of the box, woods, etc., will be pasted over the bottom hole.

The tools needed:

First of all, get a Moaning Stool or chair or something so you will be comfortable if you mess up. If you have been a woodworker very long you no doubt have a contingency plan.
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I use a 4'' angle grinder with a flexible sanding disc. I use a 50 -80 grit disc depending on the wood. A flap sanding disc works good too but they tend to burn or gum up so I use it after the heavy work has been done with the sanding disc.

The guard was removed for the picture.

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You can use a random orbit disc sander from start to finish, though it will take longer,and inhibits freedom of movement, at least to me. I like the way I can get wide sweeping strokes by using the angle grinder, because it removes material faster, I can move faster,with a more natural fluid flow.

You could also use a Dremel or a Foredom with different attachments.

Or the old fashioned tried and true tools, chisels and gouges are an option.

Even a stationary sander with a disc and belt will give nice results.
(I used the radiused edge of my stationary belt sander to do much of the shaping on the sides of the "Deco Box" I used the grinder to establish the top details though.)

I recently bought a Merlin long neck angle grinder and I like it for detail work.The chainsaw works very well for hogging out small bowls and spoons. The carbide disc last forever and is great for recontouring edges and the flap sander eases it all together. Very nice tool for light work with good control.

My wife got a hold of it and made twenty spoons in a row.

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What you use will determine how much control you have and the contours you want. Obviously a small handheld disc sander will allow much more freedom and will cut a tighter pattern than a 12'' stationary sander. Feel free to use what you have, but experiment with it first on some scrap to see what profiles you can get.

How I do it:
I always start at the top and remover the edges of the medallion and then the lid, shaping a dome.
Be careful around the hinge area and the handle. You should still have the temporary pins in so they are a reminder of where to keep an eye out.
After the top is domed I round off the corners. The rest of the shaping depends on what I want to express, how I am feeling, what kind of mood I am in or the music I am listening to. (This is one of the few times I have music on.) So, I cant really explain how to shape a box, its personal. I aim to shape in a way that looks natural, an organic flow, like driftwood has. Thats my style though and may not be yours.
Here are some pictures of how the shaping developed on this box.

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Then I took a 4" random orbit sander with a 100 grit disc and smoothed it all out.
Here is a picture with just the morning light filtering through a side window. It casts the rest of the box in shadow but really brings out the shaping in the lid.

Notice how I left a ridge of wood at the hinge location.

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Next is the finishing.
I don't really think you have much problem "acting" like a caring grandfather, I think you are a very "proud" grandfather, and rightly so!!!
Cherish all the moments you can…...........

and BTW, great photography ( composition, lighting, etc…. )

Thanks for sharing
 

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