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Forum topic by Bill White posted 12-11-2011 09:46 PM 2335 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bill White

5341 posts in 4969 days

12-11-2011 09:46 PM

My first project was to build a box. A SQUARE BOX!!!
My shop instructor was a very basic fellow who thought that if ya couldn’t build square, you couldn’t build anything. Well, I thought that was a simple project a best. Man, was I wrong.
Machine set up, accurate measuring, miters, clamping, glueing. Whewwww! Took me a few tries, but finally got it right.
This sounds like a super simple project, but I would suggest that any newcomers to the joy of woodworking try this as a first task. Might take ya some time, but you’ll sure learn the fundamentals of our chosen field.
What do ya think?

-- [email protected]

25 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3607 days

#1 posted 12-11-2011 10:23 PM

Square…it aint as easy as it sounds.

View Mike's profile


409 posts in 3696 days

#2 posted 12-11-2011 10:29 PM

I have learned that Mitering is one of the hardest woodworking jobs to make work. Just a little off and someone can see it. Welcome to Woodworking fellow Termite!

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - -

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20257 posts in 4685 days

#3 posted 12-11-2011 11:31 PM

I you can build a truly square box, you can build most anything ;-)

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

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3496 days

#4 posted 12-12-2011 12:28 AM

Square Boxes? I guess I’ll never be a real craftsman! I still can’t get the bloody USPS Flat Rate boxes put together square. sigh

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7137 posts in 4203 days

#5 posted 12-12-2011 01:27 AM

@Bill White, Only took me a few tries, but I finally got it right…... You mean it only took you a FEW tries, Bill…? I’ve been doing this for 25+ years, and I ain’t got it right yet…...But I’ll keep at it until I do…..SQUARE….humm..that’s what kids used to call other kids who wern’t cool when I was a kid…..!!!!!!!! Today is my 65th birthday, and I can’t remember back that far….I guess I’m just too SQUARE for my grandkids, anyway…

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 4565 days

#6 posted 12-12-2011 01:35 AM

Yes you are right about starting with boxes. Plenty of angles to get right, plenty of ways things can go wrong. Never mind the mitre, even butt joints can be tough when you are talking about getting something truly square. I rarely get every corner square on anything, but I have overcome my need for perfection.

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View Neight's profile


112 posts in 3402 days

#7 posted 12-12-2011 02:00 AM

Very nice tip, My first project was a small box, and until today, I didn’t even have the proper tools to check for square…
since I have them now though, I did, and it is dang near perfect. mind you, that is on the sides, top and bottom were not square at all, and without a little trick (small piece of leather glued to one corner), the lid would wobble bad. I also routed the corners with a 5/8 round over so it wasn’t so obvious that I was off. guess if you can’t get it right, it should at least look like you can :P
Today I was able to pick up some accurate tools to measure and mark for square, and bought a small set of right angle clamps, to help with clamping a mitre together and know it is going to be square. Now I can also check to see if my mitre is set up right before cutting!
guess I need to make another box to see how I have improved since last time.
(going to make a jewelry box for my wife for Christmas shhhhhhhhhh)

-- Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. -Mark Twain

View jtbinvalrico's profile


37 posts in 3380 days

#8 posted 12-12-2011 04:47 AM

Agreed. I often find myself humbled by the basics even when I dive into something more advanced.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3496 days

#9 posted 12-12-2011 05:26 AM

Neight, an easy way to check for square, accurately is to measure from corner to corner diagonally. Then measure the opposite diagonal. A 6” box that’s off by 1/32” is way out of square.
It doesn’t matter if it’s square or rectangle or a parallelogram…

For big boxes…. like houses, the 3,4,5 method is fun to impress the local math teacher with, LOL.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View MrDan's profile


209 posts in 4296 days

#10 posted 12-12-2011 09:38 AM

In Frank Clausz’ video on dovetailing he says “if you think about, we’re really just boxologists” That always made me laugh…

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 3510 days

#11 posted 12-12-2011 12:40 PM

I agree. There are a lot of fundamental skills that need to come together to make a good box.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View David's profile


13 posts in 3463 days

#12 posted 12-12-2011 01:22 PM

Any CNC jock can make a box square. And yes that is important, but, the mark of the craft is the infusion of soul, or originality or whatever you want to call it. Somehow I can’t see Sam Maloof obsessed with engineering squares. They are a guide not the ultimate goal. Practice, strive for perfecting your work, but make the work your own, make your work reflect your personality.

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 4438 days

#13 posted 12-12-2011 01:53 PM

I’ve been at this since sometime back in the early 50’s (school wood shop) but I’m beginning to get better. Square is less of a challenge now but only because I have learned that “getting it right” begins long before you make the first cut. Equipment condition and alignment are critically important unless “close enough” is good enough.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3875 days

#14 posted 12-12-2011 02:44 PM

I had a machinist friend who had gone through the Navy as a machinist in WWII and when he got out he went to work at Caterpillar as a machinist but he had to go through their training program. He told me his first project was to file a solid cube out of a hunk of steel using nothing but hand files. The sides had to be flat and square and everything had to be within just few thousandths.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

735 posts in 3789 days

#15 posted 12-12-2011 03:41 PM

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but one of the first projects for us in the apprentice training workshop 55 years ago was to make a steel plate like this:

And with it a solid piece that exactly fit all three holes

Can you visualise the solid piece ?

You can check here:

-- Don, Somerset UK,

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