The Two Sisters

I took the plunge, rented the Lowe’s truck (the Borg shuttle, if you prefer), and bought the wood for the Roubo Monstrosity. About twenty pieces of 2″x10″x8′ southern yellow pine.  Now the north side of my garage shop is a huge pile of lumber on small spacers (called “stickers”) to allow air to flow.  Most of it is between 15 and 20 percent humidity, and will have to equalize with the moisture level of the shop for some time before I can start construction. Probably about three weeks.

Meanwhile, it gives me the chance to finish some storage projects, and make some small stuff.  Little weekend projects are really gratifying.  I can look at the Stickley table with pride, but it also took me about three months to finish.  Boxes (at least simple ones) give me some good instant gratification.

A good friend has two beautiful daughters, and I’ve been promising her that I’d make a couple of jewelry boxes for them.  I wanted to make two boxes that were similar form, but of different woods.  What I decided on was to make a pair of band saw boxes in contrasting woods, and switch the drawers.  Band saw boxes look like they might be really difficult, but the truth is that I find them almost embarrassingly easy.

The pattern I used is from Lois Keener Ventura’s wonderful book Building Beautiful Boxes with Your Band Saw. My technique differs slightly from hers, but the basic construction is the same.

The boxes start as a slab of wood. Not a solid slab, but a glued-up slab of several pieces of 3/4″ stock.  A single block would tend to crack over time. The glued-up slab is easy, and also allows for some design possibilities as the grain of the wood goes back and forth. Get a good spread of glue; you don’t want it to separate later.  I use a glue spreader made out of an old credit card cut along the edges with a pair of the wife-unit’s pinking shears. For this project, one block is cherry, and the other is maple.

The pattern is printed out on paper, and spray-glued to one face of the block.  Patterns for these boxes range from simple to complex.  My favorite ones are usually the simplest ones – I love the organic design of them.  I’ve done several of my own pattern, but I especially like this one.

Once the glue is dry, set the block pattern side up, and cut out the outside shape of the box.  Then set it on its “bottom”, and saw a panel off the “back” (the face opposite the pattern) about 3/8″ thick, and set it aside. Set the block pattern-up again, and cut out the drawer. It will probably require two cuts to do this – stopping the  band saw and backing the blade out of the first cut. Take the drawer piece, saw both faces off at 3/8″, and set them aside. Turn the drawer block on its side, and remove the two parts that will be the inside of the drawers.

This all sounds much more complex to write than it really is.  It took about 15 or 20 minutes to make the cuts for each box.

Sand or scrape the insides of the front and back panels of the frame and the drawers just enough to remove any marks left by the band saw. Then glue the faces on the drawer, and the back on the frame.  Clamp well, and allow to dry for a couple of hours.

This is where my technique differs from Lois Ventura’s: she recommends shaping the edges of the frame and the drawer on a belt sander.  I put a 1/4″ bearing-guided router bit in the router table, and pass the drawer and the frame along the bit to soften the edges instead. I get more consistent results, and I’ve over-sanded accidentally a couple of times and ruined the fit of a drawer that way.  There is one caveat to the router technique: make certain the bearing of the bit is set lower than the thickness of the wood on all the parts you’re working. If the bearing rides over the edge of the wood, it will cut into the edge and completely ruin it.

None of this takes very long – up to this point. Then the sanding starts.

Sand, sand, and sand more. Start about 120 grit, and sand the outer frame of the boxes on a benchtop belt sander. Shank a sanding spindle into a drill, and use it to sand the insides of the box (the inside of the drawers doesn’t matter much, as you’ll see). Sand the edges by hand. Resand the outside by hand. Then move up a grit, and do it all again. Finish at about 220 grit.  It’s great exercise, trust me.

On these two boxes, I did something new (to me). I sank a small steel screw into the back of the drawers, and countersunk a small rare-earth magnet into the back of the box. It’s just strong enough to keep the drawer closed, and I think I’m going to do it on all of these from now on.

The handles are mesquite, and are bandsawn freehand and shaped on a belt sander.  They’re attached to the front of the drawers with super glue. Then I flooded all the parts with a thick coat of danish oil, let it sit a few minutes, and wiped it off.

Making these two boxes took about four or five hours work in construction. Most of that was sanding.  This morning, I polished them on the Beall Wood Buffer – an amazing system; took about 20 minutes for both boxes.

The inside of the drawers is flocking; a sort of powdered felt.  All you have to do is spread glue on the parts you want to line, and dust them heavily with the flocking.  Let it dry overnight, and blow the excess out with some compressed air.  Flocked surfaces need to sit for two or three days for the glue to harden completely, or the flocking will still be soft enough to deform easily by mishandling it.

Making the two boxes at the same time did speed things up, but they’re still not an exacting project.  Single drawer boxes like this are easy one-day projects, and one of my favorite things to do.  There’s a lot of variance to the techniques used. All you really have to have is a band saw, clamps, and the patience to do a lot of sanding.

Next time: More storage, preparations for the workbench, and maybe other small projects.

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This entry was posted in Boxes.

One comment on “The Two Sisters

  1. Rafe says:

    Very nice. The wood looks beautiful and you did a great job of explaining the process. Those will make lovely gifts for 2 sisters.

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