'Ol Dave's Woodshop - Where woodworkers are not all Pros  

'Ol Dave's Woodshop - Where woodworkers are not all Pros
                                                                   "Where woodworkers are not all Pros"
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One of the saddest moments I have witnessed this year began one evening a few weeks back when the young lady who lives across the street from me came walking into the open door of my wood shop with tears streaming down her cheeks.  When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that her dog, which was a Boxer - Pit Bull mix, had gotten into a fight with her neighbor's smaller dog and had injured it to the point that it had died.  She told me that she was going to have to have her puppy "put down" for fear that one day the dog might attack a child or another person.

Knowing that I was a woodworker who has built everything from an adjustable height desk to a golf ball display case, she told me that both her and her neighbor were going to have the dogs cremated and wondered if I would be willing to make them each a box to store the dog's ashes.  How could you not?  I had plenty of wood scraps spread around the shop, so materials would not be a problem.  So I, of course, told her "absolutely", sat down at my desk and began looking for a good plan for making the boxes.

I ended up deciding on a box that I found on the Fine Woodworking web site in an article written back in 2008 by Doug Stowe.  The title of the article is:  "A better way to build boxes".  What I like about the box design in the article was that it used contrasting woods to create a very attractive, small box.  The design utilized corner splines to add strength to the mitered corners and really made the box stand out.

I chose to use some left over scraps of quarter sawn white oak for the main box and some scrap pieces of walnut for the corner splines and top (lid).  You can see in the two photos below, the planing of the oak pieces down to 1/2 inch thickness from the original 3/4 inch scrap pieces and a good look at the sides and ends after this planing process.

Planing the white oak stock down to 1/2 inch thickness on my DeWalt Model 734 planer.

Planing white oak boards on my DeWalt 734 planer.

The sides and ends of the white oak stock after the planing was done and before cutting to length and cutting the bottom grooves.

Oak side and end pieces after planing.

All finished cut parts for one of the boxes.The next step was to cut the overall widths and lengths of the sides, ends, tops and bottoms.  After completion, the sides and ends were taken to my miter saw to cut the 45° angles needed to form the assembled corners.  I also used my router table to cut rabbets around the edges of the bottom pieces and my table saw to cut grooves around the tops and bottoms of the side and end pieces.  In the photo on the right, you can see all the finished pieces laid out for one of the boxes on top of my workbench.

Tape used to hold the pieces together prior to folding.
Next, I used the fence of my table saw to line up the ends and sides with the angles facing downward in the sequences needed to form the box.  When I was confident that things looked O.K., I used masking tape to hold the pieces together as shown in the photo here on the left side of the page.

Boxes after gluing and fitting all the pieces together.
The next step was to fold the pieces around the tops and bottoms of the two boxes after gluing the faces of the angled cuts of all the pieces.  This made a completely enclosed boxes as viewed in the photo here on the right side of the page.

While the boxes were drying, I made a jig to be used on my table saw to hold the corners of the boxes so that I could cut grooves in the corners for the splines.  You can see the finished jig in the left photo below and how the jig was used in the table saw with a box loaded into it in the right photo.  You had to be careful when doing this so as not to cut the grooves too deep or the saw blade would cut through to the inside of the box.

Jig made to ride in the miter gage slot.
Spline jig riding in miter gage groove of table saw.
Jig shown cutting the grooves.
Using jig to cut the corner spline grooves.

After the corner spline slots were cut, I planed down some walnut strips about one inch wide and to the thickness of the spline slots.  I cut these strips into several triangular pieces, inserted then into the corner slots and glued them into place.  When they were dry, I trimmed the excess off the splines and sanded them smooth to the box.
View of boxes after the splines were installed and tops separated.
Next, I set the table saw blade depth so that it was about 1/32" from being the full depth of the thickness of the box walls and set the fence to be about 3/4" from the blade.  This allowed me to cut around the top part of the box on all four sides without cutting completely through the box.  All I had to do then (to separate what would end up being the box lid from the box body) was to take a carpet knife to finish the through cuts and then sanded the edges smooth.  You can see what the boxes looked like after all this was completed in the photo on the left. 

Boxes after mounting the hinges and prior to applying finish.All that was left to do was to cut mortises into the back edges of the tops and bottoms to utilize some small brass hinges.  I made a special jig to help me cut these mortises on my router table so that they would be in the same locations on both the tops and the main boxes.  At this point, I attached the hinges into the mortises of both halves of each box.  You can see what this all looked like in the photo on the right.

The only thing left was to apply a nice looking finish on the boxes.  I decided to put on three coats of Watco Butcher Block Oil & Finish like I used on my Snack Tray Project.  At this point, the boxes looked like the one in the picture shown below.

Completed boxes.
This was a fun project once I really got into doing it.  It gave me a chance to do something I had never tried to do before and that is making the splines for the corners.  I think they turned out to be kind of neat looking boxes.  The absolute best part of the whole project was the look on my neighbor's face when I took them over to her house.  That was awesome!


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