Hand Tools doings #25: A box for Callie - a left handed experience

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 06-25-2008 03:20 AM 2056 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 24: Excellent customer service Part 25 of Hand Tools doings series Part 26: Finally sharp! »

There are times when you have to put everything else aside and do something more important.

I have a cat—- this cat——-




There are three things this cat knows for sure. One is when I’m coming with the flea drops – she runs like mad. Second – she knows when I have chicken and runs to me fast. And third – when I have a camera. I don’t think I have a decent picture of her.

Callie is 21 and is fast approaching the end of her 9th life. I’ve always said when the time came I would make her a special box.

Callie has bad timing. I’m not allowed in the machine shop right now and my right arm is just this side of useless for woodworking. Does not bode well for making a box, let alone a decent box.

Regardless, you have to do what you have to do. This box has been made with butt joints and screws and a lot of sweat. All the parts are hand cut and the only thing that was electric was the light and the drill to make the countersink holes for the screws. I was fortunate that I had extra pine plugs from some of the Adirondack chairs that I’ve done so did not have to deal with making those.



It’s hard to do a lot of things with only one hand and then you put on top of that the one hand you have is not your dominate hand. But where there is a will there is a way.

Sawing the square parts was no big deal. Just took a long time. I used my shooting board to even up the edges the best I could. The screws pulled up the sides pretty well.

Where it got tricky was doing the trim and the hinge recesses.

This is how I did it.

I used my bench hook that has a 90 and 2 45’s cut into the fence to cut the trim to rough lengths. I could not hold the pieces tight enough with my right hand so I clamped a block against the trim and to the fence. Cut the one side then moved the set up to the other side.



It worked pretty well. I just went slowly and I did not have much trouble with the set up moving on me. The fact that the trim is only about 1/4” thick soft pine, really worked to my advantage.

Shooting the miters was easier than I thought it would be. I used carpet tape as the strength to hold the pieces in place. This required setting the piece a little further out on the board than I would have normally done and then I ended up having to lift it up and replace it on the tape a couple of times. It worked pretty well for the left side.


The right side miter was done basically the same way, but I turned my shooting board around so that I would pull the plane like a Japanese style plane. That also worked ok, but it was not as easy as the first side.


Chiseling the recesses for the hinges has been the toughest part so far. Looking back I should not have recessed the hinges at all. But I started it I needed to finish it.

Holding the chisel was a problem. I could hold it with my right hand and strike the chisel with the mallet in my left. But the vibration from the strike HURT. I don’t mind something taking a long time to do, but HURT is not good. I’ve got enough of that. So what’s a girl to do. Make a “jig” of course!

I started with just holding the chisel with the clamp, but the clamp was slipping, so I added tape to the chisel to make a rougher surface for the clamp to grip onto. I didn’t have to hold the clamp to tightly, but still the first couple of blows HURT. So I went to the kitchen and got my hot glove – that gave me plenty of padding.


This set up was really good to do the straight portions of the recess. Notching the outline was a piece of cake. Chipping out the material was a bear though. That took forever. Doing the straight cuts down to make chips was ok, but slanting the chisel to chop out those little chips was a tall order. It took about three hours per hinge leaf because the chisel kept slipping out of my clamp and I’d have to reset it. I still have one more to go.

I did not cut grooves for the bottom. I simply took scraps and made a “shelf” of sorts to lay the bottom on. These were put on with glue only. I figure that’s strong enough. The box only has to hold up long enough to get buried. The bottom is just a piece of 1/4” mdf cut to size. That was really easy to cut by the way. I plan to sew a small pillow to put on the bottom for Callie to rest on. Sewing is the easiest part of the whole project. No sweat involved with that.

The lid has to be sealed shut or the pet cemetary won’t bury her. This is another reason I should not have done hinges, but oh well. So I plan to screw the lid shut and put trim over the screw holes. I’ve got the trim precut and still have to drill the holes.

I also plan to finish it off by rounding over the edges with the block plane. Planning left handed so far is no picnic. I don’t know how you lefties make it. Everything is harder left-handed.

But long and short, this is for Callie, so I don’t mind the work. It’s worth it for her.


I’d like to make a nicer box, but that’s just not going to happen unless she manages to get healthier soon and last until after I get to feeling better.

I’m pretty happy with how the box is turning out. I’m grateful that I’ve been learning hand tools, because without them Callie would be buried in one of those plastic boxes and that just does not seem right.

So that’s the story of Callie’s box. Thanks for reading.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

10 comments so far

View Greg Wurst's profile

Greg Wurst

794 posts in 3861 days

#1 posted 06-25-2008 03:25 AM

That’s a touching yet sad story. I have three cats and I hate to think about losing any of them.

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3773 days

#2 posted 06-25-2008 03:31 AM

Thanks for the post, Betsy. You did a very nice job on the box. I do all of my work left handed. :] Actually, when I see people doing things right handed, it just looks all wrong, especially cutting lumber on a table saw.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4017 days

#3 posted 06-25-2008 03:32 AM

I once had a cat for 17 years.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3797 days

#4 posted 06-25-2008 03:36 AM

a very sad story. i know how if is very well to lose people close to you so i can sympathize. doing everything with your left hand must really show how important your right hand is. i could never imagine working lefty.

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3784 days

#5 posted 06-25-2008 04:56 AM


It is never easy loosing a “family” member and even worse when they have been with you for so long. I know Callie will appreciate what you have done.

Be strong.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3851 days

#6 posted 06-25-2008 11:17 AM


This is one of the hardest decisions that we have to make but it is a reality given the relatively short time that these guys are with us. But, as I said in a recent post, given the love and memories that they share and leave with us the pain that comes with their passing pales in comparison. You have made a wonderful box for Callie. It is only fitting that, given your 21 years of sharing, it should be a box that you personally made for her.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#7 posted 06-26-2008 03:04 AM

Thanks guys. Building this box has been, to say the least, an experience.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

789 posts in 3862 days

#8 posted 06-28-2008 06:12 PM

Very cool box. It is hard to loose a furry friend that become so close to us. Let us know how it goes.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3773 days

#9 posted 06-29-2008 11:08 PM

Betsy is that one of those kevlar gloves that you’re holding that clamp with? I’ve got to get one of those for chisel work. I will admit, I’m not going through as many band aides as I used to. :]

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#10 posted 06-29-2008 11:18 PM

Tim – that is in fact a kevlar glove for the kitchen. It does not have all those little dots on it that the gloves for cutting has. It’s mainly a heat resisting glove. It works great for the kitchen but is a bit slippery otherwise. I’m not sure I’d recommend it for chisel work or carving. I used it here in a pinch more as a vibration relief than gripping strength. I actually have a kevlar glove for carving, but who knows where its at.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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