I recently decided to go on a box making journey in woodworking. The various skills that one can learn by making simple and small boxes and structures can lead to big improvements in skill while performing larger work later on. Plus, it’s a good way to use up scraps that are laying around the woodshop. My first step in taking on any new style or project is typically a trip to the library and sometimes a further trip to the bookstore. (I’m lucky in that my public library has an online catalog that allows me to browse and search for topics such as box making.)
I recently picked up five books and thought it would be useful to review them for folks.
Making Little Boxes From Wood by John Bennett
- Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, Lewes, East Sussex, England. 1993
Most all woodworking books focus the first two or three chapters on familiarizing the reader with the various tools and techniques used to create the projects later in the book. Making Little Boxes… does this in five short chapters. And I do mean short. Only 35 pages are devoted to tools and tricks and the rest of the 136 pages is left primarily to projects.
The most notable attribute of this book is that it was written and published in England and therefore possesses some different characteristics that American woodworkers may not be used to. For instance, it is entirely in metric measure. For clarity, there is a conversion table in the end for converting millimeters to inches.
The projects are plentiful with good supporting drawings for following along. You are definitely meant to build the projects as you go along. My favorite project in the book (though I have not built it yet) is the Briefcase. I like the idea of making a wooden briefcase and showing it off amongst the leather “shoulder bags” of the metro sexuals around the office now-a-days. Seems to be a bit more “manly” to me.
The only thing this book really lacks is color. Since it was publish in 1993, I gather color was an extra expense that the publishers decided to only use for a few pages. It would have been nice to see more of the projects in color to see more details. Overall, however, this is a good book for a beginner/intermediate box maker.
Wood Magazine: Making Great Boxes
- Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York, NY
I like Wood Magazine’s publications. I really do. Their books are wonderfully detailed and easy to follow and their magazine is equally useful. This book is no exception.
It begins with no this-is-a-table-saw definitions but delves straight into some how to on veneers and inlays. After which, it proceeds to walk through its project list. Each type of project is preceded with a brief explanation of technique and then more detail is given in the project walk through.
My favorite section has to be “Chapter 2: Bandsaw Boxes”. The authors walk through making a simple set of bandsawn boxes with Jerry Patrasso. It makes the entire process infinitely approachable to novice woodworkers.
Taunton's Basic Box Making by Doug Stowe
- The Taunton Press. Newton, CT
This is a very down to earth and get it down approach to box making. The introduction is exactly 2 pages and then the projects start the very next page. All of the projects are straight forward and any complex or learned techniques are provided with the project itself (including how to make jigs for certain joinery).
Most of the projects have a design option that can be utilized to produce different looks to the boxes. For instance the “Lapped Corner Box” on page 80 gives an option for a top with a handle or a top with some decorative stone inlays (I hope my mother isn’t reading this because I’ll probably have to make her one).
I would consider Taunton Press to be one of the higher bench marks in terms of quality books and magazines and this book really shows that off. It is simple to follow and loaded with great technique along with their great projects.
Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making by Doug Stowe
- The Taunton Press. Newton, CT
With as good as the previous book by Doug Stowe and Taunton was, this wasn’t as good. Mostly because I am looking for projects to build and less for pure technique. However, if you have a design in your mind and you want some help trying to figure out the joinery inside it, this may be the book for you.
The book is almost entirely about the the technique in box making not specific projects. They start with tools and jigs then move on to the parts of the boxes like the joinery or the lids. In particular, I like “Section 2: Box-Making Materials” where the reader is walked through prepping stock at several stages of the woods transition into materials that can be used to construct the box.
Even with the lack of a clear project in the book, I still would suggest this for beginner box makers as so much to the technique that can be left out of other books is thoroughly covered.
I’ve read several books on the subject of box making. There are also several resources on box making contained in some of the complete-guide-to books on woodworking. One book that I would highly recommend to the beginner has to be Box by Box by Jim Stack. I didn’t review it here because I didn’t happen to have the book handy, but I think a large percentage of fairly new woodworkers (and some ol’ timers) have built at least one box from this book. And that is with good reason because it is a very good book.
Check back to my Lumberjocks blog later on for more book reviews. I read quite a bit more about woodworking than I actually work because of a wife who thinks a trip to the library is equal to a trip to the movies (man is she a cheap date!). So, as I come across more and more good books (or bad ones) I’ll try and post some reviews on the blog and in the review’s section.
-- He said wood...http://hickbyassociation.blogspot.com/