Weekend Pen Box
I got the idea for this pen box from a friend. I was at his house looking at a commemorative pen he was given for retirement and was impressed with the design of the pen box. I took some pictures and spent a couple days figuring out how I could make my own. Below are picture of my friends pen box.
The box turned out to be fairly easy to build once I took a good look at it. I took a couple minutes to determine exactly how It was made; then I was ready to start.
Basically the box consists of 4 major pieces glued together with brass brads for hinges. Good news for me is I have a bunch of brass brads I have had laying around. I also had some walnut and maple I purchased in bulk that would provide great contrast. Now it was time to do some measuring to determine the size of the slot need to hold the pen and determine the overall length of the case.
The case will be approximately 7” long, 1” high and 1 3/”wide. The slot is 5 1/2” long and 3/8” deep for slimline pens. I adjusted the slot makling it slightly large and slightly shorter for 2 Civil War pens. You will need to insure you take into account the different width and length of the pen when deciding the length and depth of the slot and overall length of the case.
Building the Pen Box
Step one: Making the top and bottom of the case.
a) Cut the a piece of Maple (or other light wood) 7” x 3” x 5/8”. You place a 3/4” round router bit in your router. Set the fence on your router table 5/8” from the center of the router bit. Next set a stop on each side of your fence 6 1/8” from the center of the bit. This will cut a slot 5 1/2” long.
It is important to set the height of you router bit no more than an 1/8 for the 1st pass. You can then raise it 1/8” each pass until you reach the desired depth of 3/8”. You will be cutting 2 slots in the maple base; one for the bottom and one for the top.
Place the right side of the piece against the right fence holding the left side up so it does not hit the bit. Slowly lower the left side until the piece is flat on the table; then push the piece from l right to lrft until it touches the left stop. Once it hits the left stop lift the piece, right side first, until it is clear. Now repeat the process on the opposite side. Repeat this process raising the router bit no more than a 1/8” until the depth is 3/8”.
Note: cutting the depth 1/8” each pass until you reach 3/8” worked well with Maple. You may have to adjust the depth and number of passes depending on the density of the wood.
Note: Strongly recommend you use scrape the first time you cut the slots to insure your setup is correct. Once it is correct you can make as many as you need if you are making multiple cases. I made 25 to insure I had enough for Christmas gifts to family and friends. Cutting all at the same really saved time.
b) Set your table saw fence to 1 1/4”. Run the piece through the table saw. the result is two pieces; one 1 1/4” wide and one slightly larger. Run the slightly larger one through the table saw again insuring the side with the 1/4” lip is against the fence. The result is two pieces with matching slots that will be used as the top and bottom of the box.
c) I use a thickness planer to plane each piece to a 1/2”. Insure you have the slot down. I use a piece of 3/8” plywood to push the pieces through the planer until the height is 1/2”.
Note: I use a square set to the depth of the slot to insure I do not plane it to a point where I expose the slot. The depth of the slot is 3/8”; when I finish planning it to 1/2” I should have at least 1/8” to spare.
Note: I use 5/8” stock when making the bottom to insure I have plenty of wood between me and the router bit when cutting the slot.
d) Cut one of the pieces, at a 45 degree angle, 2” from the end. This is what will be the top of the case.
e) Finally, place both bottom and top next to each other. You will notice they are different length based on the width of the saw blade you used to cut the bottom at 45 degrees. Cut the longer piece to equal the length of the top piece. See detail below.
Step 2: Felt line the slots (Optional)
Before you glue the top and bottom felt line the slots. If you do not do it at this point there will be no way to felt line the hole created when you glue the top to the bottom.
Cut 3 strips of felt 1 1/8 wide. One 6 1/4” long; one 4” long and one 2 1/4” long. Using a nickel round both ends of the 6 1/4” strip and one end of the 4” and 2 1/4” strips. Now glue the 6 1/4” slot into the top slot and the other two into the bottom.
Note: Do not worry about the felt getting dusty during the sanding and finishing process. I used my Shop Vacuum to clean the slots after finishing. It removed all the dust; leaving the felt looking like new.
Step 3: Making the sides of the case.
a) Here you have a choice. You can purchase 1/4” Walnut or you can resaw 5/8” Walnut using a band saw. I decided to use some 5’ x 6” x 5/8” Walnut I already had in stock. First I cut it into enough 7” pieces to make 25 pen boxes. Then I scribe a line down the middle of side of each piece. Then I ran each piece through my band saw.
b) Next I took them to the thickness planer and planed each piece to 1/4”. Finally I cut each piece into 1” strips to be used as sides on the pen boxes.
Step 3: Glue pieces together.
a) Glue the top to the shortest piece of the bottom. Insure you glue it to the end you cut to match lengths (see detail in step 1, e). That will insure the slot ends match up when to put the case together.
b) Glue the sides to the bottom of the case.
c) Once the glue is dry remove the clamps and sand the pieces. Dry fit the top into the bottom to insure they fit and you can easily slide them together. I used a small plane to shave the sides of the top until it slide into the bottom easily.
Step 4: Assembly.
a) Trim the sides to fit. You will need to trim the width of the saw blade you used to cut the 45 degree angle in the bottom of the case. I just put the case together and trimmed it on my compound miter saw.
b) Using a quarter round each end of the case. Using a band saw round the ends of the case.
Finally, use a sander to smooth the rounded edges and rough sand the case.
e) Final step in assembly is drilling the pilot holes for the brass brads and nailing them in place. I set the fence on my drill press table to 1/2”. Then I placed a mark in the middle of the top end on both sides and drilled the pivot holes. This was required because I did not have a small drill long enough to go through the case. Now drill the holes for the brass brads used as hinges.
Step 5: Finishing.
a) This is the critical step if your case is to really stand out. I used a 440 grit for the final sanding.
b) Final step is applying a finish. I used a water base clear finish.
Note: I have a small shop. Water based finished are ideal. There are no fumes and clean-up is easy. Only down-side is I have to resand after the first coat to eliminate raised grain. I also have to use at least three thin coats to get they same look I used to get from oil based stains.
Well, That about does it. Below is the final results, a nice looking pen case you can easily complete in a weekend.
I am relatively new to woodworking. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions on how I can improve the process. Also, if I am doing something stupid that could cause me or others harm let me know.