Dovetail Box

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Blog series by Eric updated 07-30-2008 05:23 PM 23 parts 59219 reads 145 comments total

Part 1: The Wood

01-26-2008 10:17 AM by Eric | 5 comments »

I mentioned recently that I felt like actually making something before working on my bench. What better project for my beginner skills than a simple dovetail box? I haven’t waded through the loads of plans online for boxes, so this plan of mine might not work. Let me know what you think. First, I had an idea that maybe I could build the entire box out of a single block of 2×4 that is 5 1/2” long. Here’s my block – it’s kempas by the way (click for big siz...

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Part 2: When You Don't Plan Your Cuts

01-27-2008 01:59 PM by Eric | 6 comments »

So I was thinking that I’d cut two (full-sized) 3/8” slices off of this block, and then cut those in half longways to be the walls of the box. I went with my dovetail saw to have a finer cut (and leave me with more wood left on the block for the top and bottom). Can you tell what I ran into here? Note to self: Check the depth of the saw when planning your cuts! I did try throwing my Stanley backsaw in there; I could get it in, but I couldn’t get it to cut! So I did...

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Part 3: Almost Ready for the Dovetails

02-03-2008 05:42 PM by Eric | 3 comments »

So I’ve got the pieces for my box cut mostly to size. The walls are all currently about 5 1/2” long – I’m going to trim just a bit off of two of them (to get them to 5 1/3”) and I’ll trim the other two down to 4” (and they’ll be about 2” tall). But first, I have a planing issue. I suppose it’s just part of my journey, but I can’t seem to be able to get my pieces (any of them) really flat. First, I was dealing with tearou...

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Part 4: Making a Dovetail Template

02-04-2008 12:10 PM by Eric | 8 comments »

Before I get to making the dovetails for my wife’s dovetail box, I thought I’d make this little template. The design came from the fine folks over at Homestead Heritage, where I was privileged to receive a day of hands-on joinery instruction. I did modify the design somewhat. The original design has a square on one side and a 1:7 dovetail angle on the other, and is identical on the flipside. Since many woodworkers advocate using a 1:6 ratio for softwoods and a 1:8 ratio for...

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Part 5: Take a Deep Breath

02-09-2008 09:04 AM by Eric | 9 comments »

So I’ve finally gotten the walls of the box flat. Well, mostly flat. They still wobble just a bit when I put them together, but I don’t want to plane these things down to wooden cards trying to get it just right. Plus, it’s not like I’m face-gluing them together. When they’re joined together as a box, I think the variance will be negligible. Two of the walls were 1/32” thinner (on average) than the other two, so those were the ones I cut down for the sh...

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Part 6: Doh!vetail Template - Product Recall

02-14-2008 06:37 AM by Eric | 4 comments »

A couple weeks ago I made a dovetail template to use when making the box for my wife (I’m halfway through the joinery, by the way). I blogged about it here and even posted it as my first ever project on LumberJocks. I was pretty proud. Maybe too proud. I thought the folks over at Homestead Heritage (where I learned the template) were a bit narrow-minded when they only offered the 1:7 ratio (in addition to the square). I figured it would be even better to offer the 1:6 and 1:8 as well...

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Part 7: The Dovetails Are Done!

02-16-2008 09:04 AM by Eric | 8 comments »

Yes! Finally. The joints have all been cut, and the box is perfectly squared up. No glue yet, and the base and top have not even been started. This was a good exercise. And while the joints are far from perfect, it should look really nice when it’s all done. Interestingly, the joints didn’t necessarily get better as I went along. Each one had its own complications, and I have to say, I don’t really enjoy doing such small dovetails. My new Japanese pull saw arrived yester...

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Part 8: Be Vewy Vewy Quiet - I'm Hunting Wabbets

02-17-2008 10:58 AM by Eric | 6 comments »

Okay, so you’d think that doing the dovetail joints would have been the hardest part of this box, right? Me too. I figured on this nice leisurely Sunday afternoon, I’d do the simple task of cutting the rabbets into which the box bottom would fit. Then I’d glue the dovetails and heck, maybe even glue the bottom on. But it turned out to be not so simple, and after much groaning (and nearly cursing), I’m left with two busted pins and only one rabbet done. See, I realiz...

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Part 9: Dovetails Glued Up, Now for the Top

02-21-2008 03:33 PM by Eric | 5 comments »

No pics today, but there’s not much new to look at compared to last week's final fit. A big step was rabbeting the walls for the bottom to fit up into. After doing one wall, I got some very helpful feedback from Dave and Luis over on my personal website that I should do a dado instead that the rabbeted bottom would fit into. The advice came a day too late, although I did consider doing the dado on the other three walls. But alas, I don’t have a blade small enough (the smallest I h...

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Part 10: Next Obstacle: The Lid

03-01-2008 03:25 PM by Eric | 2 comments »

NOTE: As is my custom, my list of newbie questions are at the end of this post. So a week or two ago I wrote about my plans for the box lid. In short, it was going to have mitered edges with a thin strip of the lighter-colored sapwood (would you call it an inlay?) in between the mitered edges and the center piece. Today I took advantage of the Saturday down time to try to make it happen. A few days ago, I resawed a small block of wood 1/2” thick and ripped it into four pieces each...

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Part 11: Hand-Cut Veneer

03-13-2008 02:01 PM by Eric | 16 comments »

So I don’t have access to store-bought veneer (no stores) and I don’t have a bandsaw, so it looks like I’m on my own for veneer. And since I needed it for this box lid, why not start now? I was feeling pretty confident going into this endeavor with my new ryoba. And it didn’t let me down. I didn’t measure or mark anything. A fellow LumberJock told me it should be 1/16” or thinner. So I just put the saw a smidge away from the edge of the board and tried t...

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Part 12: Feelin' Groovy

04-06-2008 04:08 PM by Eric | 4 comments »

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had time to work on the box for my wife. But with Mother’s Day coming up soon(ish), I really want to get crackin’ on it. I have several things to do, some major and some minor. So I started with the minor. Sanded the entire box (minus lid) and glued up the bottom. The bottom simply fits (a bit snugly) into the rabbeted walls, so it’s not the best solution. But as I think I said earlier, as long as my wife doesn’t drop some...

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Part 13: Feedback Requested Before Lid Glue-Up

04-07-2008 03:15 PM by Eric | 3 comments »

Okay, so I finished my panel grooves in my lid frame, and in the next day or two, I’ll glue up my lid. I’ll tell you what I’m planning to do, and could you let me know if anything sounds funky? Please refer to my previous post for some background, if needed. 1. I’ll run some glue down the grooves of two [adjacent] frame pieces, and on the two miters I’m connecting. Wait a few minutes for the end grain to soak up some of the glue, and then reapply some more on ...

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Part 14: "T Keys"

04-28-2008 05:02 PM by Eric | 5 comments »

When I asked for feedback on how to glue up the frame pieces for the lid to the box I’m working on, Luis had suggested that I not glue the miters, but rather chop little mortises in the miters and glue in some floating tenons. The only problem is that with the size of my miters, they would have to be very tiny mortises, and I just didn’t have it in me to do it. So here’s what I came up with: “T Keys”. I decided to run grooves down the length of the mortise, creat...

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Part 15: Gluing Up the Lid

05-01-2008 11:01 AM by Eric | 5 comments »

The moment of truth. The point of no return. The bridge beyond despair. Okay, I made that last one up. Time to glue up the lid. I felt like a surgeon preparing for a big operation. First, I did about three dry runs to practice the glue-up, assembly and “cord clamping”. Finally, it was time. I laid out all of my equipment in the order in which I’d need it: glue, spreader (the innards of a foam brush), two squares for the opposite corners, parachute cord and a pencil for ti...

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Part 16: Gluing in the T-Keys

05-02-2008 09:39 AM by Eric | 5 comments »

Last week I cut the grooves for my "t-keys" and the other day I glued up the lid. Yesterday, I glued in the t-keys. Here’s a shot of the t-keys just prior to glue-up: Since I cut the slots by hand, the slight variations in each meant that I had to cut each t-key to match each slot. Even though I carefully fitted each one prior to glue-up, I still had a major glitch with one of them; it wouldn’t go in. When I tried to pull it out, the base of the “t” broke off. S...

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Part 17: Mothers Day Gift - The Box Is Done!

05-10-2008 06:19 PM by Eric | 13 comments »

Back at the end of January (yes, 2008), I said that I wanted to make, and I quote myself, “a simple dovetail box.” I planned to make it for my wife. I don’t think I really expected to finish it by Valentine’s Day, but I did expect that it would be done for her birthday (mid-March). That came and went, leaving me with Mothers Day as my next target date. As I finally figured out how to do the lid, it all started coming together very quickly, and I found myself on Mothers...

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Part 18: Finishing the Box

05-19-2008 09:08 AM by Eric | 10 comments »

I have to admit, since I finished with the actual woodworking part of my wife's box, and presented it to her, I’ve barely thought about it. But the box isn’t finished yet (literally), so I’d better press on to the end. So here’s my question for you: how would you finish the box? I was considering a simple 1:1:1 blend of boiled linseed oil, varnish and mineral spirits, as recommended by Marc Spagnuolo in one of his podcasts. That’s the finish I used on my Good ...

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Part 19: Is This a Finishing Problem?

06-21-2008 06:09 AM by Eric | 8 comments »

So I’m working on finishing my wife’s Mothers Day box. I went with Marc’s varnish/oil/mineral spirits blend (1 part each), but as I was applying the first coat I saw that there was something all solidified in my mixture, and it wouldn’t blend with the rest. I went ahead and finished the coat and emailed Marc for his take. He thought that maybe the varnish had already cured, so I went and bought some new varnish. No problems on this batch. So after applying a second ...

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Part 20: Finishing Fun

07-01-2008 09:56 AM by Eric | 2 comments »

Well, after my last post I decided to back up a step. I sanded down a bit with 360 grit, and then without thinking I wiped the whole thing down with mineral spirits to make sure the sawdust was all gone. About halfway through doing that, I realized that I was also stripping off whatever finish I had already had on the box (or at least much of it)! Hah. Oh well, could be worse, right? So I went with Marc recommendation to use a straight wiping varnish with a 50/50 mixture of varnish (I boug...

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Part 21: End Grain Finishing Issue

07-11-2008 09:51 AM by Eric | 5 comments »

Okay, so I’m just about done. I’ve put the “last coat” on, and buffed it out with 00000 steel wool. Not too sure if I like it as is, or if I’ll add one more coat. It’s easy enough to do, so it’s no big deal. But there’s one thing I’m unhappy about, and that’s the exposed end grain on the pins and tails. The end grain looks all dried out and kinda nasty. Check it out (click to enlarge): I’m not sure how it got this way...

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Part 22: How I Fixed the End Grain

07-16-2008 06:42 AM by Eric | 7 comments »

From all the feedback I got on my end grain finishing problem, Kaleo had the biggest word (oxidization) so I think he’s right. :^) However, I couldn’t bring myself to apply his solution, which was to sand the box down and then to put a finer grit on the end grain. Actually, my wife instantly vetoed any solution which involved removing the finish I already had on it. She loves the box, and isn’t concerned about the flaws. But I had to do something. So here’s what I d...

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Part 23: Reflections and Lessons Learned

07-30-2008 05:23 PM by Eric | 6 comments »

In my very first post in this series, I said that I wanted to make something before building my workbench, and I said (here comes a direct quote), “What better project for my beginner skills than a simple dovetail box?” Yes. I said the words “simple”, “box” and “beginner” in the same sentence. How little I knew. So here are some reflections on my 6-month journey into box making, and some lessons learned: Find something you do well, and buil...

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