Sword box & a box making question

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Project by MyChipCarving posted 04-20-2015 10:29 PM 1758 views 6 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Basswood sword box for a customer of mine who will chip carve the box for a Civil War sword she has.
38×7x4”, barbed concealed hinges

Usually I post the items I’ve chip carved, but I have a box making question for all you LJ box makers.
Assembling the box is straightforward but the step of cutting the top off is always a challenge for me.
For this box I used my tablesaw and set the blade just shy of the side thickness. I struggle with getting the cuts to line up perfectly. One or more corners always seems to be off by 1/16” or less resulting in a ledge so the box doesn’t close perfectly. I monkeyed around with it making slight cuts to even it out and eventually got is close enough. I think it took about 4 times around

I’ve tried my bandsaw and that was more of a challenge than the tablesaw. My blade is the Woodslicer and tensioned properly. When the blade cuts through the end and starts on the sides there is usually a noticeable change in the cut line.

I read an article in FineWoodworking about using the bandsaw and then sanding flat with large sandpaper on the top of the tablesaw. That would work for small boxes but not for one like this that is 38” long.

Anyway, what do you suggest? How do you cut the top off your boxes?

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

15 comments so far

View SenecaWoodArt's profile


438 posts in 1822 days

#1 posted 04-20-2015 10:44 PM

I also will be interested to see how the big boys spell this one out. I use the table saw as well. What I have found that works best for me is to use a featherboard holding the box tight against the fence and cut with the top to the left of the blade and the main part of the box against the fence. After I have cut one long side and the two shorter ones, I add a spacer in the cut on the longer side equal to the saw blade width that has already been cut and hold tight against this while I cut the last long side. This sometimes leaves a little bit of a burr. I then I use the flat sandpaper method to remove this burred area. However, I don’t attach sandpaper to my table saw. I glue multiple sheets of sandpaper to a piece of MDF to achieve an area large enough to handle the item that requires sanding. The MDF can be placed on the table saw or a work bench with a large enough area. Clamps can be used to hold the MDF in place.

I am sure there is a better way that someone will help you with, but this is how I get it done.

-- Bob

View Boxguy's profile


2763 posts in 2470 days

#2 posted 04-20-2015 11:51 PM

Marty, you might find some hints here. I didn’t have any luck with the sandpaper on a table and rubbing. It always got out of square. It is cheating, but the best method I have found, especially for a box this long, is a drum sander. That is why I bought one that opens up to 12 inches. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View Roger's profile


20952 posts in 3007 days

#3 posted 04-20-2015 11:57 PM

I’m no pro by any sorts, but, I think I’d look into the blade on your table saw being square to your rip fence. Being as long as that box is, if you’re out just a smidge, it’ll be a big smidge at the other end. ??? Good luck with it. I can’t wait to see this all chipped up. :)

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View MyChipCarving's profile


630 posts in 3327 days

#4 posted 04-21-2015 01:36 AM

Thanks for the thoughts so far.

Big Al, I’ll have to keep the lid away from the fence as you and Woodville, TX, shared. I know that would help. Checking the alignment of the blade and fence is a good idea too.

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3344 posts in 3312 days

#5 posted 04-21-2015 03:50 AM

Marty, you might find some hints here. I didn t have any luck with the sandpaper on a table and rubbing. It always got out of square. It is cheating, but the best method I have found, especially for a box this long, is a drum sander. That is why I bought one that opens up to 12 inches. Keep boxing and keep posting.

- Boxguy

That is NOT cheating, that is finding the best tool for the job at hand…you’ve just exposed one of your secrets for fine box making. I’ve used wood working tools to fix a car in the past. Recognizing which tool can be re-purposed for a given task was one of my strengths when I worked as an engineer.

BOT, I’ve also used the table saw to trim the carcase close and then cut the remainder by hand. I used to design precision tooling, so I am used to designing and measuring down to the .0003” range when making some tools. My little table saw has slightly more error. In spite of that, I have made some real hack jobs, preceded by and followed by some nice output. My lack perfection annoys me considerably. I do better when I am focused, so I have to do some amount of work that doesn’t require that focus, and then get my freak on for the fine tuning. I woke up at 2:30 AM today (it is currently 8:44 local time). I did some painting and trim replacement today, on my mother-in-law’s house. Perfect day for some rough work- chop saw, nail gun and caulk. If I had had to do some joinery, I would have chosen another day. That missing 3 hours of sleep has meaning.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Boxguy's profile


2763 posts in 2470 days

#6 posted 04-21-2015 04:04 AM

Marty, some other hints for cutting the top of a box off on a table saw…use a high fence. It makes the cut much more accurate if you can eliminate any sort of wiggle as you cut. On a cut as long as you are talking about, I’d also suggest a feather board. Finally, make sure your saw blade just barely makes it through the cut. That will help remove some wiggle as you cut. I also hand sand a small chamfer on the joining sides of the lid and the bottom. It makes the joint look right, even if it has some small imperfections.

You can see what I mean in this picture. The top/bottom edges are just hand-beveled with 100 grit paper and then finer grades. Mostly it tricks the eye and helps the finish stick better.

-- Big Al in IN

View Mikesawdust's profile


327 posts in 3242 days

#7 posted 04-21-2015 11:21 AM

I have in the past cut the top first by just cutting the board before cutting the side pieces, and then taped it back together before cutting it to the four sides. Admittedly this was a special case, I wanted the inner lip to be at 30 degrees. It did give me a nice fit, but it wasn’t exactly easy.

-- You never cut a piece to short, you are just prepping that piece for a future project

View TechTeacher04's profile


392 posts in 1734 days

#8 posted 04-21-2015 12:06 PM

Make sure you have shims the thickness of your saw blade and tape the box closed as you make your cuts and an absolutely square glue-up helps too, don’t ask why I know that. Good luck. A few judicious passes of a block plan can help too.

View Lazyman's profile


2636 posts in 1590 days

#9 posted 04-21-2015 01:30 PM

TechTeacher’s comment about shimming the kerf and taping the box closed as you go is the first thing that came to mind. If you don’t do that, you will definitely get a skewed cut especially on the last side. For a really long box like this one, it is really hard to keep the box vertically straight when sawing the short sides so you might also try just cutting the long sides of the box on the table saw with the blade at maximum height (and perfectly at 90 degrees) then hand cut and plane/sand the short sides. You’ll have to make sure that the box stays absolutely square and against the fence so a tall auxillary fence will help.

I second the motion to fine tune the squareness of the blade to the fence. After setting up the fence, you might want to make a test rip in a long piece of scrap with a good straight side and check it with a dial caliper to see if the width at both ends is the same after the cut. If you can’t get the difference under 1/32 of an inch with a normal long rip, you won’t have much luck with it something sawed vertically.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Albert's profile


516 posts in 3792 days

#10 posted 04-21-2015 04:06 PM

If your tablesaw insert is not perfectly flat with the table you’ll get a bit of wobble. I try to keep most of the down pressure on the cast iron part of the table rather than on the insert part. It helps a bit but is not perfect. I think that by considering all the above tips (for which I’m grateful) my boxes will benefit. I like Boxguy’s idea of using the drum sander to flatten, I had not considered that before.


View bobasaurus's profile


3544 posts in 3387 days

#11 posted 04-21-2015 05:24 PM

I have a pair of edge-trimming planes from veritas that work great for squaring boxes and lids:

That’s a clean-looking box, nice job.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View joeE's profile


5 posts in 3347 days

#12 posted 04-21-2015 11:39 PM

Boxguy has a good suggestion about the high fence, this is what I use to make sure that the reference I use for cutting the lid off is the high fence, and the bottom of the box slides against the fence rather than the table top.

Make sure the high fence is square to the table, my version is made of melamine, clamps to the saw fence and the box slides against that. I have one for the tablesaw and another for the bandsaw.

Having done a few boxes I found that if the sides of the box are not perfectly perpendicular and the bottom wasn’t perfectly planar the box would have a slight lean away from the saw fence on some sides and a slight gap on the opposite sides giving me a step.

I have done a few long ones, (700mm x 150) I cut the long sides using the high fence and a Japanese saw for the ends as they can cut using the long cuts as a guide. Then I sand it flush.

Hope this helps and it is a nice box.

View MyChipCarving's profile


630 posts in 3327 days

#13 posted 04-22-2015 12:02 AM

I can see agreement about – a square box, high fence, bottom of box against the fence and blade aligned with the fence. Also, the comment about the tablesaw insert from Paul struck home because I know my box caught on the insert once causing a mark.

I’m sure going to focus on these things next time!

Thanks much!

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View Druid's profile


1911 posts in 2998 days

#14 posted 04-23-2015 11:50 PM

Hi Marty, Here’s another possible method for you to consider. You will end up with the top and bottom fitting into eachother, and the outer surfaces will match properly.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View MyChipCarving's profile


630 posts in 3327 days

#15 posted 04-24-2015 12:03 AM

Thanks, John. Interesting approach.

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

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