My First Hand Tool Project... 1839 School Box

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Project by tirebob posted 09-04-2011 06:13 AM 3700 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey everyone,

This is my first 100% hand tool made project. In actuality, it is the first genuine project I have ever completed. Up until this point it has been pretty much nothing but practicing sawing straight lines and dovetails. I guess I have made some picture frames and the like, but other than that it has been taking old pieces of unfinished flooring, planing them flat, squaring them up, and joining two pieces together and that’s it. Hahaha! Good practice though I must admit…

It is based on the 1839 School Box from an older PW magazine. Even though this box is pretty simple compared to some of the amazing stuff many of you make on this forum, I am very proud of this piece. It is built out of some old SYP we recycled from some pallets. I know it is far from perfect, and it is actually the first time I have ever tried using shellac on anything (I need a whole lot more practice on this front! :o ), so the finish is definitely a bit sketchy, but my wonderful bride loves it (says it looks “distressed”, which I think is her kind way of saying grungy lol) so I gave it to her to use as a sewing box…

Anyways, any critiques are welcome, and there are many that can be given, but overall I am just happy to finally take a project from beginning to end and have a result that is not completely embarrassing…

Thanks for looking!

16 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4065 days

#1 posted 09-04-2011 06:17 AM

Great looking box. I am sure she will treasure it.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View JeremyPringle's profile


321 posts in 2442 days

#2 posted 09-04-2011 06:57 AM

And you did a fantastic job! I wish I was able to say that my first project looked that good. Oh, and thats EWP, not SYP.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18249 posts in 3644 days

#3 posted 09-04-2011 07:08 AM

Looks pretty good from here!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 2822 days

#4 posted 09-04-2011 07:39 AM

QUOTE ” Oh, and thats EWP, not SYP.” QUOTE

Reallly! I could have sworn that SYP… LOL ;-)

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3688 days

#5 posted 09-04-2011 07:58 AM

That’s a great start to the world of hand tools, congrats on a great build.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View glue4you's profile


162 posts in 2448 days

#6 posted 09-04-2011 11:29 AM

Looks great! Using handtools makes it look really antique! I like that “grungy” look. Only thing I would try to change is planing down the lines from marking the dovetails. That migth be the point where I would screw up a project like this due to my still small selection of hand planes (and the corresponding skill level).

I’d like to see more like this to give me ideas for my first handtool-only-project. Not sure if it will ever happen though :-)

-- Alex ----- Bavaria in Germany

View Napoleon's profile


788 posts in 2777 days

#7 posted 09-04-2011 11:50 AM

Looking real good. I like it for being simple and well done :)

-- Boatbuilder&blacksmith

View Brit's profile


7369 posts in 2810 days

#8 posted 09-04-2011 12:00 PM

Nice job. You should be very proud of that box as your first hand tool only project.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Alster's profile


101 posts in 3182 days

#9 posted 09-04-2011 03:33 PM

You did a lovely job with this! And I completely understand feeling proud of something you’ve built with just hand tools—I feel the same way every time I do!

View itsmic's profile


1419 posts in 3086 days

#10 posted 09-04-2011 03:59 PM

Nice Box, great acomplishment doing this all with hand tools, bet You feel stronger already, the rugged look fits this box well, great job, thanks for sharing

-- It's Mic Keep working and sharing

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3044 days

#11 posted 09-04-2011 04:40 PM

Very well done….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View JeremyPringle's profile


321 posts in 2442 days

#12 posted 09-04-2011 04:50 PM

Yes sir’re Bob, that EWP. I will show you some SYP next time you are over.

As far as planing the lines off.. thats a completely personal thing, I generally dont do it as I like the lines. When using a softer wood like pine, the making gauge will make a much deeper cut than in hard wood like cherry or maple, you can control this of course, but its not something to worry about with a project like this. If you do want to start planing the lines off in the future, you should have that in mind before starting the project, so that when you go to mark all your lines, you are concious of the depth of the gauge.

Also, planing down the lines can open up the joint if you created a hollow while chopping/paring out the waste. Because planing the edges will remove your sharp edge and expose the hollow. So again, you need to be concious of this before you begin, so not only not marking too deep, but also not creating to much of a hollow, if one at all.

Having said all that…. if you leave your tail board 1/32 – 1/64 proud of the pin board, not only will you have an easier time clamping (because then the pins do not interfear) but then you have that much material too plane off without comprimising the joint.

View DocSavage45's profile


8520 posts in 2810 days

#13 posted 09-04-2011 05:34 PM

It has character!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View glue4you's profile


162 posts in 2448 days

#14 posted 09-04-2011 05:45 PM

JeremyPringle – You stated some very good points there that I shall keep in mind. Thanks! I wouldn’t have thought about opening the joint. It probably wouldn’t matter anyway in my case because I always need a whole lot of sawdust and glue … and usually don’t undercut.

-- Alex ----- Bavaria in Germany

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 2822 days

#15 posted 09-04-2011 06:18 PM

Thanks for all the kind words everyone!

I actually really like the look when people leave the scribe lines. It gives it more of a homemade and craft like look rather than one of a store made piece. I understand that for many people it leaves the piece looking unfinished, but it just really appeals to me.

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