Coaching and Ken's Christmas Project (Boxguy)

  • Advertise with us
Project by Boxguy posted 12-06-2012 03:02 AM 2453 views 2 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Pictured: A jewelry keeper (12 x 6 x 6) with a book-matched quarter sawn White Oak top and corner splines, and American Walnut sides. The square, sliding tray has White Oak sides and walnut splines. Finish method has one Tung Oil coat, two Polyurethane coats, one wax coat. It features a full length mortised in hinge, a finger lift for the top, a ring holder, and a cloth liner in the bottom.

Story: Ken has been coming to Boxguy’s shop for the past few months to learn more about crafting boxes. He wanted to make this jewelry keeper as a Christmas present for an old friend. Ken did a great job, and we wanted to post this to share with fellow Lumber Jocks.

Focus: With this post I wanted to focus on a method for being a box-making coach. It is a five or six day process. The basic idea is to have the coach make a box, but rather than have the learner just watch…the learner also makes a box. So I would do a step on my box and Ken would do the same step on his box. I run a board through the planer, and he does the same. My board goes through the drum sander, and so does his. You get the idea. Here are the general steps.

First Day: This is a long day…probably 5-6 hours of shop time plus whatever lunch time you need.

1. General, quick tour of the shop.

2. Look at some finished boxes and pick out what woods we like for our projects. Hint: Use different woods in your box and the learner’s box so you don’t get the parts mixed up during the process.

3. Each box starts with an index card with title such as “Ken’s Christmas Keeper.” Draw a quick line diagram of a box and label the outside dimensions written on the diagram.

Translate these dimensions into the length and width of the four sides plus at least one inch extra for squaring and cross cuts. For example, a 12 x 6 x 6 box takes a board 5/8 thick, 37 inches long (12+6+12+6+1 =37) and 6 inches wide. Keep this card as you go through the process. We will use these dimensions again when we cut the board into four sides.

Now select the rough board, and go to work. It takes about 30 steps to get the box to the stage for gluing up the carcass. In general…plane, sand, square, dado, and final sand the inside of the board. Cut board into side lengths, cut 45s, fit bottom, fit top.

4. Tape, glue and strap the box into form.

5. Break for lunch to let the glue dry.

6. Remove the band clamps, cut the splines slots and glue in the splines.

Second Day: Take the box through these steps: Smooth the sides, cut the top, carve the finger lift, add the hinge, fine sand all the sides, apply the first coat of finish…Minwax Tung Oil. This is a 4-5 hour day. Sanding takes time.

Third Day: Make internal parts such as tray, dividers, ring holders. Sand and apply second finish coat…polyurethane. 2-5 hours. (Good day to start thinking about the next box.)

Fourth Day: Sand and apply third finish coat…polyurethane. 1-2 hours. (Good day to start on next box.)

Fifth Day: Add cloth liner, chain, bumpers, wax and photograph project. 2-4 hours. (Move along the next box.)

General Comments: Keep the first project simple so that both the coach and the learner have a real chance to succeed. This process goes much better if you work together just one day a week. You will both look forward to your day to work together. Much less “Box Burn-out” that way. Always, always, always watch your learner’s hands. Stand close enough to move their hands if they are in danger. Keep them working safely. Don’t rush them. Don’t watch the clock and rush the process. Take time to talk. Resist the temptation to take over the process and get it done more quickly. Have fun, laugh together. The important thing is the process, not the time. If you can’t be patient…don’t be a coach.

Thanks: Ken and I appreciate all of you who took time to look at this post. A special thanks to all of you who take the extra time to add a comment or suggestion. I respond to all comments and questions in batches on this same post. So check back the next day to see my responses or answers. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

17 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18373 posts in 3821 days

#1 posted 12-06-2012 03:09 AM

Nice work. Bet you are a great teacher ;-)

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

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3722 days

#2 posted 12-06-2012 03:19 AM

Looks super.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21299 posts in 3250 days

#3 posted 12-06-2012 04:34 AM

Great looking box and good teaching method!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3256 posts in 3857 days

#4 posted 12-06-2012 05:21 AM


Thanks for the ideas on how to teach woodworking. I’ve often thought I would like to help a high-school-age girl learn but have kept too busy to figure out how I would go about teaching her. This is a great idea. Perhaps when I get caught up with home remodeling, I can put it into practice. I always wished I had had the opportunity to learn from someone instead of just from reading books, magazines, and now the internet.

And yes, as always, your box looks great!


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Boxguy's profile


2739 posts in 2412 days

#5 posted 12-06-2012 06:55 AM

Replies to early responses:

Topa, thanks I value teachers and teaching. To maintain any civilization we need to find new vessels for old verities. That is to say, we need new brains to hold old truths.

Jim and Jim, thanks for the comments.

LWLL, thanks for the thought-provoking comments. Keep the first projects simple. Like most of us, I too learn from books, TV, and of course web sites like this, but a good teacher would speed up the process and life is surprisingly short. Classes are efficient, but one-on-one is a great way to learn skills and techniques. I learn something about woodworking from every student I teach. On reflection…what I am doing in the shop feels more like coaching than teaching. I hadn’t thought about that. Thanks for giving me some ideas to chew on.

-- Big Al in IN

View Roger's profile


20948 posts in 2949 days

#6 posted 12-06-2012 12:19 PM

You are an inspiration Al, and a gr8 craftsman

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

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3932 days

#7 posted 12-06-2012 01:34 PM

Nice box, process, and story. You are an inspiration. I agree that its the journey and not just the finished project.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3059 days

#8 posted 12-06-2012 01:37 PM

I love those splined miters! And thanks for all the details on the build. Those details are really appreciated here on LJs. Great job!

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Boxguy's profile


2739 posts in 2412 days

#9 posted 12-06-2012 01:58 PM

Roger, thanks for the compliment. It is always good to hear from you.

Ratchet, thanks for being a careful reader. The woods you used in your last candle box were amazingly beautiful, and the brass stops a nice innovation. I also liked the array of shop jigs you have posted. Being there is nice, getting there is life.

Mike, thanks for using the links. I think links are a great way to make a posting a learning tool as well. They can be a pain to add in the posting. Corner splines sort of are my signature trait in boxes.

-- Big Al in IN

View dustyal's profile


1299 posts in 3620 days

#10 posted 12-06-2012 02:04 PM

Boxguy: Perhaps you covered this and I might have missed it, but how do you round your corners and the shadow line at the bottom? They look like they have a generous radius… and I like the style. I doubt if I could free hand such well proportioned corners, so I’m thinking of a larger diameter round over bit for the router instead of my normal 1/4 inch?

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View Woodbridge's profile


3574 posts in 2563 days

#11 posted 12-06-2012 02:13 PM

great looking box.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View Boxguy's profile


2739 posts in 2412 days

#12 posted 12-06-2012 02:41 PM

Dusty, I use about a 5/8 roundover bit to get the general shape on the corners and then remove burn marks and unevenness with 80 grit on a random orbital sander. I recommend a starter pin for the larger routes. That is a big bite for a router and can jerk when you start the cut. When sanding corners, the key is to go all the way through the curve from flat side to flat side as you round the corner and keep the paper in the center of the box so you don’t taper the box from top to bottom as you round the corners. The bottom takes a 3/8 router bit. I can’t get it to photograph well, but I like how the larger diameter rounded corners make the matching grain really flow around the corners of the box.

Peter, thanks. It is always nice to hear from the Canadian contingent of Lumberland. Your chairs are great. I admire anyone who can build a beautiful chair. Your turning shapes are quite graceful and eye catching.

-- Big Al in IN

View sedcokid's profile


2735 posts in 3743 days

#13 posted 12-06-2012 02:52 PM

Al, You are a good teacher! I enjoyed reading your methods of teaching and how you keep your student safe. I have done some of this too and I learned from you today as well!

Thanks for your post!

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3448 days

#14 posted 12-06-2012 04:33 PM

well this i can say for sure you certainly do wonderful work, your boxes are very beautiful, and im sure you coach as well as you make your boxes…im about due for a box myself, will need to see what i can come up with…great showing here al….im sure ken has got to be pretty happy with what he has learned…sounds like so much fun…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Boxguy's profile


2739 posts in 2412 days

#15 posted 12-06-2012 11:35 PM

Chuck, I can only hope you have had as much fun coaching as I have. Thanks for taking time to comment. Keep boxing and keep posting.

Grizz, it has been great fun working with Ken. I’ll be looking forward to your next boxing creation. Stay safe.

-- Big Al in IN

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics