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View Hillsboro's profile

How to fix an unsquare glued up box. Is it possible?

by Hillsboro
posted 01-27-2012 07:46 PM


34 replies so far

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile

TCCcabinetmaker

925 posts in 1008 days


#1 posted 01-27-2012 07:50 PM

measure your corners, find the longer diagonal, put a clamp on it, tighten til square. It might stay, it might not, hard to say unfortunately.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9907 posts in 1272 days


#2 posted 01-27-2012 07:53 PM

Shaving an outside of 1/16” from a finished box is an ideal job for handplanes… Inside, obviously not so much… Got planes?

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15696 posts in 2872 days


#3 posted 01-27-2012 08:17 PM

I’ve made a lot of boxes, and have dealt with this problem more times than I’d like to admit. I have only found two possible courses of action:

1. Live with it.
2. Trash it.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View DS's profile

DS

2131 posts in 1074 days


#4 posted 01-27-2012 08:28 PM

Gee Charlie, that seems fairly extreme, Black-n-White thinking.

Seems like he could cut it apart and make a slightly smaller box—if that were acceptable.
Cross-clamping is good before the glue cures up. It will fight you after the glue is set though.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Jeff in Huntersville's profile

Jeff in Huntersville

399 posts in 1848 days


#5 posted 01-27-2012 08:55 PM

This sounds extreme and I don’t even know if it’ll work but could you heat it up gently? Then maybe the joints would soften enough to re-clamp. It’s a small box so it should fit inside an oven. Say 150°F or so?

View KnickKnack's profile

KnickKnack

982 posts in 2220 days


#6 posted 01-27-2012 09:02 PM

I still dream of making a box that’s 1/16” out of square!

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View Hillsboro's profile

Hillsboro

43 posts in 1551 days


#7 posted 01-27-2012 09:16 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions. One thought I just had would be to use a combination of clamps and hot water to possibly loosen the joints. Thougths/comments are welcome.

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

7554 posts in 2301 days


#8 posted 01-27-2012 09:54 PM

Next time wait until the glue grabs, then take off the clamps and
check for square. Correct with a diagonal clamp if needed and let
the glue dry with the clamp in place.

Sadly, this time you are out of luck but you may be able to steam
the joints apart and reglue.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Danpaddles's profile

Danpaddles

537 posts in 965 days


#9 posted 01-27-2012 11:28 PM

Cut the lid crooked to match? You won’t fix the box, unless you can live with a smaller box!

You might also check if it is flat- lay it on your table saw and look for wobble.

-- Dan V. in Indy

View mtenterprises's profile

mtenterprises

827 posts in 1347 days


#10 posted 01-27-2012 11:40 PM

Depending upon the glue used the idea Jeff in Huntersville had has merit. I use a heat gun to loosen joint on chairs that need complete rebuilding.
MIKE

-- See pictures on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44216106@N07/ And visit my Facebook page - facebook.com/MTEnterprises

View William's profile

William

9024 posts in 1496 days


#11 posted 01-28-2012 05:31 AM

I want to make sure I read this right.
You’re worried about one sixteenth out of square?

I once done an exercise.
Ok, it waas suggested to me as a challenge to myself.
Each day for a week (seven days), I tried my best to make a perfect box. We’re talking six sides (four side and a top and bottom actually). The trick was that it had to be perfect in every way. The measurements had to be EXACT.
Yes, these were supposed to be useable boxes with hinged lids. They were just square for the pupose of the exercise.

Seven days I tried. Seven days I failed.

Then the same friend told me to do a new exercise. Pick the worst out of the boxes and show it to as many people as I could find over the next seven days and see if they could tell if anything was wrong with it.

So I did. Guess how many people found the flaw in my 12×12x12 box that, only I and my friend knew, was about an eight of an inch out one way and about 3/16ths out of square the other?

None. Zero. Nada. NOBODY could, even with some going over it with a fine tooth comb trying to find what was wrong with it, could find a single thing wrong with them.
Well, actually, that’s not correct. Some people said things were wrong such as finish, hinge choice, and such. The point is that noone could tell it was out of square.

As my friend (a woodworker of over fifty years) told me later, the point of the two exercises was to prove the futility of trying to make a square box perfect in every way and just how much it really meant to the general public.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Scot's profile

Scot

344 posts in 2050 days


#12 posted 01-28-2012 05:45 AM

1/16 ? really? OK get a really big hammer….

-- If the old masters had power tools, they would have used them. So get off your damn High Horse.

View Hillsboro's profile

Hillsboro

43 posts in 1551 days


#13 posted 01-28-2012 05:10 PM

First of all I would like to that everyone that provided a logical, sensible suggestion. I appreciate your help.

Regarding the other comments, they were useless and unhelpful. If you cannot say something helpful, do not bother with a reply.

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15696 posts in 2872 days


#14 posted 01-28-2012 06:10 PM

Phil, get a sense of humor, man.

Do you consider William’s answer to be useless and unhelpful? He really spelled out in long form what I was trying to say in a very few words. And it’s good woodworking wisdom. We often find flaws in our own work that others will never see.

Reading over all the comments, I don’t see a thing in any of them that is mean-spirited or negative. People are just offering their points of view. Take what you like and leave the rest.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112087 posts in 2231 days


#15 posted 01-28-2012 06:18 PM

Dealing with only a 1/16 out of square I would assume putting a square bottom in it would square it up?

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View ShaneA's profile

ShaneA

5302 posts in 1252 days


#16 posted 01-28-2012 06:27 PM

Does it have a solid or ply bottom. How thick are the sides? If it is a ply bottom, that is currently unglued, and the walls are thick enough…you may be able to clamp square. Turn upside down. Drill some small holes into the base walls that will allow you to glue and dowel. Trim flush. I imagine if you were to get the bottom glued square, it would hold it. Just a wild guess though…never tried it.

View KnickKnack's profile

KnickKnack

982 posts in 2220 days


#17 posted 01-28-2012 08:28 PM

You can download “How to Win Friends & Influence People” from this page.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View Hillsboro's profile

Hillsboro

43 posts in 1551 days


#18 posted 01-28-2012 11:36 PM

CharlieM:

Point taken. William’s post was, indeed, instructive and helpful. With regard to my sense of humor…..I have a very well developed sense of humor. What I found irritating was the comment about using a hammer, and trashing it (your comment I believe). If you want to give advice fine, give advice that is helpful. Snarky comments are unhelpful.

I truly appreciate all the varied suggestions. At this point the combination of hot water on the joints and clamps at the long diagonals appears to have narrowed the discrepancy to acceptable tolerances. I will be fitting the top tonight and plan to rout a dado around the edge and seat it to the box frame. That will make a solid, 6 sided box (yes, the bottom went into pre-cut dado slots when I glued up the sides). Once the top has cured, I will put the box on the table saw and cut the top. Hopefully, the top and it sides will stay the same shape as what will then be the box.

Thanks again to all, including the snarky ones.

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15696 posts in 2872 days


#19 posted 01-29-2012 12:57 AM

Well, in all seriousness, let us know how it works in the long term. Believe it or not, I was really giving you what I thought was an honest answer. Short of cutting the box apart at the joints and starting over (which seemed too obvious to even mention) I didn’t think there was a fix.

But I can see where my short answer may have come off as snarky, so I apologize for that.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View William's profile

William

9024 posts in 1496 days


#20 posted 01-29-2012 03:55 AM

If by chance you cannot get it to keep square, there is another trick I learned about boxes.

Make the lid with about three quarters of an inch overhang on the front and sides. Then, rip down material about an inch wide and anywhere between one half to five eighths thick. Now attached this under the three overhung sides of the top, creating a lip that fits down over the sides of the box.
With a one sixteenth out of square box, you can make the top square this way and noone will ever know the box itself is not perfect unless they turn it upside down and have good enough eye to notice a one sixteenth different along the length between the lid lip and the box.

The way I usually do this is attach the lip using glue and an 18 GA. brad nailer. I sometimes put a decorative edge on the top of the lid, or the underside of the lip, or both.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Hillsboro's profile

Hillsboro

43 posts in 1551 days


#21 posted 01-29-2012 05:51 AM

William:

That is a terrific suggestion. Thank you very much.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9907 posts in 1272 days


#22 posted 01-29-2012 04:48 PM

Hills – I’m curious (not a box builder) – was the ‘hand plane it square’ suggestion way out of bounds? Seemed easy to me, but if it’s not appropriate for box building…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1828 days


#23 posted 01-29-2012 05:24 PM

By the by ….

I’ve long been considering buying a set of clamping blocks, or … for that matter … making some, in the shop.

They always talk about an ill-prepared, ill-considered glue-up, as one of the most stressful times in the shop. For me, when I’m gluing up a box, it’s doubly so … because of just what you experienced.

It’s on my list to buy/make a set … at some point (meaning: after I make my first off-square box, sadly <grin>).

-- -- Neil

View Greg..the Cajun  Box Sculptor's profile

Greg..the Cajun Box Sculptor

5090 posts in 1962 days


#24 posted 01-29-2012 06:12 PM

I usually cut a piece of 1/2” ply the exact same size as the inside dimensions of the box. Make sure the ply is cut perfectly square and cut the corners off just a wee bit so any squeeze out from the glue jonts will not glue the ply to the box. I also usually place a couple of small blocks under the ply so it will stay neat the top and not slide to the bottom. when the box is clampes snug against the ply insert it will make the box square.

Simple but effective…

Drill a finger hole in the center of the ply so it can be removed after the glue is dry. It doesn’t hurt to also put a little wax on the sides of the plywood. Ear wax works just fine.

This takes only a couple of minutes and will ensure a square box.

-- If retiring is having the time to be able to do what you enjoy then I have always been retired.

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1828 days


#25 posted 01-29-2012 06:16 PM

”It doesn’t hurt to also put a little wax on the sides of the plywood. Ear wax works just fine.”

As the saying goes … I don’t care WHO you are. THAT’s funny !

-- -- Neil

View buffalosean's profile

buffalosean

174 posts in 2041 days


#26 posted 01-29-2012 06:37 PM

Hillsboro, Charlie M’s suggestion of living with it or trashing it is not demeaning. There was a nice short article in Fine woodworking #221 about “knowing when to let it go”. Sometimes, it happens. This past fall I found my self working on a maloof style chair. I’d had already made Maloof rockers and was more than happy with the outcome.

However, on this chair there was a little mistake here, little mistake there. I was sanding the chair down to get ready to finish it. I stopped. I went back and read that article again. I realized I too was holding on to this piece because of all the lumber and man hours I had in it. I realized, not only do I hate this piece, but I would want my name on it. I had someone offer me a decent price for the chair and begged me for it. As much as it pained me, I cut the chair up in pieces. A couple hundred dollars in material, 60 hours of my time, electricity costs, etc.

I don’t know if your building you box to fit an exact inside dimensions. I’m not saying you have to throw your piece out. But if you do, you will remember it, as I have, and will be all the wiser the next.

good luck and happy woodworking

-- There are many ways to skin a cat...... but, the butter knife is not recommended

View miles125's profile

miles125

2179 posts in 2659 days


#27 posted 01-29-2012 06:57 PM

I’d say the box is possibly more valuable out of square. For the same reasons the Leaning Tower of Pissa is more valuable than a straight Tower of Pissa and a painting is generally more valuable than a photograph.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15696 posts in 2872 days


#28 posted 01-29-2012 07:54 PM

Greg… great tip. Thanks!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Hillsboro's profile

Hillsboro

43 posts in 1551 days


#29 posted 01-31-2012 04:14 AM

Greg:

That is an absolutely brilliant suggestion. Thank you very much for sharing the tip with all of us.

Phil

View Dark_Lightning's profile

Dark_Lightning

1715 posts in 1763 days


#30 posted 01-31-2012 04:50 AM

8^O Greg just let out one of those top-secret box making tricks!

View DocK16's profile

DocK16

1139 posts in 2740 days


#31 posted 01-31-2012 04:57 AM

Drop your square on the shop floor repeatedly until it’s 1/16th out of square, that’ll fix it.

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

View gfadvm's profile

gfadvm

10866 posts in 1344 days


#32 posted 01-31-2012 05:09 AM

That’s why Greg is the box Wizard! Ain’t this a great site!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

2833 posts in 1897 days


#33 posted 02-01-2012 02:06 AM

I don’t have an answer for fixing your out-of-aquare box, but I can tell you how to avoid it from happening in the future. If I were making a box that I want to be perfectly square, I would first make a jig. Even a project as simple as a box, can take advantage of a jig. The jig is very simple; just a piece of plywood or MDF cut to the interior dimensions of the box. The jig has to be perfectly square and that’s where time spent getting that right will reward you when you are building the box. With the sides of the box securely clamped to the jig, they have no place to go other than square. I’m a nut for jigs. I use them all the time. It took a lifetime of making mistakes to embrace the use of jigs.

View Grandpa's profile

Grandpa

3133 posts in 1329 days


#34 posted 02-01-2012 03:19 AM

I use the corners squares as suggested by nbeener. I made my own from scrap plywood. While this won’t help straighten the current box it might help prevent another out of square box in the future.

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