Project No. 2 - Small prototype Japanese inspired toolbox (i.e. pencil box?)

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Blog entry by siavosh posted 06-28-2013 04:22 AM 3472 reads 4 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my second project and I had to overcome some personal pride to post pictures of what even I can tell is something that doesn’t quite meet LJ standards. Yet I figure there’s only room to go up from here. This was done on/off over a few weeks on nights and parts of weekends. I had to also figure out the tools I needed along the way and track them down on craigslist, eBay, and the big box store.

Ever since I saw the Japanese style toolboxes in Toshio Odate's book, mafe's blog, and the ones by Bob Le at Daiku Dojo, I’ve wanted to build one. To practice the basic elements of the box and again prove to myself that this hobby isn’t a phase I’m going through, I decided to first experiment building a small box out of scrap wood I’d been collecting. The dimensions where out of circumstance and rather odd but I figured I could always fit pencils in there or even give it to my signifiant other as a sort of “rustic” jewelry box.

First task was to dimension the side pieces (pine/whitewood?) to match some small Beach pieces I had. I was then going to use some super soft pieces from a gift basket I had saved for the tops and bottom.

After some rip sawing I was surprised I didn’t go totally off the lines.

Here’s where I got the top and bottom pieces from.

Now I don’t currently have a plane, and I frankly underestimated how square the pieces needed to be. Regardless, I tried (briefly) to square the sides like I square my waterstones, with little to show for it other than a lot of sawdust on the dinner table.

Lesson #1: Get a plane (a low angle Jack is in the mail)

Next step was to do layout. Now it became painfully clear to me how difficult basic layout is when the sides aren’t square. The results confused and annoyed, and it didn’t help that I was very inpatient to do some sawing.

Lesson #2: Be patient

So I’d heard that the proud finger/box joints were forgiving for beginners because nothing needs to be flush and the curved edges concealed the inevitable gaps in my joinery (helpful video). I tried both chiseling and drilling out the waste, the drilling with the hand brace helped speed things up. For the chiseling I’d also made a very rough version of Roy Underhill's bench hook which helped secure the work pieces throughout this project.

Some tries with the brace.

To say the joinery was loose would be an understatement. Other than obvious lack of skill and practice, the main contributing factor to the loose fit joinery was I was too eager to see results. I would chisel away too much before trying the fit.

Lesson #3: Be patient!

Next step was to glue up the frame.

I had to readjust several times to make sure the pieces were square as the clamps would skew the angles.

I certainly wasn’t proud of my proud finger joints (pun intended, appologies), so I bought some skewers to make fancy wooden nails. I got to admit, reinforcing the joints with them was a lot of fun, very satisfying. I think I got carried away and used them too much. Again this was an inspiration from mafe.

Pairing them for a descent fit.

Drilling the holes.

Lack of finesse reared its head again when I hammered too much.

After gluing the back piece, I added some more at angles. Very satisfying.

Once dried up, I wasn’t very sure how the sliding top would work or its measurements. So I did some mock setups to determine the final position of the top beams.

After more gluing and clamping and a round of sanding to smoothen some edges and surfaces a bit I got a functional box. It’s not elegant, the proportions are wrong, the joints are inadequate, but at this point I’m just happy the frustration didn’t ruin it for me, and that I’m even more eager to tackle the next project. Thanks for reading.

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7 comments so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1038 posts in 2311 days

#1 posted 06-28-2013 07:29 AM

Well done! You have learned many lessons from this exercise which will make the next project a lot easier.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View woodcox's profile


2030 posts in 2010 days

#2 posted 06-28-2013 08:43 AM

Thanks for the good read, it came out nicely. I hope you enjoy your low jack when you get it. My next plane may be a LAJ. My first plane was an old craftsman low angle block plane. Its a clone to the knuckle cap Stanley #65, I love that thing. I was amazed just how big of stock I could shape and join with it. I thought block planes were only for small peices. Oh, and the smell of old iron and pine pitch should be bottled and sold! Eau-de-fir? I’d wear it. Sorry, I digress.
Looking forward to you progress.

-- "My god has more wood than your god" ... G. Carlin.

View waho6o9's profile


8190 posts in 2575 days

#3 posted 06-28-2013 11:26 AM

Don’t stop doing your good work. Keep at it, have fun, and you’ll
surprise yourself.

View Steve Tripp's profile

Steve Tripp

31 posts in 1794 days

#4 posted 06-28-2013 01:49 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed the article. I’m a newbie at woodworking and can relate to your surprise when you rip cut those pieces. To me that’s what woodworking is all about. You go from one little accomplishment to the next and build on your experience.

-- Steve Tripp, Minneapolis, MN

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

789 posts in 3831 days

#5 posted 06-28-2013 03:48 PM

Your dedication is very cool. Nice project. You have experience in how to fix things ans solve problems. You are a woodworker, a hand tool woodworker. Welcome!

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2182 days

#6 posted 06-28-2013 10:13 PM

As a fellow San Franciscan, I can appreciate the problems encountered by working in tight quarters. Nice work.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View siavosh's profile


674 posts in 1869 days

#7 posted 06-28-2013 11:39 PM

Thanks everyone. Hoping my next project will be an improvement :)

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