First "ambitious" project - an eyepiece case (IDIOTIC NEWBIE ALERT!!)

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by ubermick posted 02-09-2013 09:09 PM 3092 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ubermick's profile


48 posts in 1903 days

02-09-2013 09:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: case rabbet dado beginner idiot

Ahoy, Jocks!

Okay, I’ve been lurking about on here for a month, picking up more outstanding advice and info than you can shake a horrifically warped 2×4 at. I’ve been messing about with woodworking for a few years, limiting myself to a few household projects, and my “pride and joy”, converting an old chest freezer into a keezer. (My friends ooh and ahh when they see it, you guys would absolutely point and laugh at the horror show of my attempts at mitered butt joints).

Anyways, I’m also a bit of an astronomy buff, and need a case to carry eyepieces around in. Of course there are a ton of commercial options out there, and while looking for some options, I came across these:

Which I promptly fell in love with (without the gaudy CNC carving on the outside). And, being the idiot that I am, decided “Hmmm, I can MAKE this!”

And so, instead of spending the $229 that these cases cost, I plopped 2-3 times that on the extra tools I figured I’d need to built it at home, and will likely do nowhere near as good a job.

Anyways, wanted to ask the advice of the community about putting one of these together. I’ll be using 1/2” red oak, and looking at the various pictures of these cases (see more by clicking here) it looks remarkably simple in construction. Rabbet joints all round, with a few dadoes cut for the centre dividers and the drawer runners. I can’t see any evidence of screws or nails though, looks to be just glued, and that makes me nervous about strength, particularly on the lid, where it’ll be carried from?

And speaking of that lid, how would you guys recommend constructing it? I was thinking a groove of some sort, sort of like a sliding lid, like this one but glued in place and completely enclosed?

Any other advice (including “Don’t try and build it, you bald idiot, just return the tools you bought and buy one!”) is greatly appreciated.

-- Gaz. Irishman who lives in the San Francisco area, and tends to ruin more wood than he should.

11 replies so far

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3135 days

#1 posted 02-09-2013 09:42 PM

First things first, welcome to Lj’s! And hey, dont knock your skill level, we all had to start somewhere and build from there! If you are concerned about the joinery of the box you could use glue and nails, screws or if you wanted to stick with a no mechanical fasteners look (which is always cool) you could use a dowel joint. A fairly simple thing to do, you could make it blind (just drill the two pieces to be joined from the back sides and not all the way through, put in dowel and glue and then put it together) or you could assemble the pieces, drill all the way through the face and into the second piece and that would give you a nice accent especially if you use a different type of wood than the rest of the box. As for the lid I would make a dado in all 4 sides and slide it in as the image you provided shows, the only difference being that it would have a fourth enclosed side so it wouldn’t slide out. Hope the info helps, any more questions ask away

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View Kazooman's profile


1001 posts in 1919 days

#2 posted 02-09-2013 10:44 PM

Hey, I have many hobbies and woodworking and astronomy rank near the top of the list.

The case looks pretty straight forward in design and given the light weight it is intended to carry glue should probably do. A few well placed brads would add extra strength.

Do you really need the fancy sliding drawers? They shouldn’t be too hard to make, but if you are really just starting out then eliminating them would make the whole project a lot easier. Frankly, I wouldn’t pay over $200 for a case that had what looks to be a Rube Goldberg method of latching the sliding drawers in place. It looks like they used a biscuit joiner to make these.

It looks like they have a clear plexiglass sheet making an upper compartment. What is that supposed to be for? I cannot see how they have made the latches to hold this closed. Again, if you do not need this then the project would be simpler.

If what you are after is a case to hold your eyepieces (and a few other things, then you should be able to design your own to meet your personal requirements. If you want to learn some woodworking techniques along the way, then I would suggest making a simple box with real box joints. That would be STRONG.

View HerbC's profile (online now)


1744 posts in 2826 days

#3 posted 02-09-2013 10:54 PM

If you use a lid set into a rabbit on all four sides, there are a couple of issues related to wood movement (expansion and contraction due to changes in moisture levels). First, make the grooves deep enough to allow for expansion. Second, do not try to glue the lid fully into the grooves, doing so will immobilize the lid and when it expands and contracts it will tear the up the side joints and / or crack the lid.

Look at design info for frame and panel construction if you decide to use this design for the lid of the box.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2077 days

#4 posted 02-09-2013 11:00 PM

Be sure and ping Horizontal Mike and Cosmic Sniper!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

28946 posts in 2305 days

#5 posted 02-09-2013 11:10 PM

First, welcome to LJ’s

Second, of course you should try to build it yourself. Will it be perfect? Not important. It will be unique to you.

Third, don’t think of the money you have spent as strictly for one project. It’s for a lifetime of projects.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View ubermick's profile


48 posts in 1903 days

#6 posted 02-10-2013 03:12 AM

Cheers for the replies, lads.

Kazoo, been looking around at various options, and found a detailed page about a case made by Allen Maroney that I started off thinking about building. The box joints are certainly stronger (and already built the Lynn’s Jig) which is as you’re saying, a simpler version of the Wood Wonders case. And probably don’t NEED the drawers (was only planning on making one on one side) but they’re just kinda neat, and figured it’d be a nice challenge. The plexi lid area is for additional storage of charts:

That, I’ll probably just skip.

Herb, good info there on the expansion – but does that not apply to the case in general? And Monte, thanks for the support there. Great way to look at it. (Still not saying a damn word to my wife about what I’ve spent!)

-- Gaz. Irishman who lives in the San Francisco area, and tends to ruin more wood than he should.

View MrRon's profile


4718 posts in 3210 days

#7 posted 02-12-2013 08:59 PM

If I were making a box like you want, I would probably go with the “cigar humidor” style that has a tight fitting hinged lid. A drop-in tray would give you two layers of storage plus whatever you can place in the lid. It would be much simpler construction and might be more suitable as to skill level. I would use glue only, combined with dado and rabbet joints. Box joints are not hard to make. Once you have a box joint jig set up and dialed in, the joint comes out perfectly every time. BTW, I can’t see the reason for 6 butt hinges. I would use a piano hinge full width of the box.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3402 days

#8 posted 02-12-2013 09:21 PM

ubermick, Welcome to LJs, you are going to love it here.
Whether you are a novice or an A+ artisan, it does not matter, all you need is an interest in everything Woodworking. You will get lots a friendly help here, make friends that care, and when you feel like it, there’s even a meeting place, like a pub or a coffee shop at the Blue Collar Woodworking… The best woodworking show since the invention of wood!thread where you’ll be most welcome to take a chatty break with some crazy guys and old farts.

Love your box, I bet your astronomy buffs are jealous.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View ubermick's profile


48 posts in 1903 days

#9 posted 02-26-2013 06:35 AM

Roger, wish that was my box. It seems I’ve got nowhere near the skill to be able to pull that off, unfortunately.

I’ve spent the past few days wrestling with what is for the vast majority of folks on here, a shockingly simple project. I’ve been trying to build it without drawers, taking Ron’s advice and making it “humidor style”, and using box joints. I put together Lynn’s Jig, but the results were all over the place.

So thinking that it’d be better to spend a few bucks now as opposed to burn piles of time and wood (and subsequent cash), I picked up an Incra i-box, based on the scads of tremendous reviews. But am even fighting with that, and am horribly frustrated. While I’m a complete novice woodworker, I’m at least able to follow instructions and made sure I read the instructions three times, watched the included DVD three times, and set up the jig slowly and carefully, following the instructions to the letter, and practiced on scraps.

When I finally thought I was getting the hang of it (at least a dozen practice joints later), I tried it out on the work wood. And made a mess of it. So trimmed the joints off, and tried again. And made a mess of that. So trimmed the joints off (at this point the case has gone from 24×10 to 18.5×8) and figured third time was the charm… but nope. Ballsed it up AGAIN.

So at this point, I need to head back to Home Despot and plop another $70 on another 10 feet of 1×10 red oak, and try again, with no guarantees that’ll work. Frustrated as hell, and wishing I just paid the $220 and bought the #$# properly made one…

-- Gaz. Irishman who lives in the San Francisco area, and tends to ruin more wood than he should.

View ubermick's profile


48 posts in 1903 days

#10 posted 03-08-2013 07:16 AM

So been working on this on and off – haven’t had the time to be able to spend a decent amount of time on it, and have been limited to just an hour here and there. But the box itself is finished, just need to add the hinges and locking hardware, and give it a few coats of urethane.

But the hinged plexi is giving me absolute fits. As Kazooman above mentioned, have no clue how the original case has this closed, but I figured going with a 2” chrome surface bolt would work. Alas no, since my lid is a bit shallower, and I built the led array differently, so don’t have the room for it.

Anyone got any suggestions? I’ve only got about a half inch to play with for this!

-- Gaz. Irishman who lives in the San Francisco area, and tends to ruin more wood than he should.

View ubermick's profile


48 posts in 1903 days

#11 posted 03-11-2013 09:44 PM

And here ‘tis, the finished article. Abandoned the hunged plexi, and decided to just leave it as-is. It doesn’t even come close to holding a match – let alone a candle – to some of the work I see daily on here, but for my first project, I’m reasonably satisfied, and learned a lot along the way. Mostly about patience, something I have in very small amounts, but there were definitely a few things in the finished box I’d do differently.

Actually, if anyone has any suggestions on a lid stop, I’d appreciate it – would normally just use a length of chain like this, but with those removable trays, that’s not really an option. Only other idea was to mount a piece of wood on the back of the case?

Thanks to all for the input and help.

-- Gaz. Irishman who lives in the San Francisco area, and tends to ruin more wood than he should.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

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