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Best Wood Species for Very Small Joinery?

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Forum topic by Ashus posted 03-09-2015 02:55 AM 876 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Ashus

31 posts in 641 days


03-09-2015 02:55 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question router joining

Greetings, Lumberjocks! I’m a long time lurker, short time member. I’m hoping your collective knowledge and expertise can help me solve a problem.

I’m trying to design a very small box, about the size of a deck of cards, and I’m struggling with how to join it. I’ve included a couple SketchUp pictures here of what I think my ideal look would be – for functionality, visual appearance, and the tools I have on hand.

Here they are:

Ideally, I’d be working with 1/8” thick wood, with 1/16” tongues and grooves. (Maybe it’s technically a rabbet and groove? Rabbet and dado? I’m still fairly new to the woodworking lingo.) Up to this point, most of my projects have either been plywood and 2×4s, or varying widths of 1-by oak. I’m fairly certain the oak I’ve been using, even if I could get it in 1/8” thicknesses, would chip out like crazy if I tried to rout a 1/16” groove or tongue.

Which leads me to the actual question: what type of wood do you think would be best suited to this design, if any?

I’m fully comfortable being told that this is a terrible design that will never work, as I suspect is the case, but I would love some expert opinions before I launch into redesigning or scrapping the project.

My local Rockler store has a decent variety of woods, both domestic and exotic, from ash and walnut to African mahogany and zebrawood. Unfortunately, since I don’t own a planer or jointer (yet), I’m rather limited in my wood selection to what they already have pre-dimensioned for purchase.

Any and all advice will be immensely appreciated. Thank you!

-- Adam in Minneapolis


16 replies so far

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1646 posts in 1783 days


#1 posted 03-09-2015 04:49 AM

Tight-grained woods that are strong and dense would probably be the sturdiest. Hard maple is one good example. Open grain such as that found in oak could result in weak spots that are prone to breakage.

Walnut has open grain but it’s diffused throughout the wood so there aren’t concentrations of pores to create weak points. It’s also a pleasant wood to work and machines pretty well without as much chipping as cherry and poplar.

The hardest part about your project is keeping everything intact until you can get to glue up. If grooves don’t work, try simple edge-to-edge joints. It would be strong enough. The trick is getting everything lined up and clamped properly.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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crank49

3981 posts in 2437 days


#2 posted 03-09-2015 04:56 AM

Cherry has a nice consistant grain that is easy to work, yet still strong.
A little up the hardness scale is Osage Orange, which has a lot of oil in it to help with sliding joints.
Aromatic cedar has the oil but might be too brittle.
Beech is another fine tight grain wood.
Then there are rosewood and ebony in the exotic category.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

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Rick M

7933 posts in 1846 days


#3 posted 03-09-2015 05:53 AM

Most little boxes that size I’ve seen are just glued butt joints. Rabbet joints would be a small step up. Do you have a way to resaw to 1/8” thick? If not, you are stuck with what you can buy in that thickness.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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Aj2

692 posts in 1264 days


#4 posted 03-09-2015 11:14 AM

Honduras mahogany would be the easiest to work but it’s not as hard as the wood that other mentioned.

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ChefHDAN

809 posts in 2316 days


#5 posted 03-09-2015 11:31 AM

Ashus,

Welcome to LJ, there’s lots of great knowledge to be had and shared here. Your question may be best answered by showing us what your final project would look like and then LJ’s could offer you best practice from experience on how to complete your project. From the brief description, I also think you’re good with a rub joint or butt joint but don’t know what you expect the small box to eventually be doing.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

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Ashus

31 posts in 641 days


#6 posted 03-09-2015 02:12 PM

Thank you, everyone, for your input! Of all the forums I could have asked, I just knew this one would work best.

Here’s one of my first SketchUp designs for the whole box – it doesn’t show the grooves that I’ve asked about, but it’s a decent representation of the final look. (The different colors are just to show the different cuts – the final product will all be made from the same wood.)

As you can see, it’s nothing fancy, just something simple that I can whip up in an hour or two.

For it’s purpose, this small box will eventually hold cards for a trading card game (Magic: the Gathering). I’ve got a small list of friends who would each like 1-5 boxes, so consistency and repeatability are important. Also, some of them are just going to get painted, so I’d really rather not shell out heavily for an awesome wood that they’re just going to hide. Some of them will be oiled and waxed, though, so maybe I need two types of wood (cheap for the painted ones, visually interesting for the oiled ones)?

Based on your feedback so far, I’ll probably be looking into cuts of maple and walnut.

-- Adam in Minneapolis

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ChefHDAN

809 posts in 2316 days


#7 posted 03-09-2015 04:52 PM

Okay, there is a REAL NIFTY way to do the top lid with a dado in the initial panel and then it creates the lip for the lid when you cut it off, ANy LJ’s to the rescue here???

I’ll search youtube for it….,,, arrrghh can’t remember which site had it, but you essentially cut a dado that is on the inside of your box, and when you cut the top you have to be carefully measured onto top of the dado… gonna bug me,,, will post if I can find it…

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

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cootcraig

58 posts in 678 days


#8 posted 03-09-2015 05:48 PM

I look forward to seeing your progress. I faved this as a good question with good answers.

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HornedWoodwork

222 posts in 681 days


#9 posted 03-09-2015 05:59 PM

In my experience things get harder when they get smaller. Stop laughing. No seriously stop it. What’s so funny about that?

In a medium size scale the locking rabbet joint you propose is a tough option, it’s fussy and looks mechanical and basically, yeah I’d pass on it unless it was hidden in a drawer. A miter joint here would actually increase your surface area a little bit and you would hide the end grain. If you are dead set on the design I would choose a dense but still workable wood, try Brazilian cherry, cocobolo or maybe come African mahogany. They would look interesting in that scale, have the right properties and you could afford these (extremely expense) woods in this quantity.

A couple of design elements I would point out, it looks like you plan on applying your lid and bottom to the box after assembly, maybe a butt joint? I’d caution against that for aesthetic, repeatability, and wood movement reasons. I generally hide or eliminate the end grain for all boards when possible for aesthetics. It can also be tricky to get a good fit when doing this as your box might not be perfectly straight the lids may shrink a little or might not have parallel edges, whatever. This fussiness slows you down quite a bit and adds time to the dull parts of woodwork, the tweaking and sanding. Yucko. Lastly even in a tiny box made from thin stock, wood will move, it’s just good practice to allow for it. Try trapping the lid and bottom in groove maybe even exploiting the offset that comes with that for a design elements. By trapping floating pieces in grooves of the mitered box you allow for movement, eliminate end grain, and allow yourself a little “wiggle room” when mass producing parts.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

1920 posts in 1222 days


#10 posted 03-09-2015 06:05 PM

In a rush, so I haven’t read everything yet, but I think I would do it in poplar. Poplar? Yes, poplar. I’ve done a couple of small drawers like that in poplar, and it worked pretty well.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View Ashus's profile

Ashus

31 posts in 641 days


#11 posted 03-10-2015 03:18 AM


Try trapping the lid and bottom in groove maybe even exploiting the offset that comes with that for a design elements. By trapping floating pieces in grooves of the mitered box you allow for movement, eliminate end grain, and allow yourself a little “wiggle room” when mass producing parts.

- HornedWoodwork

You’ll have to forgive me; I’m having a difficult time trying to picture what you’re describing here. Try as I might, you lost me at “offset”.

Are you suggesting that I have grooves in the portion of the base that will insert into the box lid? And sliding tongues in the lid that align with those grooves? What does it mean when you say “floating pieces”?

As far as visible end grain, I hadn’t settled on a particular method of joinery for the lid top/base bottom yet. In my head, the grain for the four box/lid faces (that aren’t the top or bottom) will be running vertically. I’m open to suggestions for how to keep the end grain on the top/bottom piece hidden – I wasn’t a fan of just setting a block of wood on top in a big butt joint, either.

If I did change the joinery to miters, that would open up a lot of wood selections, I think. Though I still would like to try the 1/16” inset, to give the lid and box a nice, stark line to meet at, as well as provide some friction to hold the lid on in transit (I’m trying to do this without any sort of metal hardware – hinges, latches, etc.).

-- Adam in Minneapolis

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TheFridge

5765 posts in 952 days


#12 posted 03-10-2015 03:22 AM

Finger joints?

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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ChefHDAN

809 posts in 2316 days


#13 posted 03-11-2015 12:33 PM

COBOB, Abie & Gene to the rescue, I couldn’t find it but there are always LJ’s around here to help find the answers or elusive youtube videos.

Here's Steve Ramsey's video making a small box
in two parts the second shows the cut of trick, Gene recommends leaving a 1/32 between the dados and cutting the top with a BS.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

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MrRon

3926 posts in 2710 days


#14 posted 03-11-2015 03:41 PM

I think 1/8” is too thin for anything. 1/4” wood would allow for joints to be used. It looks from your sketch that the overall thickness of the box is 1/4” thick, so why not just use 1/4”. An 1/8” rabbet is easily cut in 1/4” stock.

View Ashus's profile

Ashus

31 posts in 641 days


#15 posted 03-12-2015 04:25 AM

ChefHDAN, thank you! That method should give me the perfect tops!

MrRon, I think you’re right. My original design was 1/4”, but I saw a better selection of 1/8” at my local Rockler store. I’ll probably end up using a little of both – the four main structural faces of 1/4” and the top/bottom faces of 1/8”.

-- Adam in Minneapolis

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