Saturday, March 11, 2017

Use of a nail...

Despite making boxes with all kinds of glued joints, and rarely having used a nail in making them, I frequently use a cut off finish nail as a drill, particularly for pre-drilling the tiny holes required for brass screws. The following note was forwarded to me:
I have been making boxes with Brusso hinges. The experience of making several boxes at a time helps cure the mistakes that making a box once a year can not cure. Doug Stowe recommends using a finishing nail rather than a drill to make the holes for the screws that fasten the hinges to the box. I now understand Doug's reasoning and why the nail is a more satisfactory choice.

The first lid I assembled was off by at least a 1/32 of an inch, maybe a bit more. I could sand the sides of the box to compensate for the crooked lid but then the mitered corners would not be square and they would look poorly. I put the box aside and started on another box. With the second box I was very careful to get the hinges in the right spot before I assembled everything. That was better but the hinges were still a bit off. I unscrewed the screws and angled the drill with the nail more to the back of the box so the screw would pull the hinge to the back. That worked well and I learned that since the nail did not remove any wood from the screw hole, as a drill bit would have removed, all I had to do was let the nail spread the wood in a slightly different direction for the screw to follow.

If I had drilled out the hole I would have had to fill in the hole with a tooth pick and fussed around a lot more. When I finished the second box I went back to the first box and removed the hinges and re-angled the holes for the screws. They pulled the hinge in the right direction and the lid lined up perfectly with the bottom. Since the nail is only parting the wood and not really removing the wood I think that after the screws are in the wood for a while the wood would relax from being spread by the nail and actually hold the screw more securely over time. At least that is what I am thinking at this time. Another benefit from using a nail instead of a drill bit is that there is no screw dust from using the nail. That is not a great big deal but it makes for a bit less mess as I work.

I am looking forward to seeing Doug Stowe at Showcase.
I am not thinking that the nail does actually drill a hole, but I agree that it gives a bit more control in the location of the hole, and the chance of tweaking it if necessary. I use the nail generally for three reasons. The first it that the use of a nail is a technique my father demonstrated for me, and I feel a bit close to him when I use it. Secondly, the fine point of the finish nail is more precise and most drills of that size do not come with a brad point. The third is that the shape of the nail conforms to the shape of the screw.

I am looking forward to being at Showcase as well. For information on Woodworker's Showcase click here.

Woodworkers Showcase is in two weeks.I will be teaching a class based on each of my two new books, Making Classic Toys that Teach and Tiny Boxes.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

tiny hand made boxes...

Bill M sent pictures of tiny boxes he made using hand tools. Because he did not have a chisel small enough to cut tiny box joints, he ground a cut nail to a sharp point and put a handle on it.

Congratulations Bill for the tiny but exquisite work. And with hand tools, no less.

To make something useful and beautiful is to re-create oneself in that same image.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shaker boxes

I am in the process of finishing 6 Shaker boxes that were made as demonstration boxes for my high school students. As they were making boxes, I would use my own to demonstrate their next steps. As a result, I have boxes of my own that I can use for charity auctions, and give to friends.

My own Shaker boxes are not as fine as some made by more experienced and dedicated Shaker box makers. But the point is the pleasure to be found in making them.  Even with a few flaws, they are useful and will give someone pleasure to own.

I learned today that one of my students had given the one she made as a Christmas present to her Dad. It was well received. She apologized that it was not better made. But parents sometimes know the challenges involved in doing real things, and that their son's or daughter's best work will come later as they mature. In the meantime, it is a useful box that's found a place on her father's desk, and now holds precious things.

To make something useful and beautiful is to re-create oneself in that self-same image.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Infinity dovetailed splined box

I finished the box to demonstrate the Infinity Dovetail Spline system, so it will be ready to send to Fine Woodworking in a few days when the Danish oil finish is completed and fully dry.

I get repeat questions on occasion among those who are new to the boxmaking101blog. Don asked about the accordion squeeze glue bottles I have used in my books and DVD. A previous post addressed those and where to find them. Glue Injectors...

Make fix, create and assist others in learning likewise

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Too much information?

I got an email from a reader of my new book,  Tiny Boxes, asking for more information about making inlay on pages 20 and 21. He wanted to know the exact thicknesses of the strips to be cut and was curious how the patterned strips could be assembled into the pattern shown.  I provided that information to him via email. In your case, I'll ask that you go to pages 20 and 21 and puzzle out what you can, first.

I can understand that  some readers would like exacting instructions, but there is a very good reason to leave some out. The point in my writing it not to create exact clones of my own work, but to encourage the reader to take steps leading to growth. If everything is laid out in too much precision, where will the reader's own experimentation and growth occur? And is it not better to be puzzled and to work some things out for yourself?

Furniture designer/writer/craftsman Michael Cullen has a box project that my readers will enjoy. He provides just the right amount of information, enabling the  viewer after watching a 5 minute video, to take concrete steps in making his or her own box. The point, of course, is not to exactly duplicate Michael's work. That would be a form of theft, would it not? But to watch over his shoulders as he creates a very lovely band sawn box is a valuable thing. You can watch a video of his project on the Fine Woodworking website.

I am interested in creating a boxmaking 101 news journal. If you are willing to be added to the mailing list, please email me and sign up.

To make something useful and beautiful is to re-create oneself in that same image.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dovetail spline system for boxes...

I'm testing the Infinity Dovetail Spline system for a product review in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Part of my agreement is to make a box that can be used to help illustrate the success of the system.

The system uses a router platform that can either be mounted to the box, or used inverted on the router table. The router table is my system of choice. The platform has fingers that allow it to follow a standard guide bushing mounted in the router base.

The second part of the system is equally important as it allows the box maker to cut tapered dovetail shaped splines or keys that slide tightly in place with glue. To further test the system, I'll nest an additional smaller key inside the larger ones to make an even more interesting joint.

As you can see in the photos, so far, so good. After the glue has set, the keys will be routed flush with the box sides so the next step can be taken

You can find the Infinity system at

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

mesquite domino box

This lovely mesquite box for dominoes was made by my cousin David Bye and submitted for publication.

If you have a box you would like to share with other readers,  send photos.

I am currently making boxes to test an Infinity Dovetail Spline Jig, for a review in Fine Woodworking Magazine. So pictures of a box made with that jig will be available in the days to come.