Thursday, April 20, 2017

a jointer fence

It can be extremely dangerous to pass short pieces of wood across a jointer. For jointing a single piece, a hand plane works best. When needing to accurately join lots of pieces, setting up on the router table gives a way to safely join thin small stock while keeping the fingers a safe distance from the cutter. In this case, the router bit is almost completely buried in the fence and therefore almost completely inaccessible to the finger tips if one was to slip.

The fence itself is formed with two parallel planes with their intersection being at the cutting edge of the bit. This set-up allows shallow cuts to be made, leaving the work-piece true on one edge.

This fence is designed to take passes of just under 1/16 in. at a time. The jointer fence is quickly made from just a stick of hardwood. A through bolt and wing nut secure one end and a "C" clamp the other.

I had tried to interest a magazine in this technique, and may try again.

Make and create.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


For years I've used an accordion style glue applicator and my students have asked, again and again, "Where did you get that?" Now, I've discovered something better. The Babe-Bot glue dispenser is perfect for quickly laying a narrow bead of glue for the assembly of small boxes.

You can apply just enough glue to avoid excess and mess, and extra tips are available. The advantages over the accordion style bottle are readily apparent. The accordion bottle tips need regular cleaning, and the accordion bottles are hard to fill. The steel tips on the accordion bottle can come loose during application, making a mess, and it takes more pressure to apply glue through the old style applicator. The Babe-Bot holds more glue and seals to keep it fresh. Mine was purchased at and I regard it as my new box making companion.

Make and create...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

adapting plans to your own use.

Tray made to fit tools box.
A reader asked my help in locating plans for a hand crafted eyeglass case. He has copies of two of my books, Basic Box Making, and Tiny Boxes, and hoped that I might direct him to plans for what he has in mind.

I would like to take the mystery out of design, and thereby make it easier for my readers to adapt designs to fit their own needs.

So how do you craft a box to fit a particular object? The first thing is to measure it, and then use your common sense to determine the necessary space to surround it, making it easy to lift in and out of the box.  For instance, I am making a tray to fit inside my tool box. Do I need plans for that, or do I simply take measurements and cut my parts to fit? Believe it or not, the same applies for making a case for eyeglasses.

After you have measured the size of the object, what comes next? Choose a box that is made using tools that you have, and in a design you like. Then alter the dimensions so that the inside space will be what you need for the object. It is simply a process of applying math.

One of the problems with plans in books or in magazine articles, is that you begin to think they are necessary. One of the advantages of writing my own books and plans is that I am allowed to simply make things without the interference of set plans.

Make and create...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

edge banding on box sides...

A reader asked how to achieve a particular technique that he'd seen in this February 27 blog post on the Woodcraft site. He referred to the second photo, a sassafras box with the top edge inlaid in contrasting woods.

The secret is to form an banding material from solid woods and veneers, and then to rout the edge of the stock for the banding to fit prior to cutting the joints. That way the veneer traipses seamlessly around the top edge of the box.

The same technique was used in making this walnut box that was recently returned from Fine Woodworking where it was photographed for a hinge review.

Make, fix and create...

tool box progress

I've installed hardware on the tool box I've been making to demonstrate the use of the Woodhaven Portable Box Joint Jig. The hardware is from Van Dyke's Restorers and is forged steel in a natural rusted finish. I applied paste wax to preserve the brown look and prevent more rusting to take place.

The screws that came with the hardware were too long for the thickness of the sides of this box, so I screwed them into a board and sanded the sharp ends on a belt sander until flush with it on the underside. This left the screws short enough so as to not protrude on the inside of the box.

The first photo shows the use of folded business cards to provide a slight gap between the lid and body of the box as the hinges are screwed into place.

I will add a lift out tray on the inside, a turn button to lock the drawer and leather check straps to keep the lid from opening too far.

With the inevitable interruptions, I expect to have this finished in time for my summer box making classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Used on the router table or clamped to a board.
I have been testing the Woodhaven Portable Box Joint jig. It works as I've proven in the photos below. Because it cuts larger than normal box joints, like those you would use on a very large box or small chest, I chose to make a tool box from wide boards of solid cherry to prove its usefulness to box makers.

The Woodhaven jig can be clamped to a board and used with a hand held router, or on the router table as shown.

At this point, I've assembled the carcass of the large box and am beginning to make the drawer. I've selected and ordered iron hardware to complete the finished box which I intend to use when I travel to teach.

The Woodhaven jig is adjustable for box joints, from 1/2 in. up to 1 1/2 in. wide, an relies on a 3/4 in. Porter Cable style guide and a 1/2 in. carbide spiral cutter.

Check back another time to see the finished box.

Want to see photos of box making? Check out DouglasStowe on Instagram.

The sides are routed for bottom, tray guides and drawer slides
Make, fix and create...
The back of the tool box
Assembly begins.

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.