More Sliding Lid Boxes – Hexagons

I had good success last year making simple sliding lid pencil boxes for the Dupage Woodworkers Club. My construction method is documented in this Weblog post. This spring I adapted the method and jigs to produce six sided boxes. The hexagonal box construction is very similar to the earlier rectangular pencil boxes so please refer to that post for details. Here I will describe the few differences.

Obviously there are two more side pieces to deal with. That’s the bad news. The good news is they are all the same length so the spacer is not required. I expected the glue up to be a big problem with the additional surfaces but with slow setting Old Brown liquid hide glue it hasn’t been an issue. There are two handle pieces to cut instead of one, and making the hexagonal lid plates is more complicated.

First, the math. The hexagonal lid plates are made from rectangular blanks. The length of the rectangular blank is the width divided by cosine of 30 degrees. To find the length of the side pieces, take half the lid blank width, add the thickness of the side stock, subtract 1/8″, then divide by the cosine of 30 degrees. Trust me, it works.

I’m using a Diablo 7 1/4″ 40 tooth finishing blade now, it cuts a very narrow kerf. I modified my regular cross cut sled to cut the lid hexagons. There is a batten tacked to the sled to establish the 30 degree angle. Actually it worked better to measure 150 degrees from the fence face on the obtuse side of the batten. This angle is critical. Next I added a movable stop to position the rectangular blank at the correct spot.

Hex Lid Jig Stop Down

Hex Lid Jig Stop Down

The stop has a hinged end, as I quickly found the small triangular cutoffs would catch on the saw blade and be launched into low earth orbit. Raising the stop lets the cutoff fall free.

Hex Lid Jig Stop Raised

Hex Lid Jig Stop Raised

The movable stop has to be calibrated to match the lid stock. I draw the hexagon onto one of the blanks then the long side of the rectangle is placed against the batten with the corner touching the stop. The stop is tweaked until the blade cuts on the line. I cut the marked blank half way to see how it’s going, then loosen the stop screws and adjust. Once the stop is calibrated it’s simply rotating a rectangular blank until the four edges are cut off.

I made a you tube video of the jig cutting a hexagon. It’s the best way to see what’s going on.

Here’s enough lids to make sixteen boxes. It goes very quickly.

Completed Hexagonal Lids

Completed Hexagonal Lids

Cutting the six side pieces requires a dedicated cross cut sled with the blade set at 30 degrees off vertical (60 degrees from the saw table). I use an adjustable flip stop as described in the sliding lid box post. There is a note at the end of the pencil box post for Doug Stowe’s method that does not require the stop to flip up.

30 Degree Crosscut Sled

30 Degree Crosscut Sled

To calibrate the stop, make the first bevel by raising the stop and bringing the stock in from the left with face side up. Note if you have a saw with a right tilt blade, these directions will be reversed.

Side Jig Second Cut

Side Jig First Cut

Measure and mark the side length on the stock then with the stock on the right side, carefully place the mark right at the saw kerf in the sled fence. Adjust the stop to that position and cut the second bevel. Once the stop is calibrated the rest of the sides go quickly. 16 boxes will need 192 cuts. For these boxes I saved time by cutting the lid grooves in the long stock before the stock was sliced into sides.

Side Jig Second Cut

Side Jig Second Cut

The side pieces are dot marked to maintain grain direction.  Designating the two pieces with three dots for handles makes the opening side exactly opposite the starting grain discontinuity. Rabbiting the lid plates and cutting off the handles is similar to the rectangular box procedure.

Gluing the hex box is similar to gluing the pencil boxes but the assembly jig is different. It now has three sides, one adjustable to account for different sized boxes. People with six hands might not need the assembly jig.

Adjustable Hex Box Assembly Jig

Adjustable Hex Box Assembly Jig

This is the jig with a box nestled between the battens. It’s a dry fit with rubber bands. I use stronger bands cut from bicycle inner tubes for the real glue up.

Hex Box Assembly Jig In Action

Hex Box Assembly Jig In Action

These are the first couple of boxes made from construction pine during the debugging phase of the jigs. Cupped lid stock is more a problem with these than it was with the narrower pencil boxes.

First Hex Boxes

First Hex Boxes

I made a number of boxes from Cherry. These two were specially done for the Beads of Courage project. Before slicing the sides, I glued on a beveled strip of Cherry at the top and bottom, and inset a small strip of Maple in the top edge. They are about 7″ wide.

First Hex Boxes

Beads of Courage Boxes in Cherry

These are the sixteen boxes made for the club Christmas drive. Menards had glued up, 1x12x48″ Poplar panels on sale for $5, I bought two. With careful measurement and calculations each panel made eight boxes.

Completed Run Sixteen Hexagonal Boxes

Completed Run Sixteen Hexagonal Boxes

 

Update August 2018:

Five boxes made for the Dupage Woodworkers fall Beads of Courage project. Cherry with strips of Aspen as accent.

Beads of Courage boxes

Beads of Courage boxes

 

Update September 2018:

Trying a vertical pencil box design. I like it. Doesn’t take up so much room on your desk. If I make them a little bit longer, will be good to store spaghetti.

Crosscut sled not needed, just tilt the blade and use the fence. Gluing is easier because it’s all long grain but the top and bottom edges are now end grain which makes the lid slot weak. Each one of these used about 11 inches of a 1×6.

Vertical Pencil Box

Vertical Pencil Box

 

Sliding Lid Pencil Boxes

Sliding Lid Pencil Boxes

Update September 2018:

I had trouble with getting the two lid handle cutoffs to align with each other. Sometimes there is a small step where the two glued on pieces meet. It is caused by a small amount of play in the vertical kerf of the old wooden miter box I use to cut off the handles. The Adria tenon saw is slightly narrower than the slot.

I have come up with a sure fire way to ensure the two handles are cut off the side pieces at an identical distance from the top. Note here, I always center the lid handles on the two sides with three dots so the three dot junction defines the front of the completed box. These two 1/8″ x 1/4″ wood splines fit precisely in the lid groove slots. I use them to index the two side pieces back to back before placing them in the miter box.

Two Hardwood Splines for Aligning Front Pieces

Two Hardwood Splines for Aligning Front Pieces

 

The splines are inserted in the top and bottom lid slots in the two front box pieces. The two pieces are sandwiched back to back.

Fitting Front Pieces Back to Back

Fitting Front Pieces Back to Back

 

Both three dot ends are nearest the saw handle. The sandwiched sides are shoved up against the stop, set about a half inch from the miter box kerf. Sawing down the kerf will now cut off handle pieces of identical height.

Back to Back Side Pieces Ready To Cut

Back to Back Side Pieces Ready To Cut

 

When I remove the cut off handle pieces, I mark the end that came from the three dot edge of the side pieces. This helps align the handles over their original side piece at glue time, which ensures there is not a vertical grain discontinuity.

Marking Three Dot End of Lid Handle Pieces

Marking Three Dot End of Lid Handle Pieces

 

The cut off handles are tested for fit on the lid plate tenon. I have my Miller Falls 85 rebate plane clamped upside down in the bench vise to do any tuning necessary.

Fitting Handle Pieces to Lid Plate

Fitting Handle Pieces to Lid Plate

 

Update October 2018

Someone on YouTube asked how the dimensions of the rectangular blank used to make the lid hexagons were derived. I made this drawing while working through the math myself.

Analysis of Hexagonal Lid

Analysis of Hexagonal Lid

Here is a circle with a hexagon inscribed. Almost everyone has done this with a compass at some time, draw a circle then step off the hexagon points by marching the compass around the circle. So sides of the hexagon are the same length as the radius and I have drawn one of the side-center equilateral triangles formed. Now I have drawn a rectangle (red) outside the hexagon representing the wooden blank needed to make the lid. What are the dimensions of the blank? The long dimension left to right is equal to twice the radius of the original circle. The short dimension top to bottom can found by looking at the small triangle formed by dropping a vertical line from the top left point of the hexagon. The vertical adjacent side of this triangle will be equal to the radius times cosine 30 degrees, and this is half the short dimension. Thus the total short side of the red rectangle is equal the the diameter of the circle (long dimension of the rectangle) times cosine 30 degrees.

More typically, the short dimension is known first as it is usually the edge to edge dimension of the board forming the blank. The long dimension will then be, short dimension divided by cosine 30 degrees.

When setting up the crosscut sled jig to cut the hexagon from a properly sized blank, the long side (bottom) of the rectangle is slid down the angled batten until the top right corner of the blank contacts the flip stop. The flip stop is adjusted until the saw cuts exactly to the right hand hexagon point which is the exact center of the blank’s short side. The easiest way to do this setup is to actually draw the hexagon on the first blank, then adjust the stop until the saw cuts right down the line. Initially move the stop in farther then necessary and make a partial test cut halfway down the line. Then move the stop out a bit at a time until the blade is cutting exactly on the line and the cut finishes at the midpoint of the short side. Beware of sawdust accumulating on the angled batten which will throw off the calibration.

 

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